Finally got to the allotment (work and never-ending winter) to have a think about what to do this year. I focused on last year's cutting border, taking out Cosmos and Zinnia stems I left for overwintering insects and to deflect winter rain from the soil. The weathered stems are interesting, you can see the strengthening structures, collenchyma ridges. They are piled on the communal bonfire, which won't get done for a few weeks so plenty of time for insects to hatch. There are bound to be a lot of seedlings coming up, though, and they aren't such good colours a generation down from F1and so will be weeded out. I gave the bed a light weeding (I'm trying to do the no-dig method so as not to disturb the soil fauna, just add mulch and keep the soil covered with crops or green manure), a scattering of Calseafeed (calcified seaweed, organic) and mulch with Croypost (amenity compost and not bad). Now I've covered it with a black textile permeable membrane which a) warms the soil, b) smothers weed seeds prompted into growth by disturbance and c) mitigates driving spring rainfall while allowing some water through. Last year I did something similar and saw that worms had been busy. I've come up with a scheme for a decorative edible border with dark and purple leaves, orange flowers and some lime green through it and at the front and will sow them in modules. I've grown half of these before but the scheme is new and partly inspired by a combination I saw in Westminster Abbey Gardens in the summer.
Red orache or mountain spinach - Atriplex hortenis var. rubra - up to 120cm - edible (RHS Harvested Seed Distribution Scheme) - edible 18cm lance shaped leaves, and a decorative border annual with purple flower spikes.
Hare's Ear - Bupleurum rotundifolium (sourced as above) - to 60cm lime green clusters of flowers, bright green perfoliate leaves and reddish branching stems, purely decorative and insect friendly
Bronze Fennel - Foeniculum vulgae 'Purpureum' - up to 200cm (free with Gardens Illustrated) - feathery, edible leaves and seeds
Black Tuscan KaleBrassica oleracea 'Cavolo Nero' - to 60cm (Growing Old Heritage & Seed Heirloom Seeds from Pennards Plants) - deeply savoyed strap leaves, choc-full of vitamins and minerals
Pot marigold - Calendula officinalis 'Orange Porcupine' - to 60 cm (Johnsons World Botanics range) - a big pompom variety - petals in salads
Zinnia 'Fireworks Mix' - to 75cm (Suttons Seeds) - for the vase, long-lasting flowers (seeds have some bottom heat in a propagator)
Frisee and escarole mix - Cichorium endivia var. crispum and var. latifolia - to 20 cm (Franchi sementi)
Yellow Pak Choi - Brassica rapa 'Santoh Round Leaved' - to 20cm (The Real Seed Catalogue) - really quick to be ready and possible to sow this early and hopefully it'll avoid flea beetle.
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