Allotment Adventures: In the Bleak Midwinter

Someone I know at work has been on an allotment waiting list for ages and she just got a letter telling her that she’s in the top ten of the list and did she still want a plot. She does and she asked me if I had any advice on having an allotment. I told her that she should start saving! Aside from that, the best piece of advice on having (and keeping) an allotment plot is show up. Especially during the winter because even if you go for an hour a week, being there means that you can see what you need to do.

All that to say that Ma and I spent Boxing Day and New Year’s Day on the plot. We didn’t get everything on the list done but we did quite a bit.

On Boxing Day, I knew that I needed to turn the compost, because the critters had turfed a lot of the material in it, out of it. I don’t know what’s causing it but I do know that the more I turn it, the less it happens!

We had already done a fair amount of woodchipping on the paths in December but there was some woodchip left over so I decided to take advantage of it. I turned the compost, layering it with woodchip, I then finished covering the paths by the compost bin and at the back and I filled the black bin with woodchip. We can keep it there and use it to supplement the compost or top up paths.

I was completely on a roll then, so I started to hack back the ivy on the back path by the boysenberry bed, which really needs some attention, I’m wondering if I should cut the whole bush back, really work on clearing the grass and weeds and mulching that area over the next year so that in 2024 it’ll be tidier and we’ll have more control over it. I’ll think about it over the next couple of weeks.

While I was doing that Ma was cutting back the winter savoury and (much harder work) the raspberries.

On New Year’s Day, we carried all the equipment Laura had brought round. She’s decided that what with the more than full time job, the children, house, husband and dog, an allotment that she needs to drive to isn’t something she can cope with (which is sad but understandable, plots are a huge responsibility), we got some more blue pipe, netting, weed fabric and netting. All of which will be really handy, but now we really need to tidy the shed!

Ma was determined to get all the raspberries done, so while she did that, I started the year with seed sowing. In trays for the polytunnel, I sowed leeks (Elefant), sweet peas (singin’ the blues) and broad beans (super aquadulce). The first year I grew leeks, I sowed them in January and everytime I’ve done it later, they haven’t been as successful, the sweet peas are the ones I should have sown in October but didn’t get around to and the broad beans are to replace any that died in the big freeze before Christmas. They can sit in the poly and should be fine. While it’s a nice thing to sow something on the first day of the year, I won’t be sowing anything else until after the building work in the house is done, so later in February. At which point, I’ll set up my shelves and sow peppers and aubergines for the polytunnel.

That done, I got to tidying up the polytunnel, the really cold weather before Christmas may have done for my citrus plants, but I’ll keep an eye on them, but even in the polytunnel, the salad leaves got some frost damage.

It’s the first time I’ve had things growing in the polytunnel over winter and the first time we’ve had a really cold snap in winter, since I’ve had the plot, so it’s been a learning curve. Next time, I’ll use some fleece and bring the citrus indoors, you only know it, when you know it! Anyway, I spent some time removing damaged leaves and generally making that bed tidy again although I might need some slug nematodes or maybe some beer traps in the poly as there were lots of the little buggers in my lettuce!

I’ve really enjoyed the lettuce and endive in the polytunnel beds and they’ve done better than the chard. The parsley, rocket and pak choi are little but appear to be bomb proof as they came through the frosts with hardly any damage!

That done, I finished produce collection, mint and thyme for Ma to make tea with, kale and finally I cleared the back bed of the savoy cabbages. I then topped that bed up with the last of the ericaceous compost in preparation for moving some of the raspberries in it.

Ma and I have been considering this move for a while, one of the raspberry beds is right next to the path that runs from the front to the back of the plot and we keep getting caught on it. So moving it seems a good plan. Our current thinking is to add another blackcurrant bush there but we’re considering moving the actual bed as well to give us some room for the blueberry bushes. I’m still thinking through the implications..

Ma was not leaving the plot until she had deal with the raspberries, so as she continued to cut down and cut up the canes, I decided to weed the turnip beds and make a start on clearing the cornflower seedlings around the gooseberry bushes. Also known as dealing with the consequences of my own actions!

Turnips and weeds and cornflower seedlings in all the paths

It’s my fault, I sowed some cornflowers as part of a white mix of flowers about three year ago, and they were pretty and I let them go to seed, so we had mallows that went from white to pink and cornflowers come up, but last year the cornflowers exploded and the mallows more or less disappeared and although we pulled the ones up right near the gooseberries, they’ve seeded there again. So I made a start on that while also dealing with some of the borage that was reduced to slime by the frosts.

Which got me thinking and planning stuff for the wild area, which I’ll talk about at a later date, but for the next couple of weeks, I really need to work on keeping the beds weed free and on the areas of the plot the grass is trying to colonise, especially the bulb bed, the wild area, and the rose and iris gardens.

There is aways something to do.

About nicdempsey

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