I’d forgotten what you looked like…!

So, the allotment is still there…

I had slightly tweaked my back shifting some furniture so hadn’t managed to get to the allotment for a month or so – I drove over there today with a boot full of compost and some very good intentions.

A clear, bright and mild December day lifted the spirits and connected me back into the Earth. It all looked very much the same but actually less work to do, given the recent cold and frosty weather, meaning fewer weeds and very limited grass growth.

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Still a few pests hanging around though – fair play, it can have the last bit of the cabbage!

The compost was duly dumped and spread out, with a good helping of ash from our wood-burner. Ash from wood is a great source of potassium, which regulates plants’ water balance (so tissue is firm and juicy), and has a part in transporting food within the plant and creating sugars and starches. Without enough, vegetables are more vulnerable to drought, frost, pests and diseases.

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The ash will create a more alkaline soil, but peas, beans, fruit and most root vegetables will do well with some extra ash. The area where i’ve just spread the ash was just used for growing all the potatoes and this season will be the main pea and bean growing area, to rotate the crops and improve the soil.

The other thing was the very healthy looking rainbow chard and spinach – the toughest boys on the plot! A good clump of that was harvested and eaten an hour later for lunch – very nice and full of iron.

I also spread out a blue tarpaulin over the central part of the plot, which will be another useful growing space for the coming season.

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Allotment (significant) progress…!

So, 2 weeks ago, our plot looked like it had been abandoned the year before. Now it’s starting to look like it could be the source of a good proportion of our vegetables every year.

I’ve been over there three times in the past week and a bit and it feels amazing. The combination of physical work and the connection to the earth is brilliant (I think I already said this in the previous post but it’s such a strong feeling)!

Roughly 10 hours of work there has started to psychologically shift the process and we’re now very positive about it and really feel a lot of optimism. My Dad came up on Friday (which I booked off work) and we focussed on the plot for a good 5 hours. This involved the following…

– A car load of 10 plastic tubs full of amazing compost (which we had been creating in our two compost bins in the garden) were first emptied into the tubs then loaded into the car. We also loaded two, triple stacked, raised bed frames into the car and the wheelbarrow.

– All this was unloaded at the allotment and half the compost dumped onto the plot.

– Back to mine for a quick lunch.

– Loaded the rest of the compost from the garden into 3 more tubs, and into the car, including bags and spare tubs for next manure collecting journey.

– Unloaded compost at allotment then drove over to the equestrian centre to pickup as much manure as we could load into the car! Also picked a bag of apples from a tree on the entrance lane. 10 tubs full of manure, 4 Ikea bags, a huge white builders bag and a large green bag! Enough for half the plot.

– Back to the allotment to dump all this and to dig this in as much as possible. We met Claire and the boys and we all had a great time roaming around and digging, watering things, playing in the car etc. A really nice, clear and sunny day. More of the plot was also dug by Claire.

– We pulled back the black plastic sheet from the main other half of the plot and folded it up. This needs to be done to allow rain to get into the soil and to loosen it all up, as it was very hard. Cleared the branches and random wood into tubs.

So, lots of progress and the aim now is to get the rest of the plot cleared and dug over within 3 weeks, before Dad comes up again for a final double manure run, which will provide enough to improve the whole area.

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Allotment clearing and planning…

So far  both families have chipped in a fair bit to the allotment and have got loads done is a small amount of time.

We’re focussing on raised beds for at least part of the area as this forms an interesting division of space and means we can plant closer together and increase productivity. The kids can also have their own raised beds if there are enough of them, but the downside is the huge amount of soil needed to fill them and the cost of the raised beds themselves (so far they’ve been given as a present! – thanks Dad).

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Lots of clearing has already been done, both around the new compost bin area and around the shed. There was lots of evidence of drug taking behind the shed (but no needles), but the whole area has now been cleared out and I also had a go at cutting back the tree which was overhanging the plot and shed.

I had a bit of a ‘discussion’ with the ‘neighbour’ whose garden backs onto the allotment area, while I was stood on the shed roof. This woman came out and started having a go at me saying it was illegal to cut people’s trees if they aren’t overhanging on your own property. Well, the allotment is ours for the term of the lease and it is well within my rights to cut branches over hanging my plot – having sat next to a very well informed person at work I know this inside and out! I told her exactly who to contact about it at the Council and what they would say! Still surprised at how aggressive people can be.

So, once CKP’s Dad had cleared the space, I constructed a compost out of palettes on 3 sides with an open front. Once it fills up, the front wil be fitted with a palette door and the other side will also be made, so we can turn the one sides contents into the other to get access to the good compost at the bottom of the pile. There’s also space for a table and chairs between the shed and compost area.

The other  part of the space is the shed, which seems very strong but looks like a mess! My design training is pushing me to regenerate it and re-clad it. The mono-pitch roof will also be useful to catch water for the butt and it can also be secured so we can store random tools and pots etc. Getting the door locked is essential, as is clearing the insides out. I also want to install some windows on the SE and South-facing sides to let loads of light in. There could also be an open pergola theme for it but we’ll contemplate this for a bit and concentrate on getting things growing!

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Garden autumn clear out…

It’s all change in the garden, getting ready for the winter.

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We’ve now managed to clear away all of the dead plants and have finally sorted out the old compost bin and moved it to the other side, next to the one we’re using right now. I’d been meaning to do this for a while and we’ve got some really good compost out of it, after I sifted all the large pieces of baby wipes and wood!

Anyway, about half of that has been dug into the raised beds and potato patch as well as all of the pot ash which i’d stored from last winter. They’re all ready to plant up in the spring, or sooner if there are any amazing ideas for winter plants. The Rainbow Chard is still going strong + Claire discovered a rogue ‘baby’ cucumber stuck down behind the wooden container – it’s massive! Claire features in one of the pictures ‘proud fisherman’ style!

Grass has been cut today and the patio area has been swept. The new rotary clothes dryer is also up and it had 4 loads of washing on it today + 1 on the clothes horse! The rain cover for that is arriving soon, so we’ll be able to hang out washing in any weather.

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Garden work…

Things seem to be picking up in the house and the garden. It’s good to be able to do a bit each week which keeps things moving. I’d already pruned the trees but to be able to start using our second compost bin again, I had to get all the compost out of bin and into a bucket to use in the raised beds etc.

The plan was also to move the compost bins to the north side of the garden, giving more space along the south-facing side for raised beds and growing food. So, managed to do it and move the bin and now have a pretty big tub full of rich compost, some of which i’ve spread over the raised beds.

Also finally got all the branches cut up into kindling sized bits and also sawed up most of the thicker branches for proper wood – there was a wheelbarrow full of thicker branches and 3 barrows of the smaller bits! Just have to wait 2 years (!!) and the thick bits will be ready. It’s a lot less for the smaller bits though : )

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