Like a lot of people, I can sometimes find this time of year in the garden a little sad.
The optimism of seeding in Spring which turns to the realism and hard work of Summer (countered, hopefully, by lots of lovely, homegrown food!) are over till next year. So I decided to approach things differently this year. I have planted a huge amount of Winter Cabbages, Cauliflowers, Chard and Kale to fill up the empty beds. As I’m not expecting them to survive anything will be a bonus.
It’s more like a science project than gardening.
Done some research on our random flowering rhubarb, apparently it’s because the plant is old. Which makes sense as we found the plant on the plot when we took it over when it popped up out of one of our paths.
I’ve now removed the flower stem as all the plants energy will go into the flower and so limit the yield from the leaves/stalks.
Made some rhubarb jam the other night which is great, recommend it on fresh bread or thick cut toast with butter!!
While sorting out my compost I came accross this. It was a bit of a shock but after a little research I think its a type of moth. Bit scared for a moment but was brave and ventured out again!
So the first dig is done, it’s time for a rest.
While digging I have tried (with limited success) to take as much Cooch Grass as can be freely pulled out without breaking any part off. The weed is one of those that if any part is left in the soil it will re-root and regrow.
Here is how the beds are layed out, you can also see the pallet compost that I have built in the far corner of the plot.
This is what the ground on the plot was like before starting to dig. The biggest problem is the Cooch Grass. As I got the plot during the winter I have used a spade to dig, turning the turf over with the hope of the soil breaking down with the winter frosts and potential snow.
The first spade in!
With the planning and design stage done it’s time to start the hard work of digging the plot over for the first time. I was lucky enough to get my allotment in December. I know that if you are on a waiting list for a space you can’t be choosy as to when you get offered one but this is a perfect time to start digging over. If you are digging up lawn to start a vegetable patch or just a site that has not been touched for a while digging over with a spade now allows the frost/snow of winter to help break down the clods.
Just to prove I haven’t just been sitting drinking tea here is the first design for the plot. What could possibly go wrong with such well thought out plans as “grow stuff” and “grow tasty veg”?
After all this sitting and looking at the plot I have come up with the first stage design which I am sure will change but for now gives me something to work towards.
I have decided not to dig up the whole space but to opt for 6 separate beds with a working area at the top and an area at the the bottom for compost bins. This design means that I can define the growing areas more easily and have pathways inbetween.
Having paths allows better access to the growing spaces without having to walk over the soil. It also means that if there is ever a time when I have nothing better to do I can grass seed them a little at a time but still have full access to the more important vegetable patches.
As much as I’m in this for the food I still want my plot to look good!
I have been down to the plot several times to plan. I may have looked like a very relaxed person sitting drinking tea and reading a book but I assure you inside I was busy thinking and planning. It was quite tiring actually on one occasion I had to come home to have a nap!
The other good thing about taking the time to sit looking out at your plot is you also get to look at your neighbours and get some inspiration as to how you want yours to be. It is important not to get too despondant when doing this. When comparing my overgrown space to that of the other well manintained, organised plots I did feel a little overwhelmed but another cup of tea soon made me feel better.
So maybe my first piece of advice as to what to buy for your allotment is to invest in a good flask. No problem is unsolveable when you can take a step back from it, sit down and have a nice cup of tea.
The first visits to the allotment should be used as planning time. It is a great excuse to enjoy your space with a deckchair, pad and flask of tea without having to do any hard work. If anyone calls you lazy then just assure them it is a vital part of the process and for me it was the first time I really fell in love with the plot.
Whatever size your growing space, whether a full allotment, half (like mine) or a small patch in your garden, think about what it is you want to achieve. As yet no washed our summers, army of slugs or pulled muscles have dampened your sprirts.
That’s all to come but for now it’s your time to dream.