Allotment Bed: Filling in and (not-quite) the Final Plan

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We arrived at the Community Garden at 8:30 this morning.  A sunny start, despite forecast of heavy rain for North Wales.

We’ve made a start!


Removing any sticks/twigs inside, and any tall weeds.  Willow self-seeds all around the area, but there wasn’t any inside the bed.  We put down two overlapping lengths of cheap weed-control fabric; some strips of hessian-backed carpet over the join down the middle, followed by brown cardboard.  Then we started to fill it, Hubby on loading/pushing the wheelbarrow, both of us lifting and tipping the soil inside.

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After two days of rain, the soil was one large and claggy heap, and after ten barrow loads (and two hours) we’d had enough. It’s just rained again this afternoon – a lot – and more due over the next 36 hours or so.  We’ll have to wait for a couple of days of dry weather – and hope the soil doesn’t run out!  The Committee are planning a volunteer day on 10th August ‘Fill a Bed Build a Fence’ starting at 10:30, so that’s in the diary.

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The first thing we did this morning was to take some measurements and a compass reading.  The bed is slightly shorter than we originally thought – fifteen feet rather than sixteen feet long (though we may have got our measurements wrong, but we’re adaptable).  It’s East/West on the short side and North/South on the long sides – just a couple of degrees off.  Now I know which side to put my sun-loving vegetables – and where shading might be needed.

MEASUREMENTS & COMPASS POINTS

Going to the site again has helped me to reach a decision about which crop-rotation system to use.  I’ve decided to go for the 3-year rotation, which combines legumes with onions and roots.  I intend to grow runner beans and peas at home, with just a few runner bean and climbing bean plants in the allotment bed.

The Community Garden is 360 feet above sea level, but my home garden in 200 feet higher, so the allotment may crop earlier.

YEAR 1

I’m going to plant some of the bed with plants for insects.  The four purple and green columns will be permanent planting – lavender, lemon balm and rosemary – acting as divisions between the three main bed sections.

These will be under-planted with spring bulbs, mainly crocus, as these are early sources of food for bees.  Of course, bees love lavender, balm and rosemary flowers too.

I’ve just taken some cuttings of each from the plants in my garden, and I’m using rooting powder to get them started.

Eventually, I will treat these strips as mini-hedges, trimming them with hand-shears in Autumn.

YEAR 2

So in these plans, the crops will move along one section each year until each basic crop has grown in each of the three beds. I’ve used the RHS 3-year rotation plan from here.

YEAR 3

After Year 3’s harvest, we start again at Year 1.

There seems to be some dispute over which order crops should be grown – should roots follow potatoes? Some say yes, others say no.  Some say brassicas after potatoes.  Others say roots and potatoes in the same section.

Suttons Seeds suggest this method – which is similar to mine above – though they don’t say which direction the crops should be moved each year

Year 1

  • Section 1 – If you can, dig in well-rotted manure or garden compost in the autumn or early winter – it’s not essential but it will give you better crops; in the first year grow Beans, Leek, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, and Tomatoes.
  • Section 2 – A general garden fertiliser should be applied 10 to 14 days prior to planting or sowing. This area can then be used for growing Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbages, Cauliflower and Kale.
  • Section 3 – Apply general fertiliser prior to sowing and planting. The crops to be grown in this section include Beetroot, Carrots, Parsnips, Potatoes, and Swedes.
  • Year 2 crop rotation As above moving all crops on one section.
  • Year 3 crop rotation Crops and treatments are rotated once more so that all sections have grown all plants over a three year period.

For the moment, it’s all academic – the beds need filling, the fences need building, and we have no easy access to water.

Someone has sourced some IBCs (Intermediate bulk containers) for water storage, and I did find a suggestion online about using a tarpaulin suspended in trees by three corners, with the other corner directing water into a storage container.  Not ideal, but we’ve just had two hours of very heavy rain (and all I could think was “that water is being wasted”.

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