Sunday, 16 December 2018

It's been 2 whole years, really.


How time flies.

I always said I'd blog if and only if there was something to say.

The last 2 years on the plot have been trying to say the least.

We tried and tried with the allotment. Our neighbours seem to have a random approach to weeds; they let them all grow up to 3ft tall, and set seed, and then they blow onto our plot and
of course they germinate like crazy.

The soil is clay. such thick clay. We have done loads to improve it. Green manures that hardly germinated. Composted for England. Bought local manure that turned out to be contaminated with Aminopyralid. In 2016 we decided that we would cover all the beds with thick layers of woodchip, and let that rot down. We got two huge deliveries, and put the woodchip down over thick cardboard and newspaper layers, but the bindweed and couch grass grew through and when trying to dig that out, you had to shift the woodchip over, dig and then shift it back over again.

And still the clay battled on. It sucks any and all organic material in, consumes it and you wouldn't know to look at it, that any organic material had ever been added.

So we decided we had to do things another way. Or give it up.

First we moved the greenhouse from the space in our courtyard to the allotment. We did this in the spring. Loving this, even though it took a few months for the council to 'approve' us moving our greenhouse when there are loads of other, mostly bigger, greenhouses there. But anyway.

This was good, but this summer was not the best summer to move it. We hadn't collected nearly enough water and i had to go every day without fail to keep the tomatoes watered. Also, they suffered because it was just too hot to absorb nutrients from the clay, even though I added organic material in the soil, and mulched over the soil and there was weed fabric down around the plants. I ended up having to put cut down plant pots in a ring culture style, and fill with compost, to get some extra nutrients to them. And yes, comfrey and nettle was in the water.

I also had to keep moving water in containers in the boot, to refil the waterbutts. I did this twice a week all summer. It really didn't work well.

I have since then, put two raised beds in, filled with bought top soil, and will put another bed in along the back and then install three removeable shelves and will grow in these now.

They seem to be working well so far, filled with  greenery and we are harvesting weekly from them.

I have bought two of the 1000l containers to store next year's water in, and am slowly filling them over the winter. The first one is nearly half full already. I've put a solar pump to pump the water that is collected from the roof, to the storage but having to do it by hand as it isn't charging enough to get going at the moment.

During September, we decided to cover the whole lot with proper weed fabric, and put in raised beds made from pallet collars. I got a fantastic deal on ebay, and went and picked them up in 2 loads, 27 of them for £2 each.

We levelled the ground, and then put the fabric down.Then put the pallet collars up and filled with locally bought topsoil.

i then set to, sowing seeds for the winter.

This is it during December 2018.

We are cropping regularly and I have my next year's plan already sketched out.

The difference is that the varieties might be different, and you sow mainly in the beds, transplanting very little; and you think out rather than try and grow every seed.

A mix of winter spinach, just bog standard spinach with some Kyoto Market bunching onions in there for good measure. I had sowed the Coriander in between but I transplanted the whole lot into the greenhouse beds in October and they are growing well still.

These are Long Red Florence onions, that were doing very little in the courtyard beds so I transplanted them. They seem to be doing ok though. 

Leeks, can't remember that variety, but under Enviromesh due to Leek Moth. Growing well. 

Cabbages from seedlings bought at Meynell Lanyley nursery. Just bought to fill the bed really. 

Ditto, these are actually bulking up so that's good.

Ditto; the kales have a bit of white fly but the new leaves are ok. 

Lettuces, Red Chinese Cabbage and Fennel with some random Salsola.

I am thinning the fennel out and using in the kitchen, and lo and behold, the others are thickening up. 

Peas. Sown for the pea shoots, these got frosted in November so are now all out. 

Overwintering onion sets, all looking good. 

These are the sorts of pickings I am getting every few days. More veg out of these beds since September that i've had in a few seasons.

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