Easter Ground Preparations

The children broke up for Easter just over a week ago here in Derbyshire, not going away this holiday it gave us the perfect opportunity to really get stuck in at the allotment.

The main tasks at the moment have been getting plenty of seeds sowed in the greenhouse, building structures for the climbers and preparing the ground.

Ground Prep
We are not particularly big fans of either method of dig or no dig and are pretty open minded to both still, continuing to experiment as we go along, this gives us somewhat of a patchwork plot, some covered with a layer of organic matter for the winter, some parts covered with plastic and membrane and others simply winter dug over. I quite like the variety.

spring ground preparation.jpg

The areas of our ground that are dedicated to the most popular method on our allotment site (which is generally pretty old school), digging, have been turned over this week, tap rooted weeds removed and then gone over a second time with the tiller. Now I need to exercise some patience and keep an eye on the weeds, itโ€™s too early for most of our crops to be planted outside apart from the broad beans.

spring ground preparation tiller.jpg

Building Structures
structure for the peas to grow up

I enjoy the challenge of looking around the plot for items that might be useful and then building temporary structures for the climbers. This week we have used the old fencing that we have removed from the latest โ€˜newโ€™ plot and used it along with some left over tree stakes to create a bed for the peas and something for them to grow up. I realised last year that one row of peas for a family of four simply wasnโ€™t enough, you really do need a lot of pea plants to give a decent bag full for the freezer! That along with regular picking. This year I have gone for three rows which I plan to plan on both sides of. Iโ€™ve left plenty of space to be able to comfortably walk and harvest in between each row.

structure for the peas to grow up paths

For the broad beans that will shortly be going out it was more a case of support required. In the past I have tried individually staking each plant, along with grouping them together to support each other. Neither really worked and they ended up bent over and damaged. This year I have build a structure to support them as a row and plant to plant them in each gap between the twine that you can see in the photos.

structure broad beans aquadulce twinestructure broad beans aquadulce

Sowing seeds
The kids seem to enjoy this part especially, thereโ€™s still something magical about planting a seed and watching it grow. We now have in sweet peas, peas, some flowers and plenty of salad and onions. We’re looking forward to continue to get more seeds in as the weather begins to warm up slightly!

sowing peas in springsarah raven green salad sowingssweet pea sowings

Happy Easter!

Advertisements

Let’s get this party started!

So spring is finally here and after so much snow, it couldnโ€™t be more welcome. Donโ€™t get me wrong, weโ€™ve had some fun on the sledges but Iโ€™ve had days when Iโ€™ve had the time to winter dig but just not been able to get out there. Iโ€™m very much of the mindset of โ€˜thereโ€™s no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothingโ€™ but I draw the line at trying to turn frozen earth! This leaves us a little behind but as I have found in past years, thereโ€™s no need to worry, itโ€™s possible to catch up really quickly when you put your mind to it.

Catching up is one of my fortรฉโ€™s and I love to see the transformation of the allotment from the sparseness of the winter months to the abundance of greenery, foliage and colour during the summer. Nature never fails to fascinate!

Weโ€™ve been for a look around and to check on the broad beans in the green house. Itโ€™s this time of year that I can often be seen just standing in the middle of the main plot, contemplating my next move. As Iโ€™ve said before, Iโ€™ve learnt to get over that daunted feeling so common amongst those new to the allotment. I find its best just to make a list, you can soon reorder it but just look around and start writing down all the things that youโ€™d like to get done that month.

Hereโ€™s my to do list for the remainder of March…
  • Sow any seeds that I have sorted for March and earlier sowings.
  • Plant out the broad beans (with protection and support)
  • Recover the mini tunnels (Iโ€™ll do a blog post on this)
  • Continue digging over any ground or cover with the no-dig method.
  • Have a general tidy up
Itโ€™s a little list but thereโ€™s more than enough there to keep us busy over the Easter holidays! As Robin Williams said โ€œSpring is natureโ€™s way of saying, โ€˜Letโ€™s party!โ€™โ€ฆlets get this party started indeed!
vegetables-illustration-footer

Each to Their Own

Writing this in somewhat amount of shock. I’m a member of a number of Facebook groups, from allotment recycling methods to no dig groups. I’ve recently had an uncomfortable experience in one of these groups where it was suggested that the photo that I had posted with explanation was not actually the method that I had used to create the results in the photo along with various comments about how my methods were wrong.

Wow, where to start?! Firstly I don’t appreciate it being suggested that I had posted an untruth. Secondly, we’re all here to learn aren’t we? It’s made me think about how I will be reluctant to post in a group again especially confessing that I am not fully no dig and that I do dig and dare I say it, rotivate some areas in a ‘no dig’ group.

For me gardening is a personal thing and there are an infinite number of methods, tips, tricks and personal ways of doing things. And if someone shows interest in your way, help them along the way, not blast them for what they currently do, there’s no need!

So here’s the promise, all of my platforms, whether it be blog, insta, Twitter or whatever, they come without judgement. I’m genuinely interested in your way too, I’m here to learn. I’m pleased to connect with another gardener!

Rant over,

Sarah

I Don’t Have Time for an Allotment

“I don’t have time for an allotment”, I hear this phrase a lot when speaking to people, even in passing if I say that I perhaps I’m popping to the plot to do something or collect veg.

It’s that age old thing that you have time for whatever you make time for, it’s all about priorities, what’s important to one family is less important to another. I suppose the same goes for other pursuits such as exercise or going to the gym. There’s not an infinite amount of free time available so you choose where to spend what you do have.

I had a friend tell me they don’t ‘have time’ to spend making jams, let alone growing the produce to make them with. In just this same way, I don’t ‘have time’ to stay out partying until 4am as they frequently do, it’s different strokes for different folks, lets be honest about it.

For me, an allotment is not a chore, I have never seen it as such. It’s my exercise my relaxation and my ‘me time’ I choose to spend time there over other activities such as watching TV. I struggle to sit still long enough, especially after a day at my desk. I love the outdoors and the satisfaction of eating and feeding my family home grown food.

Admittedly life often throws a curve ball now and then and knocks you off track, but on the whole I make time for it and try to consider where I spend my ‘free time’, to really make sure I’m doing something I want to do not something I’m in the habit of doing.

Sarah.

Organising Seeds for the Year Ahead

Each year, before I start ordering I like to take a look through all of the seeds that I already have. Invariably I end up with a few stashes here there and everywhere. My first job is to gather them all up and bring them home from the allotment.

I tend to take a look through the packets and get rid of any rubbish first, then going on to sort them into the order that I would like to sow them in. Many seeds have a sowing range of a few months, I usually refer to the first month in which sowing is suitable.

IMG_9407.jpg

This year I have used some cello bags to order the seeds as I will use them month by month, labelling each bag. If something doesn’t get sown on the first month or if I would like to succession plant then I will move it along to find the pack again in the following group.

IMG_9409.jpg

I have also gone as far as to create a spreadsheet for the year with all of the fruit and veg sowings that I intend to do, it’s a work in progress but I can add to this each year and change the colour of the cells as I complete each item. A notepad could do much the same job but I wanted something that I could use each year over and over again. I have also used the spreadsheet cells comment section to add additional care information.

Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 14.10.04.png

Hopefully our first full year with three plots will be organised!

Sarah.

vegetables-illustration-footer

Happy Broad Beans – Aquadulce Claudia

One of the few veg I absolutely have to plant each year is the broad beans, with varying success each time but as you can see from the photo’s I’m please to say that our broad beans thus far are doing rather well! These were planted into some general compost on the 11th of November and wrapped toasty in the greenhouse, by the look of it I should be potting them on ASAP!!

IMG_9395.jpg

I decided to sow half of our seeds to over winter and leave the other half to sow in the early spring. There seems to be much debate over which is best and if there really is any point in over-wintering at our allotment site, but for me, it’s always nice to have some lovely green foliage to plant out early doors, makes me feel productive! I’m sure the rest will soon catch up though.

IMG_9394.jpg

Any opinions on which is the most effective or anyone like me and do a bit of both? I do think this particular variety, the Aquadulce, is intended for Autumn and Winter sowing, but a little gardening experimentation never hurt anyone, right?

I may also try some spring sowings of Witkiem Manita which are intended for spring sowings. In my book you can never have enough broad beans!

Any bean favourite varieties or growing tips welcome!

Sarah.

Moving the Rhubarb

With the plan to use one of our, now three plots, as a low maintenance ‘fruit plot’. I had been waiting for the best time to relocate our rhubarb plants from their current position on our first original plot to this new space dedicated just to fruit. It also gives me a chance to cover a larger are with a crop that we eat a lot of. Apparently rhubarb is actually a veg but hey, we’re making up the rules as we go along!

IMG_8162

 

On digging up the crowns now that they have died back, I managed to split them up to make around eight good plants (basically by hacking at them with a spade). I’m not sure if there’s an exact science to this but I have done it before and it seemed to work quite well, fingers crossed this luck will stick with me.

IMG_8164IMG_8165

Having trundled them down to the fruit plot several times with a wheelbarrow full of rhizomes I popped them into their new spots, around 6 inches deep, leaving them just under the surface, marking them with old canes and poles.

IMG_8166

In further embracement of the no dig / lasagne method, I then spread the entire contents of one of the compost beds over the area. Much of the material was fairly new to the heap, but with not needing to dig or plant the ground in the spring now that the rhubarb was under there, I figured it would act as a good mulch whilst it was rotting and the woody material could take all the time it needed. If the rhubarb struggles to make its way through, I have the markers to create a few little clearings if need be.

IMG_8176

Fingers crossed for happy rhubarb in 2018!

Sarahvegetables-illustration-footer

Autumn at the Allotment

Having spent just a couple of half days โ€˜up the allotmentโ€™ over the past couple of weeks, with a clear list of jobs, we seem to have gotten a lot done!!

IMG_8360
Plot 3 now fenced in!

Finally, we have done what we first intended when taking on the third plot, which was to fence it and then add in an entrance so that we can walk straight though from plot 1, thus making one large L shaped plot. Getting this done has not only helped in physically not having to walk around to get to the plot but it feels better, more like itโ€™s really our space.

So the plan is now that we have โ€˜the plotโ€™ which is the two plots joined together and opposite, on the corner, we have the โ€˜fruit plotโ€™, which I am working towards this being all of our fruit together and as low maintenance as possible, thereโ€™s only so many hours in a day!

IMG_8311
Bonfire night on the fruit plot

With Bonfire night having been and gone, the look of the fruit plot changed somewhat as we said a final goodbye to the chicken coop, having packed it with wood over the past few months, itโ€™s safe to say that it burnt well!! Leaving us with a better space and a lot less scrap wood lying about. Itโ€™ll need a good clear up to remove and leftover metal bits, but itโ€™s a step closer to being a useful space.

IMG_8331
Hot chocolate and beer

AdobeStock_171643372.jpeg

We also managed to get a few garlic cloves in, our first plantingโ€™s in the new larger space! Iโ€™ve not grown standard garlic before, but they are showing good signs of growth already so fingers crossed. Garlic is one of those foods that we use a lot of, so itโ€™s about time I started growing some.

AdobeStock_97082242.jpeg

Iโ€™ve also sown around 50 broad bean seeds and have them in plastic propagators in the cleaned out greenhouse. There seems to be divided opinions as to whether these early showings actually benefit at all but I thought Iโ€™d do the same as last year and do half and half with our seeds.

IMG_8380.jpg
A tidy greenhouse!…whatever next!

Other than that, I have some onions ordered, which Iโ€™ll ensure to get in as soon as I have them and Iโ€™ll continue with winter digging as much as my back can handle and developing and enlarging my no dig areas.

Still plenty to do!

Sarah x