Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Allotments Grand Opening

Last weekend saw the grand opening ceremony of our allotments. This included the unveiling of commemorative plaques, cutting of a ribbon and the planting of two apple trees by a representative of the trustees who donated the land. Part of the funding for the allotments came from the New Forest National Park, under their Sustainable Development Fund and Lottery funding. I worked on my plot for the rest of the day, finishing off the rest of the permanent beds, which just leaves the fruit strips left to do. I transferred some strawberry plants from home, which had a lot of runners, which I’ve also planted, to make the full quota of plants required. They looked a little stressed yesterday when I was there, but hopefully the overnight rain will have perked them up.
Some farmyard manure was added to the permanent beds, and I plan to transfer some artichoke plants from home this week.

I sent for some mail-order plants last week - Onion Senshyu Yellow, Onion Sets Radar, Shallot Griselle, Garlic Vayo (hardneck type), Radish Mantanghong F1 Seeds, Broad Bean Luz De Otono Seeds, Broad Beans (Vicia faba), Asparagus Gijnlim, Asparagus Dariana F1, Goji Berry, Apple Redlove Sirena, Apple Paradis Lummerland, Apple Paradis Idylla. That’s when I began to realise that setting up an allotment isn’t exactly a cheap option – but eating your own produce in years to come must be more satisfying than buying commercial stuff from the supermarket.

We ate our first crops at the weekend – the thinning from the salad beds, which were delicious, and a couple of aubergines, from the plant that we’d bought, and brought on. Next year I hope I’ll raise all my own plants.

Having started a compost bin off, I made a lid for it, using part of an old tarpaulin, stapling it to the back of the bin, and securing it at the front with cup hooks, through the tarp’s eyelets. Manufacturers of cup hooks note: I’ve found a new outlet for your product, having used them all round my timber frames for securing netting.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

National Allotments Week

How appropriate that this is National Allotments Week. Allotment sites are encouraged to open to the public – sorry, but there’s not too much to see on ours yet, although several sheds have appeared, and raised beds, as well as a little planting.

This is my plan showing the six rotational and three perennial beds, and planned fruit strips.
I was planning on some thornless blackberries here, but there are plenty of wild ones next to my plot, so I think raspberries and a cordon of pears, maybe minaret apples and/or standard gooseberries would be a good idea. A friend has donated some rhubarb to go in one of the perennial beds, and I’m planning some strawberries, and asparagus and both globe and Jesusalem artichokes here. I’ll continue to grow potatoes in pots at home, which have always been successful, but I’ll probably also grow a few early salad ones as part of my rotation. Here’s an update on what we’ve done this week.
There are now six beds with frames round, all dug-over, and more plants in situ. Just for this year, since it’s late in the season, we’ve bought some plants from a garden centre, as well the ones I grew at home. These include an aubergine, sweet pepper, sweet potatoes, sprouting broccoli, kale and leeks. I added lime to the brassica bed, so fingers crossed. Wood chip or bark, I think, would be more suitable for the paths between the beds, instead of gravel. It’s cheaper, and will look more in keeping.

All these framed beds now have netting over them. Cuphooks around the timber hold this in place, and allow for easy access. Where the beans, chillis, aubergine and tomatoes have grown taller, I’ve rolled the netting back to leave the bed just partially covered. Many of the seeds we planted are coming up well – salad & stir-fry crops (which will have to be thinned soon), beetroot, carrots, parsnips, turnips and onions.

Apparently rabbits are a nuisance in the adjoining (established) allotments, as I guess pigeons will be from the surrounding trees. Hopefully the netting should give some protection. We’ve also hung old CDs on string to try to deter the birds. More worrying is the deer which someone saw in the field early one morning. Although deer-proof fencing has been put around three sides, it seems the tall hedge hasn’t deterred them on the fourth. The parish council is aware of the problem, so maybe something can be done.

Also this week I received the small compost bin that I’d ordered online. Some people have made their own out of pallets, but this one was so reasonably-priced, it seemed I could use my time more profitably concentrating on the digging and the plants. Now all I have to do is remember to keep all the kitchen peelings. If anyone knows a good source of well-rotted manure around these parts, please let me know – especially if it can be bagged or delivered!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Work starts on the Allotment

There was excitement in the air the first day I was able to get into the allotments. Someone had beaten me to it, and there was already a shed and a compost bin, made out of old pallets, on one plot. Other people were there to look round, some to get digging, and others, like me, to start marking thing out. It was good to meet some of the other villagers, and it seemed as though it could be a whole other social opportunity once things got established.

My first job was to interpret the design I’d worked out on my CAD system. The rudimentary dimensions I’d been given for my half-plot were more-or-less the same, but the orientation was different. Having done this I marked out the beds with pegs and string, and put down weed-suppressing membrane on what will be the paths between (eventually to be covered with gravel).

I’ve planned six rotational beds (10’ x 4’), three perennial/permanent beds (6’ x 4’) and some fruit strips (2’ wide).

On the second day a friend helped me put up a small shed. This came with a bright orange stain, and has been called a sentry box by some that have seen it. This has given me the idea of painting a guardsman on the front of it...but there’s a lot of work to be done before that. Watch this space.

We then began digging the beds, ready to get some of the plants I’d grown at home planted and some of the seeds that can still be sown this late in the year. I edged two of the dug-over beds with timber, and will eventually do the same for the others. Last weekend we were able to plant dwarf beans, chilli plants and coriander. We also planted salad-leaf and stir-fry leaf seeds, for succession planting, and some carrot, onion, turnip and beetroot seeds. Blood, fish and bone was used as fertiliser. The timber edging has enabled me to put netting over the beds, to deter pests.
Digging has been a bit of a pain, since the ground was previously pasture, and was only turned over by machine. This has meant tedious removal of clods of grass. Some plot-holders have put down carpet and plastic to kill off grass and weeds but I wanted to get on and plant. “Little and often” will be my mantra, I think, until I can get everything up-and-running.

We’ve bought some plants from a garden centre to enable us to grow leeks, aubergines and peppers this season. Next year, I hope, I can get sowing early, and have a full year’s, home-produced crop.