Monday, 23 June 2008

1st Post

I have had my allotment now since March 2007, and since then have become obsessive about it. I had always grown veg in my garden but my habit had outgrown the space I had and I wanted more.. I spent all my spare time down there last year, then when the veg growing season came to an end I developed withdrawal symptoms and resorted to gardening books, magazines and seed catalogues. When these were exhausted and it was still only early January, I started searching the web and discovered allotment blogs!!! Sadly my husband and two children have so far shown absolutely no interest in what I do down at the allotment (although they like eating the produce!) and when I start talking about it their eyes glaze over, so the obvious thing to do was start a blog of my own, so that I can bla bla bla to my heart's content. Maybe no one will read it, but at least it's an outlet, and I can refer back to it for planting dates etc. I have been taking photos regularly, at least, I took a couple when I first took it over, then no more until March of this year.

This is how it looked when I first took it on.

and to cut a long story short, this is how it looks now:

So, to make the story long again, this is what I have done between then and now:
during the first year, the first thing I had to do was dig, dig some more and then dig some more. The plot had been ploughed, but not cleared first, so there were huge clumps of couch grass to remove, lots of brambles, and apparently the previous tenant had covered the whole thing in black plastic, because although a HUGE piece of it was thrown onto the ditch alongside, there were also lots of smaller pieces ploughed into the soil as well. There is still some buried around the edges, which I can't seem to dig out.
I had to plant things as I had cleared a space big enough, so there was no plan, just first things first, so, onions first, then potatoes, etc etc. Most things grew well, but the cabbages were disappointing, and I lost all my tomatoes to blight. Also I was amazed at how impossible it was to keep on top of all the weeds. I sowed green manure in the empty patches, and between the sweetcorn, but, instead of being smothered by it, the weeds came up at the same time, so I just let it all grow, then had to pick through and remove the perennial weeds before cutting it all down. If you're considering green manure, DON'T sow perennial clover! It won't die!
SO, this year, I spent hours and hours working out a crop rotation plan. I decided to divide the whole plot into seven sections, the one at the end by the fence was to become the perennial area - rhubarb, comfrey, various flowering plants to attract beneficial insects (although these have mostly yet to be planted, I'm still clearing the nettles, and some of it is covered with a manure pile.) Next section was to be potatoes (but they only took up half of it so there is now also carrots and celeriac), then onions, shallots, spring onions and leeks, then sweetcorn, tomatoes, courgettes, pumpkins and squashes, next legumes: french beans, runner beans, peas, asparagus peas and broad beans, and crimson clover (which is a half hardy annual) to fill the gaps. Next to that brassicas: purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, various cabbages, calabrese, a few turnips. In the other end section, I've got strawberries, a redcurrant bush, some sunflowers and some melons, which I've never done before. I've put five plants up there (four in growbags in my greenhouse), two of them I've covered with open ended cloches. They are all surrounded by stones, the idea being the stones get really hot during the day and release the heat at night to keep them warm.
Some sections, legumes and brassicas, are divided into two halves, one for winter crops, the other for summer, then next year's rotation plan will have a few half sections to play with. It's extremely complicated!
I think I've done enough for tonight - I'm even beginning to bore myself now. Tomorrow or the next day I will write about what grows in my garden, and possibly about Bokashi.

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