This year, the allotment site was entered into the Ealing in Bloom competition, we had a first visit in June and I’m told that the judges were disappointed that more of our individual allotments weren’t entered into the competition.
There is no way that I’m going to enter my plot into a contest, I was happy to win runner up for the prettiest plot but it was totally unexpected. However, it did get me thinking about how the 120 odd plot holders on the site decide to plan our plots out.
My plot was designed by accident there was no big plan just a series of small decisions. I inherited a big open space, it had been dug over the previous autumn but left to it’s own devices after that. In order to get the waiting list down and to prevent newbie allotment holders getting overwhelmed, the committee only lets out plots in half plots. Joe had decided to give up the top half of his plot so he could keep his shed and loganberries. So my new plot had no shed or storage, it did have good sun, 43 year old raspberries, three gooseberry bushes, a blackcurrent bush and two very healthy rhubarb plants.
It had been worked as an open plot, in rows the raspberries went across the plot but all the other fruit was at the side of the plot. It looked like a lot of work. So we started digging over a strip and weeding. By the time we were finished, I knew I was not going to be digging in all over once a year, I was completely shattered.
I had read a couple of how to allotment books, which stressed the importance of working 0ut a system of allotmenting that fitted in with the time you had. I knew that my allotmenting would be evening and weekends only and that I was unlikely to do anything more than watering and picking in the evenings. So a system of beds was likely to be the best option for how I wanted to garden. Also, the allotment is heavy clay, so it seemed that a system of beds would help me improve the soil, I was growing in.As I realised what I was up against, we laid down weed fabric so we could keep the weeds from spreading and I cut out beds as and went I needed them. When there was a delivery of woodchip, I covered the weed fabric with it.
The beds we had made worked well. They allowed us to weed a bed at a time and we didn’t have to be digging all the time, which I loved! Even without edging them the allotment looked well cared for. So in the autumn we (I) decided that we’d fill in some of the space that was under cover with square beds. Then when we got the metal frame down and looked at the bottom of the plot from the herb patch, I thought we could use the space for more than 2 beds and we dug it over again, covered it up and eventually bought more beds for that section and that was all our beds in.At the moment though it looks like this and I’m pretty happy with it. If I had to take it on again knowing what I know now, I would probably think about a couple of larger beds and I would get it all under cover sooner but this way of working the plot works for us, there is enough space for growing things and it makes it easy to keep on top of the work (well easy for an allotmenter, it’s straightforward but still quite a bit of work).
The thing about a plot, is that the work is never done. You can always improve on the layout because what you need it for changes depending on the season, what you’re growing and how often you can get there in a given season.
I do have plans for next season, one more long and square bed, a mini size bed by the greenhouse, We are going to take the raspberries in so I have a clear path from the shed and the greenhouse down to the rest of the plot, I want to frame some of the beds we already have in, and having talked about it for about 6 months this winter I will move the gooseberry bushes.