The Allotment Diaries

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It seems a long time since I took on a raised bed in the Community Garden, and nothing much has changed, except the red clover has grown, a lot, along with the weeds.

I’ve lost a few of my Rosemary and Lavender cuttings along the way, but there’s still time to start some new rosemary cuttings in the greenhouse. I am going to use these to divide the raised bed into three sections as I’ve decided to go ahead with a 3-year crop rotation system.

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I intend to use the allotment bed for crops that take a long time to mature (main crop potatoes, leeks, brassicas, carrots and parsnips etc) – and don’t need (much) mollycoddling. I’ll be visiting once or twice a week only.

3-year crop rotation sign

I’m going to stick to my Square Foot/Grid Gardening method, which means that in one-square-foot I can plant either

  • one potato
  • one celery
  • four cauliflower (seed packets recommend 18″ spacing which would give me 2 caulis per three squares, but I only want small ones – enough for two people for one meal, so I’ll grow more in the space and harvest them small).
  • 4 leeks
  • 16 carrots
  • 16 parsnips
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 9 turnips
  • 9 onions
  • 1 cabbage/kale

January 

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We popped down to the Community Garden on the 7th – our first visit of the new year – arriving just after 8:30. While I did a bit of weeding on my bed, Mr O managed a bit of fence weaving, only for disaster to strike a few days later with strong winds bringing part of the fence down. (It may have had help as there was an event on at the park that Sunday).

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Most of the beds are looking good, and there is only one left to rent out of 15. There was a delivery of well-rotted manure too.

I was looking forward to no digging at the allotment, but that’s not going to be possible in this first year as there are weeds to remove, green manure to dig in – and the soil needs opening up after all the rain.

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I will not be growing beetroot or radish either here or at home; both were a disaster in 2018 and 2019. Salad, bean, and pea crops will be grown at home where I can easily water and pick them, as will tomatoes and cucumbers, though as I lift the main crop potatoes, I will plant squashes in their place.

February

The number 1 priority is to repair the fence and finish it off, and we have a volunteers’ day on 22 February.

After weekends of storms (Ciara then Dennis later followed by Jorge), we had hoped for better weather; but it has remained windy and wet for most of the month.

Volunteers Day arrived on a sunny morning, but it wasn’t to last. Fencing was the order of the day. We put in a good two hours work weaving thin saplings we had cut from the site.

We try to do that in a responsible manner, not stripping out an area, but thinning it to allow other trees to mature. Personally, I don’t take any silver birch saplings as I love their delicate leaves and white bark, but there is plenty of alder, hazel and willow to be had. We may only have been there just over two hours, but joints were aching the next day.

The fence is now complete, though left before it was finished.

 

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March 

With no rain for three days at the start of the month, I started digging the red clover (green manure) into the soil.

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Two hours

Halfway! The soil was still quite wet, and there were a lot of weeds – nettles, docks, hairy bittercress, and others I couldn’t identify – which I had to pick out by hand.

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Meanwhile, I bought a small roll of chicken wire in February so we’ve made a start on my rabbit-proof cages.

Mark I – Chicken wire and cable ties

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This was purely to finalise the measurements – and it’s not a pretty sight!

Though each third of the allotment measures 47 inches wide by 48 inches long, I’ve decided to make my cages 22 x 22 inches and 12 inches tall (only because the roll of chicken wire I bought is 35 inches/0.9 metres tall and 157 inches/4 metres in length). I can get three cages out of one roll with no wastage.

By making the cages shorter than the space, it will give me room to manouvre – and a missing inch here and there isn’t going to make that much difference to the growing area. Besides, I intend to plant wildflowers to attract beneficial insects so these unused strips will work for those.

Mark II – chicken wire, roofing battens (and 100+ staples)

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Using the same pieces of chicken wire from the Mark I, and some of the old roofing battens we’d previously used to make garden trellis and have been storing “for when we need them”.  Now we’ve just got to get it down to the allotment (I wonder how many will fit in the back of a Fiat Panda?)

One down, seven to go!

The benefit of succession sowing is that I/We only need to make two or three cages at a time. And I’m going to need taller cages for the brassica bed – perhaps using mesh to keep the Cabbage Whites out – AND a fence to go around the potato section. We may need more battens.

LAYOUT 1 (COPY)LAYOUT 2 (COPY)

Potatoes                                  Roots and alliums                         Brassicas

Others on the allotment are thinking about planting their potatoes, but in my opinion, the ground is too cold and wet at the moment. The guide for our area is April to May.

And they still haven’t got the water supply sorted out.

I’ve now moved some of my rosemary cuttings into individual square pots and taken further cuttings ready for my ‘hedge’ dividers. I have 12 rosemary and 12 lavender plants – six for each strip.

20200309 Rosemary

As they will still be quite small when I plant them in the allotment, I’ve also sown flowers seeds into modules – cornflowers, pot marigolds, cosmos and poached egg plants – to plant with them.

And I’ve started some onion sets in pots for transplanting to the allotment to give them a head start. I already planted Radar set in pots outside last autumn, so it will be interesting to compare the rate of growth – and flavour – between the two sowings.

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       Red Baron and Stuttgarter                                                       Radar

Hopefully, if the weather improves, I can finish digging my raised bed and complete at least another three wire cages this month. Though as I write this (on 9th March) the wind is picking up once more and heavy rain is forecast for the remainder of the week.

The Allotment Diaries: September

A visit at the beginning of the month gave me a chance to see how the red clover I sowed in the middle of last month was progressing. While growth is patchy, at least it is growing. I quickly hammered in my sign explaining that this was a green manure crop, as I don’t want anyone ‘helping’ by weeding my patch.

Red Clover information sign

Continue reading “The Allotment Diaries: September”

The Allotment Diaries: August (2)

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The filled bed, complete with red clover seeds (and doggy footprints)

I spent a little time raking the soil and removing the odd weed/seedling that had grown since last week.  The problem with bought-in topsoil is that you don’t know where it has come from.  This has a fair amount of plastic shreds, bits of string, and pieces of glass mixed in, with a few weeds starting to grow too. Continue reading “The Allotment Diaries: August (2)”