Lucy and I (and Wilbur) have been busy at the allotment since we took it over in mid-March. Every Sunday we’ve been hard at work digging, clearing rubbish, and transforming the space in preparation for this year’s growing season. I’d love to share our progress with you, so join me on my allotment update for spring 2021!
For the start of our allotment journey see: We Got an Allotment!
For more gardening content see:
- Five Gardening Goals for 2021
- First Year as a Beginner Gardener
- 6 Tips for Starting Seedlings for Beginner Gardeners
Our first task was digging over our half plot. We intend to adopt the no-dig approach, which involves covering over the beds and mulching with compost each season, rather than digging it over. However, the ground is full of glass, junk, and stones. It’s also rock hard clay, so we felt it was best to dig it over the first season, add compost, and then try no-dig.
Although we don’t intend to use pesticides and fungicides, the plot was sprayed with weed killer before we took it on. We also have no control about what products neighbouring allotmenteers use; thus, our allotment isn’t organic.
There was a lot of garbage to clear out from the allotment including rusted metal, ripped tarps, and plastic. It’s taken a month of bringing small loads back to the house to put in the bin, but the rubbish is now mostly cleared. Where possible, we are trying to re-use what’s already there such as netting and wood.
The soil is not in great condition. It has a high clay content and it’s like trying to dig cement. We wanted to get a bulk order of compost but this wasn’t possible due to the restricted access for large vehicles. Thus, we settled on purchasing 50L bags of compost. So far this year, we’ve added 16 bags of compost, plus whatever was in the compost bin. This is a considerable expense, but there’s no point in investing so much time into gardening if the soil is too poor quality to grow anything.
Bark Mulch Paths
After I drew a sketch outlining the locations of paths and beds, we then dug over the plot leaving paths. We covered the paths with bark mulch, which is freely available at the allotment. This mulch will suppress weeds, and also looks nice aesthetically. Our new wheel barrow proved helpful with this task!
Raspberries and Rhubarb
We found a gnarled looking root which Lucy started hacking out before a helpful man told us it was rhubarb. Not to worry, the rhubarb is thriving and we’re making also sorts of rhubarb flavoured things, including infused gin! A fellow allotmenteer gave us some raspberry canes, which we planted in a row at the back of the plot.
Around 1/4 of the prepared beds in our plot are being used to grow potatoes. I planted main crop potatoes: King Edwards and Maris Piper, as well as a few early crop Charlotte potatoes that had chitted in the cupboard. While the plot was untended last year, the allotment manager planted potatoes. Most of these got dug up, but some sneaky ones survived and are now hanging out in the squash bed!
I was impatient and keen to get my squashes in the ground in late April because they were starting to bloom. Although it was after our last frost date, it’s been far too cold and windy for pumpkins, courgettes, and butternut squash. I also didn’t harden them off by taking them outside gradually. They all died. I’m now on to round two of squashes and they are slowly going outside for daytime field trips. I’m expecting to plant them out in late-May/early June when the weather finally warms up.
Winter Veg Bed
Rabbits and other critters are around at the allotment and are opportunistic snack monsters. Most people have fencing around their plots, but ours doesn’t. I decided that any bed growing tasty things (essentially everything except leeks and potatoes), will need to have some sort of barrier. Thankfully, the plot came with some rolls of discarded chicken wire fencing and various netted poly tunnels. We purchased a few stakes and created one fenced in bed for the winter veg. This bed contains kale, perpetual spinach, and Swiss chard. These crops will grow in summer and should hopefully survive throughout winter into next spring.
The previous caretaker had a cage constructed on a wooden frame, which Lucy has repaired. This will have beetroot and radishes growing in it.
The next stage for the allotment will be to direct sew some of the summer veg. I’ve got beans and peas almost ready to go in, but they first need support trellises. We are also planting comfrey for liquid fertilizer, and cosmos and sunflowers for the bees. Stay tuned for more allotment updates throughout the summer!
Are you keeping a garden or allotment this year? What are you growing?