11 May 2018

Spring at the allotment

I thought it was about time I wrote my first little allotment post of the season. We're already making steady progress and a few things are already beginning to sprout...

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We felt super late to the allotment this year and I was anxious to get the soil and infrastructure ready before we could start planting.

The weather in early spring of course was horrid, thick frost, loads of snow and just very little opportunity to get digging. But the end of March we devoted a day to digging and we finally uncovered the beds to see the damage over the long winter months.

Despite covering the beds with plastic sheeting those dam weeds will always creep in. So the first thing I always like to do is give my beds a really good thorough dig through. I detest weeds and I like nice 'clean' soil so I do like to pull out every last little green thing I see, it's a tough job though.

I'm super keen to improve the infrastructure and look of our allotment this year. I don't feel motivated to do much work there when it looks a huge mess. I would love a pretty allotment, but I just have to work with what we have.  To replace the perimeter fencing, lay down stone pathways, put in bed dividers and pretty edgings would cost an arm and a leg. I have to remember that we just rent this space, so making vast improvements is not really worth it. So most of what we have here for paths etc was already there or we were given. Mark has spent a little money too on plastic sheeting and plastic edging.

I was super happy to figure out we had quite a number of stone slabs. Some of these were at the allotment and some we were given by Mark's parents. So we laid these down the middle two paths. It's nice to have something proper to walk on now and I think makes things a little neater.

Last year we worked together on all our beds and put in the seeds together and did all the work together. But that seemed like an awful lot of unnecessary sharing and commitment so this year we have decided on a bed each! Haha! It helps me to not get too overwhelmed. I can come down to the allotment and just work on a small section instead of fretting about the giant picture. Plus it will be fun to compete a little bit, who can grow the best veg? We might be nice and share the produce when it is ready, he can have a pea pod or two I guess! haha.

The middle bed is still the undecided area. One end has some weird trailing onions that you keep in forever and the other end has some asparagus that you have to leave alone for about a million years before you can eat it. It grows super slow and like one shoot at a time. Don't get complacent over your asparagus guys, it's justifiably expensive. We currently have two little shoots of it after over 1 year of being in the ground. That's not even 1 meal's worth for all the effort. So anywho... we shall probably use this bed for things that stay in the ground more permanently and share these.

Then the far end of our plot is our fruit; strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb. These are a huge tangled mess, I am sure they will get tidied up eventually, but quite far down my priority list currently. The rhubarb is a monster, you can pretty much watch the stuff grow. I would say we have enough for several rhubarb crumbles already! But I hate rhubarb, so please come and help yourselves! The strawberries and raspberries grew in abundance last year despite the tangled mess, so I am not too concerned about these. I actually think the 'mess' helped conceal our strawberries from the birds, as we lost very few to nibblers.

At the end of Mark's plot he has a little tree nursery. He built this with just four pole sticks in corners and added some thick plastic netting stuff round the edge. This just helps to keep the wind from the delicate little trees and gives them a little shelter.

These trees are all grown from seed, so a few sycamore we rescued when we first go the allotment. There were so many self seeded sycamore, I felt bad ripping out baby trees. So we re-planted a few of the bigger ones and the healthiest have remained in the nursery. We also have some sweet chestnut in here which Mark bought and we have apple trees grown from pips and the sweetest little oak and Horse Chesnut grown from conkers and acorns we picked a couple of autumns ago from the shores of Derwentwater.

How cute is this baby oak tree. The brand new little leaves are so delicate and curly.

These baby trees will get a bit bigger and stronger here in the allotment and eventually will be taken to our woods.

Here's the finished tree nursery. It will be super fun to have edible trees at the woods, apples and sweet chestnuts, can't wait.

Mark got a call one weekend from a lady at the allotment to ask if we wanted any poo! She knows a local farmer and often arranges loads of deliveries to the allotmenters. So we arrived at our plot to see this HUGE pile of poo in the middle of the 'road' between plots. So we really had to get it moved asap or risk upsetting our allotment neighbours.

Turns out shovelling shit is super super hard work! Ugh. I did some too, it wasn't all Mark. I can tell you that evening parts of my body I didn't even know existed were hurting. I had to even take some paracetamol to go to bed because I hurt so much. I'm such a weed!

I spread quite a thin layer of manure on my bed and dug it in. I'm sure it's good for the soil and everything but frankly it doesn't look very nice and also doesn't make my soil feel very nice. It's thick and lumpy and sort of dries really hard. It makes digging a lot more difficult. Allotment/veg patch owners is this manure necessary? I don't know if I will get any delivered next year.

These tyres are at the end of the middle bed, one has some very large overgrown onions, which Mark is using to seed new ones and one contains some rosemary.

So my idea to make my plot look a little nicer was to edge it. Mark bought this plastic curly edging stuff online relatively cheaply, and it comes on a huge roll. So I aim to edge my entire large bed and then segment my beds with it too. I really rather like the idea of separating the different types of veg, this helps to identify them but also helps me not to get too overwhelmed. I can come to the allotment and feel pleased with just weeding one small bed rather than the huge whole thing.

I think when harvest is over I will take out the dividers, they are just pushed in, then I can dig over the whole thing easily and re-use the edging to make new dividers for the following year.

We were given this one railway sleeper. Ideally I would love sleepers to make all my little beds but they cost ridiculous prices. So we have one. So I put it in my bed as a divider. It's really rather useful as I can kneel on it and get to the middle easily and also use it as a bridge!

I put some little tyres down at the end of my bed too. These were just leftover from the pile of tyres Mark got for free on Freecylce or Facebook or somewhere. These serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever and I have no idea if they will help my carrots to grow or hinder them! But I thought they might add some interest to my bed, see I'm all about 'prettying' up my allotment, who cares if we get any veg right? haha. So yep, these tyres contain carrots. Carrot seeds are teeny tiny, I started off trying to put in a few strategically from my hand, but do you know what... allotment confession... by the end I just ended up opening up the pack and sprinkling liberally. So either we get no carrots, or the tyres burst from too many carrots! We shall see...

A lovely kind friend gave me some sugar snap peas, so these are planted in pride of place right at the front of my bed. Mark helped me make some poles. Simply three poles placed equal distance apart, rammed into the ground and tied together at the top to make a tepee sort of shape. I then transplanted the baby pea plants and placed them at the bottom of each pole. I tried to encourage the plants round their new poles and hopefully they will cling on and grow up them.

Grrr.... look at all those teeny weeds in that bed!

Next up sweetcorn. I grew one sweetcorn plant last year, I was given it by a friend and I probably planted it in the allotment too late, it was quite a well established plant already. It didn't do super well, so I was determined this year to try again.

So I followed the instructions on the packet and deposited two little dried kernel seeds 2 inches below the soil in rows, with 30 cms roughly between each pair. The idea then is to pull out the weaker of the two plants once they start to shoot. Can't wait for summer BBQs and eating home grown sweetcorn straight from the cob!

I purchased these little markers from the local garden centre and just wrote on them with permanent marker. I really have to do this so I remember just what I have planted and also to help me identify the shoots once they start coming in.

I purchased cheap wooden spoons last year, painted them bright colours, wrote the veg names on and varnished them. I used these as markers and they looked super cute. By the end of the season though all the paint had chipped off and I could not longer read what they said. They looked a raggy mess so not such a great idea. Less effort with these plastic ones this year then.

So you can see where I'm going with my little bed dividers. I simply dig over one small section, de-weed, then plant the seeds and put in some edging to divide the bed. I then stick in a little marker to remind myself what the heck is in there.

There were rather a few weeds in my broccoli bed but they may have to just stay a little longer, because anyone know what a broccoli shoot looks like? How do you know what's a weed and what's not?

I am confident however that I know what a potato plant looks like and I was thrilled recently to see my potatoes already doing super well. There seems to be a plant for each seed potato I stuck in, all in neat little rows. Fingers crossed they stay on track and we get some decent spuds.

So the next job at the allotment for this year is to finish planting up my bed. I would like to put in some courgettes, lettuce, cabbage, brussels and pumpkins. Then finish edging my bed and neaten up the surrounding paths.

Are you growing any veg this year? I would love to see if you have posted about your veg patches and allotments....

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