November rain

With just a small nod to the awesome Guns and Roses song released more years ago than I care to think about we are careering into winter. We’ve been renovating our bathroom so haven’t been able to get out much and haven’t had any chance to get to the allotment. It suddenly feels like the evenings have disappeared and I hadn’t noticed the turn in weather until I tried to get up to the allotment for several evenings in a row.

I could’t do anything when I did manage to find the time as it’s been really wet here. I still fully intend to cut down all the rasberry canes and line the strawberry patch with weed suppressant and straw when ever I can. It’s on the list for this weekend but I fear I’ve left it too late.

At home the garden has been tidied, weeded, mulched and prepped for the frosty mornings. I have cut the Dahlia’s right down, left them in and covered them with mulch. I am hoping this will be enough to protect them over winter. I have got half a dozen cuttings from a rosemary bush that have established and are ready to go under cover till spring.

Meanwhile, down at the allotment, we have 4 or 5 wooden pallets that I’m planning to construct a composter out of.  I’m not a natural DIY’er and as a result I am fairly convinced they can be as easy to construct as Google and You Tube have told me they can be. The idea was to knock two together with the wooden pallets and some strong twine and add the contents of the two full plastic composters that are currently there to mulch down over winter.  We filled the plastic ones within the first couple of hours of clearing the plot, we quickly realised we were going to need something bigger and staggered.

Despite the change in weather and the end of long light evenings I am kind of glad the growing season is over and we are in queiter times. I felt such a lot of pressure to get things in the ground, it felt like such a waste to have the allotment and not to be growing lots. Now the seasons are turning it feels like the pressures off and we have time now to get lots of practical jobs done, like edging the 4 quarters of the plot with wood and to plan what we want to plant and where in the new year.

I’ve been reading a lot about the no dig method and have covered one quarter with cardboard under the tarp. It’s a bit of an experiment, if it works we’ll do the same method with the final two quarters. Much like those You Tube demonstrations on how to build a composter the no dig method, despite making lots of sense just feels too easy to be “proper gardening”

In the meantime the garlic and onions are in and the potatos are doing well, it makes me very happy that we are still managing to grow something in this ‘cold November rain’ .

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Sunday raspberry sorting

This weekend I’m going to try and make some sense out of the raspberries we have growing. We moved the summer fruiting ones from our garden over to the new plot in early spring, and they’ve had a good season. Then we found a few more, clearly well established canes in amongst all the overgrowth in the same corner. I have never grown raspberries before, I didn’t know there were two kinds. The ones already established look like autumn fruiting ones as there’s still a few beautiful splashes of red on some of the canes

Somehow though, this end of the 1st quarter has got all mixed up, there’s strawberry plants growing in amongst all the raspberries, some we moved over last spring and some were already there. The original idea was to dedicate this 1st quarter of the plot to growing fruit so it felt like a good place to start, but everything has ended up growing in one place along one small strip 🙄

So this weekend, is raspberry sorting time, despite having watched numerous You Tube clips on how to prune raspberries I still feel none the wiser. But I figure I can cut down the autumn canes that have finished fruiting and try and work out which of the summer canes had fruit this year and cut those back too. That should mean I can get to the weeds, underneath it all. The weeds have ended up suffocating the strawberry plants, still trying to do their thing in amongst ever increasing raspberry and weed domination.

I’ve bought some weed suppressant to put down once it’s done then it should be all ready for straw coverage at some point for winter.

The next job this weekend is to build 2 composters from wooden pallets. At this stage I’ll accept moving the pallets from the drive and leaving them in place at the allotment as a win. I’ve never built anything other than flat pack furniture before and then only with the aid of step by step instructions, an electric screwdriver and MrP’s help to point out when I’ve screwed a side on upside down or back to front. Everything I’ve read says not to put composters under trees but as this is the only space available so it’ll have to do.

After the composters are up it’s onto creating a greenhouse creation from an old conservatory (creating being the operative word, see earlier comment on building experience) and then edging each quarter with wooden sides creating a bit of a raised bed look, but that’s another weekends job, and blog. In amongst all the jobs we are growing some stuff too, the Christmas potatoes are coming along,

It’s the first time I’ve grown potatoes this late in the year, don’t tell me if they’re not meant to be looking like this yet. We’ve also got some onions and garlic in, regular and elephant garlic, which I’m more-than-any-normal-person-should-be excited about. For now though it’s focusing on the practical stuff so we can start growing as early as possible next season.

The Allotment Diary – In the beginning…

One year ago we became the proud new tenants of an allotment. There were no grand plans, for some reason I’d put our names down for an allotment just after we moved here, almost 9 years ago. I think it was something to do with moving out of Hackney and into rural England. It felt compulsory to have an allotment and an old bike with a bread basket on the front. I’d sort of forgotten about it over the years, until we got the call from the council.

I said yes immediately. I figured MrP would be fine with it, we’d had a conversation some years earlier about it and he’d said absolutely not, that it would take a lot of time out of our already busy weekends. But, that had been ages ago. I figured times had changed. That and I’d forgotten to take us off the list and that I’d already said yes without thinking it through.

With all this in mind I went to look at the plot. It is just lovely, a corner plot, close to a park and backs onto open fields. There are plenty of well established plots growing all sorts of beautiful looking veg and fruit. Everything went a bit sepia and I photo bombed MrP with photos of the plot and grand ideas of the things we could grow. He remained sceptical until he saw it too. I had got so caught up with the potential for self sufficiency and veg I’d totally failed to see the shed potential. But he was all over that and we stood arm in arm talking of how things might look with a bit of hard work and some time spent on eBay. We talked about coming up on Sundays to pick veg for our Sunday roast and having a camping stove in the shed so we could make tea. We fell in love with the plot but mostly the idea of what it could be.

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Fast forward a month, we still had no shed, so still having to take everything we needed every time we went.  It is only a 10 minute walk away, unless you have a wheel barrow, 2 forks, a spade, an array of gardening tools and two reluctant children in tow. Then it actually took the entire day just to get there and back. Once we got there hours passed and we appeared to have achieved very little. Endless digging over has cleared one small strip out of one of the four beds the plot is divided into. I was ready to give up on it all at that point. But we kept on, kept digging over, kept pulling up the same weeds (I have never come across anything as persistent as chickweed) and eventually one quarter of the plot was cleared and ready for planting.

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The fact that this took almost a year to happen and technically came at the of the growing season has not taken anything away from the enjoyment of just getting to this point. We have potatoes in for Christmas and last weekend planted onions and garlic that should be ready by the Spring. Round about the same time as the other three quarters of the plot will be ready too. So far they’ve been covered with tarp. One quarter has a layer of cardboard and then a layer of horse manure underneath it, the other two quarters just the tarp. We’re planning to rotivate them sometime in February.

That means that by next March we should have the whole plot cleared and ready for planting. I have no idea what to put in or how to do this we have been planning for so long committing ourselves to anything feels very risky. We have no experience and all our knowledge is basically coming from Monty Don and Google. I figured blogging about it would be a great way to track our progress and get to know other people who are doing the same and much more knowledgeable than us.

I don’t know if we’ll ever be sat in our beautifully maintained allotment drinking tea in our pimped up beach hut style shed. But it is a beautiful dream and we’ll probably get some veg out of it. So far it’s been hard work but a really lovely place to hang out together as a family. Most surprisingly though, in a world dominated by cleaning, cooking, clubs, commuting and childcare it’s been a lovely place to hang out together and a reminder of how well we can actually work as a team. Who knows we might even get some veg out of it at some point.

 

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