Allotment Adventures: Back on the Plot

After a couple of weeks off, we were back to the plot.

“where are the worms?”

We were there for five hours and although we didn’t get everything we I wanted to get done, we did get a fair amount done.

Firstly, emptying the bokashi bins and turning the compost! Our big plans for the day were to replace the two beds between the flowers/wild area and the herb and fruit beds with three new square raised beds. The two beds beings replaced were two of the first beds on the plot

July 2016 – first enclosed bed

For these ones, I’d laid down weed fabric and put bags of compost on the beds and sowed salad in one and courgettes in the other. We made the decision to put the lawn edging around them because that August Oli was coming and it was a quick and dirty way of preventing him from walking on the beds. There they have remained. We made one of them a square to give us a path to the back either last year or the year before and they’ve always been productive. One of the side effects of topping up the paths with woodchip every year is that it’s been breaking down into brilliant but shallow compost and the flowers self seed into it prolifically, so the beds get surrounded by the flowers and the raspberries that are intent on world domination, we noticed this year that the sides of the beds are breaking down a bit and we’d made the decision to replace most of the lawn edge sided beds this winter. We’re leaving two, the flower bed at the front and one more which will probably go next year.

I laid down a lot of weed fabric around beds in my first couple of years and there are absolutely places I would still do it, like under the shed. I wouldn’t do it like that now (which is why we going to be pulling up bindweed at the back of the plot for the rest of our lives). So I knew that pulling up as much of the weed fabric that we could was going to be part of putting the new beds in too. Ma and I harvested the last of the carrots that were in that bed, I sowed them late summer and just left them and there were so many carrots. That done, we pulled out the lawn edging and as much weed fabric as we could and the state of the soil underneath was instructive because it was barren. The composted down woodchip was full of worms and seeds and underneath nothing.

I have learned to garden from the internet and trial and error, most of the time I still don’t know what I’m doing. I will always love Joe (who had both halves of my plot previously) and Dennis, who works the plots next door to me because they were allotmenting before it was fashionable and the allotments wouldn’t still be here if they hadn’t. And loads of people on the site have inherited terrible overgrown and full of rubbish plots, (I think about Dionne’s plot, nearly 10 years later, she’s still struggling with the building site she inherited and doing a bloody good job), in comparision, I got a really good plot to take over (metal poles and sheds not withstanding) but each time, the soil was exhausted, lots of use of chemicals and minimal feeding of it.

The soil, dug over and weeded in May 2016

I know that my approach is not perfect and lots of people don’t like how I garden but I’m determined that when I leave this plot (in about 25 years time) the soil is going to be healthy and full of life. The woodchip is free and yes, it does encourage woodlice but five and a half years of topping it up is working and returning life to it. I can’t do all the things that need to be done to save the planet but what I can do is look after what is put in front of me, which is this plot, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Long story short, we build the beds, put them in, put down cardboard and woodchip on the paths around it.

New beds, new woodchip

Other things we did. Ma did weeding and we both did harvesting, as well as the carrots, we pulled up the parsnips and harvested chard, turnips and kale. We also cut back the raspberries because it was time. They were still trying to flower though, in December.

We have a task list for the rest of the year and January/Feb.

  • put beds together in polytunnel
  • weed paths not already wood chipped and wood chip them
  • cut back and transplant various roses
  • weed rose garden and pond area
  • weed and clear iris garden next to herbs
  • sort out planting in the new flower bed next to poly
  • sort out boysenberry/gooseberries next to new flowerbed
  • sort out caging for raspberries so they have support and don’t take out anyone’s eyes next year
  • top up compost on beds that need it (all of them that aren’t actively growing anything!)

I’m really optimistic that next growing season, we’ll just be growing and weeding and not building anything!

About nicdempsey

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