…asked my allotment neighbour.
This is now January 2019, we’d had the allotment for three months and the only things to show for it were the weeds cleared from the fruit, the posts up for the raspberries and the membrane down to kill the weeds. I have since found out that there is an unwritten rule that no matter when you get your allotment, the expectation is you immediately clear a space, no matter how small or what the rest of the plot looks like and plant something…which is usually onions…
“Um, yes, I’m planning to” I reply in a weak, ‘still don’t know what I’m doing’ sort of voice.
My plan was, instead of careering headlong into something (which is usual for me, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to grow onions anyway), this time I would take my time and do things systematically. I wanted to have a perfectly planned and set up growing space before I started planting and to start with I had to decide what I was going to grow the vegetables in.
Now, I’ve always loved a book and as I was looking for information and inspiration I had the perfect opportunity to buy some more – guess where my husband’s eyes are? I’ve made a list of the books I found useful at the bottom of this page and having read around the subject both in books and on the internet, I decided to go for raised beds. (There will be a separate blog post on raised beds).
Growing straight into the ground seemed a bit too advanced for me, I just couldn’t get my head around how you keep all the pests off and looking at pictures in the books of perfect rows of large, healthy vegetables and imagining all that I would need to do to accomplish this was too much for me to deal with, so smaller manageable raised beds was the way to go.
It seems the recommendation is to make the beds approximately 8ft x 4ft which is 2m x 1.2m. Never having been any good at maths and thinking I knew better than the years of experience and research I had read, I promptly ignored the advice and went for 1.5m wide and 3m long beds, I worked out I could get five of these beds down the left hand side of the plot and I settled on using decking boards to create them (discussed in the raised beds post)
Now, neither my husband nor me are the best at DIY. I’m happy to have a go, but I think it’s fair to say my talents lie elsewhere and my husband, well, following previous attempts he has been banned from attempting any DIY at home unless under strict supervision! I’m just setting the scene of two inept souls who could be found manhandling metres of wood and screws and cordless drills, and we just about managed one bed on each visit.
Because the membrane I had laid previously had only been down a few months it had not been down long enough to kill the weeds, so each bed was going to need to be dug over and as much of the weed removed as possible. Then I would cover these new beds back over with the membrane ready to remove when I was ready to plant something. (As I write this now, my understanding of how to prepare the growing area has changed and a future post will describe how I now use the ‘no-dig’ approach)
I also needed to calculate how much soil or compost I would need. Each bed needed a whopping 1,800L of compost – My husband’s eyes can’t get much higher – do you know how much compost is to buy? If I could insert the facepalm emoji here, I would! So, to save some outlay I decided on the ‘as and when’ philosophy, filling the beds as and when I needed to.
It was while I was digging and filling these beds that I sustained my first significant allotment injury. I wasn’t concentrating and was backing up while manoeuvring the wheelbarrow when I tripped backwards into the raised bed, tipping the wheelbarrow’s contents on the ground and landing, rather un-gracefully, on the upturned post of a smaller bed. I was alone on the plot and just lay there laughing but soon realised I’d actually hurt myself. I will spare your blushes and won’t publish the photos but suffice to say I had a rather large and impressive plum coloured bruise over my coccyx. I was very lucky that the only thing dented was my pride.
By the end of January the beds were complete and the plot slowly took shape over the next few months and I’ll let the photographs illustrate this early transformation.
In the May I plucked up the courage and actually planted something. I know that sounds ridiculous as the whole point of an allotment is to grow stuff, but I so wanted to get it right and didn’t want to find out that I really wasn’t the gardener I wanted to be, that I procrastinated until I really couldn’t avoid it any longer. So in that first bed, I planted broad beans, leeks, Brussels sprouts (I wanted our own sprouts for Christmas dinner), cabbages and the by now, essential, marigolds, covered them all in butterfly netting to keep the cabbage whites away and crossed my fingers…
Books I found useful