Saturday, 10 January 2015

Allotment Tour

We finally made it to the allotment this week, after having not managed to go at all during December, and did some much-needed catching up.

Here it is:

Of course, it doesn't look like much at the moment, but there's plenty going on, and considering what a battle we've always had with couchgrass and other perennial weeds we're pretty pleased with it. But it's been a long time since I took or shared any pictures of it, so let me give you the tour...

It's split roughly into seven sections, more by accident than design, with woodchip paths in between them, lined with bricks and some cheap weedproof fabric that isn't quite doing the job any more.

Section one, above, is where our compost bins are. We built them last spring to replace our old ones, in another spot, which were falling apart, and we relocated them here because it's under the shade of an elder tree and the soil is full of roots - everything we've grown here in the past has struggled a bit, so it's a good spot to use for something other than plants! The area covered in weedproof fabric over there has also been problematic, but we're determined to get it under control this year and plant a new fruit patch here, mulching heavily between the plants to try to beat the couchgrass!

Section two is the first of our three rotation beds. Last year we grew potatoes here - now the near half is covered in a phacelia green manure (and quite a few annual weeds) and the far half has rows of spinach and chard (again with the weeds...) There's also a row of scabiosa I planted out too late to flower, but it seems to be coming through the winter a treat! After we clear this patch in late spring we'll grow squashes and pumpkins here.

Section three (our second rotation bed) is where our root crops were grown, though it's beginning to look a little sparse now. The spring cabbages in the foreground are at a variety of stages - we picked our first this week but others are not ready yet, and one has rotted! :-( Beyond that is a small row of calabrese which should produce in the spring, some carrots, parsnips, swedes, celery and leeks. We've just finished the beetroots. When this patch is clear in early to mid spring, we'll plant our potatoes here.

Section four (our third rotation bed) was pumpkins and squashes last year, but now it's bare, which is pretty disappointing because I sowed most of it with field beans (a green manure) and broad beans in November. (The cardboard is there to protect a patch I left unsown, intending to make a second sowing in March.) I guess I left it just a little too late; they say early November is the latest you should sow but we did it near the end of the month. Still, never mind, there's plenty of time to sow more broad beans, and our root veg and leeks will go here from March onwards.

Section five is what we call our perennials bed, though it's not the only one! We planted it last year with asparagus (along the left hand side) strawberries (in the raised beds) and globe artichokes (far end, under little mounds of woodchip mulch and black plastic to protect the crowns from frost), as well as some parsley, sage, lavender and lemon balm. It's done okay so far but the plants are still getting established - hopefully they will be even better this year. I'd also like to plant some perennial kale among the sage - supposedly sage keeps cabbage white butterflies away, but we will see!

Section six is home to our pond (far end), two columnar 'spur' fruit trees, and our old strawberry patch (this end) which is now under a mulch of thick cardboard until we can dig it over. There used to be a really nice herb garden planted around the pond and the trees, but over the years it's become swamped with couchgrass and very few plants are left, so this area is up for redevelopment this year... We will replant the herb garden - perhaps through a membrane to keep the grass down - and the old strawberry bed will become a flower patch! We'll also be giving away the pear tree - we don't like the fruit! - and we need to right the very wonky apple tree before it goes over! We'll have to do this soon while the trees are still dormant - they won't like having their roots messed with.

Finally, section seven is where we keep our tools in our storage bench, and it's where our old compost bins were (on the right). That spot is now a lovely fertile patch where we'll put a plastic greenhouse this year for a few tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. We've also got a little comfrey patch here which we use to feed the compost and make plant feed, and at the far end is a little bed which used to grow asparagus, though it's almost all been choked out by grass - another redevelopment project for this year. I think it's just big enough for a couple of bean teepees... or I might decide to grow the beans at home and grow sweet peas here instead, or some more fruit! I'd also like to narrow this path a bit to maximise the growing space in section six on the left.

You'll notice there's not much space here for summer fruiting crops like French beans, courgettes and tomatoes, nor salads or brassicas. A few years ago we decided we were better off only growing reasonably low-maintenance veg at the allotment, since we struggle to get here enough to look after them. It's working out really well, and we can still grow those things at home where we can keep an eye on them and pick them regularly! We don't grow many brassicas simply because we find them so problematic (what with flea beetles, whitefly, rootfly, slugs, three kinds of caterpillars and pigeons all wanting a share!) but we are adding them to our repertoire gradually. And we don't grow onions or shallots because we have dreadful white rot in the soil which destroys the crop, but we manage a bit of garlic and plenty of spring onions at home, and I'm sure we'll return to onion-growing at some point...

During our trip on Monday we pruned the apple and pear trees and made a good job of weeding and tidying the perennials bed, cutting down last year's asparagus ferns, herb flower spikes and sunflower stems. Here's a 'before' picture!

There's much more weeding to be done before things start growing again in spring, and we need to make a start on that digging very soon too. We're all crossing our fingers for no flooding this year, so we can keep at it!

1 comment:

Mark Willis said...

A plot like that does involve a lot of hard work, doesn't it? My little veg-plot is easy by comparison. I suspect that you will find it easier to maintain your plot once you have got it "under control" - the way you want it.

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