Under the Cloak of Winter

Over the last 3 years I’ve taken on and worked 3 allotment plots.

  • Plot 1 – January 2015
  • Plot 2 – May 2015
  • Plot 3 – June 2016

All three were in a shocking state of neglect. The photograph below shows the current state of the last plot acquired. The plot is approximately the size of half a tennis court.    It was divided into beds by the previous owner but was never really planted or worked. To be honest, I took on plot 5b because the weeds were impacting on my plots but I also fancied a bigger shed to shelter from rain showers and make the odd cup of tea!

The weeds on 5b were shoulder high and tackling the tangled mess was done through hard graft (weed killers are definitely not an option on my plots). Weeds and grass were scythed, burned and finally covered with heavy duty weed suppressant. It’s taken a while but I think plot 5b will finally be fully ready for the growing season.

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February 2018: Astro Turf picnic area, vegetable bed, bay and bulb tub, new raised bed, Gruff the dog sat under the sunshade of the mini shed, allium bed, daffodil bed, gladioli bed, willow bed and dahlia bed.

I’ll eventually remove the wooden sections – I’m not really a fan but we’ll see. The photograph doesn’t show a row of mini raised beds all approximately 4ft in size…they’re currently taking up valuable space so I’ll be ripping them up asap!

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June 2016

The photograph below doesn’t give an accurate idea of the size of the plot but it does show the work still needed.

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Gruff watching the work in progress!

Plots 5a and 4a still need a little work mostly in the fruit bed and the perennial flower bed. The greenhouse needs a good clean through too…20180224_1252211098521171.jpg

“Every allotmenteer knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”

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Jobs List: 1) Sort Snips and Secateurs

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Good tools are essential in the garden or allotment.  Every gardener knows that well cared for garden tools require far less physical effort to use and more importantly, they’ll cut cleanly.  My little collection of snips and secateurs range from a few ‘cheap and cheerfuls’ to the ‘most I could affords’.

During a visit to Jekka’s Herb Farm last year, Jekka advised sharping snips and secateurs after every use!  I try to follow her advice at home, however the allotment tools don’t enjoy such a pampering…they’re lucky if they are sharpened a handful of times during the whole season :-/

Anyway… first job was to give them all a good scrub using a metal pan scourer and soapy water to remove ingrained dirt etc.  Then thoroughly dry with a kitchen towel.        I like to use a little Niwaki twin diamond file for sharpening which is light and really efficient (it is a little expensive but worth every penny in my opinion).   Finally I wiped off the blades with an oily cloth. Job done.

Next job will be the cutting edges of hoes and spades after I’ve cleared the mini shed of spiders and mud!

 

 

Hoping for Magic from the Muck…

Last Saturday, the sun was out (for a change) and it was a perfect day for beating the winter blues on my plots! Winter is a tough time of year for us gardeners. We want to get out and enjoy all the benefits that gardening brings but the winter weather only permits the odd day of preparation for the growing season.

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Asparagus raised bed and plot 5a.

Preparation is the name of the game on the plots at the moment…ripping up persistent perennial weeds, covering with plastic and mulching. I haven’t dug any of the plots yet. I’m planning not to dig at all to be honest. A foot injury last year prompted me to look into labour saving gardening methods and two of my blog readers pointed me in the direction of Charles Dowding’s books. Now I’m hooked, for two reasons:-

1) Clearly ‘No Dig’ saves time and effort.

2) ‘No Dig’ is better for the plots allowing the soil to develop a good base ideal for planting.

I’m beginning my second year of trialling this method, mimicking nature by building fertility from the top, without damaging the beneficial fungi and soil life underneath (I’m applying the same method to my six 4″x4″ and four mini metal raised beds). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against digging! If a patch needs a good dig over then I’ll do it but I’d rather not 😀 Mulches include, cardboard, wood chips, compost and manure. Usually I buy the odd bag of aged manure for the plots however for the first time, I’m applying a thick mulch of manure.

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Plot 4a…beginning to mulch!

I’ve had a plot on my allotment site since January 2015 but I kept missing the ‘Who wants manure?’ question asked of key ‘plotters’. This year I was asked. A landmark event for sure…now I’m considered a ‘real’ allotmenteer!

I have my very own heap of poop!

It’s back breaking work – the only way to shift a ton of ‘poop’ is by wheelbarrow and I’ve found that I can manage to fill and unload eight barrows around the plot before I begin to ache. I’m slow but steady. I’ll finish…eventually!

Raised bed
Herb bed and worm tube.