Monday, 24 April 2017

Progress on the allotment

Since taking on the allotment in November progress has been slow but steady. The landowner had said that he would plough it for me when it dried up a bit. So I waited and waited and by early March I thought I’m just going to have to do it myself.

The problem with the site is the amount of rabbits that are in the neighbouring fields and hedgerows; each individual plot needs to be fenced off and rabbit proofed. Not that I’m complaining too much, having an allotment amongst open countryside is an absolute joy. It’s a real pleasure just to sit and watch nature, although I’ve not had too much of chance to do so yet due to the copious amount of digging that has been required.

By fencing the plot I was accepting that the tractor wouldn’t be able to get in and I’d have to dig it all by hand. I waited as long as I could but eventually conceded defeat and set to work with the fork and spade. I was eager to get some broad beans and early potatoes in, some strawberries plants that I had put in a few weeks earlier had been immediately dug up by the rabbits so protection was my top priority.

I’ve now cleared almost all of one side of the plot and am now working my way back up the other. Being well over halfway I can start to see the light at the end of tunnel. The beds are starting to take shape and what was once just a picture in my head is becoming a reality.

As with all projects the plan is changing all the time. Seeing a greenhouse on eBay for £50 I just couldn’t resist. If you can imagine trying to build the worlds most complicated Meccano set without any instructions, you’ll be somewhere near the difficulty level involved in dismantling and rebuilding this greenhouse. Worth it now that it is finally done but I spent days trying to work out how this thing went back together.

Still, we're getting there. A few more full days spent digging and hopefully it will be time to sit down and enjoy it all.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Best Seed Offers

With the new year fast approaching I thought I'd look at what offers were available on vegetable seeds - here's some of the best that I found.

Otter Farm

Free postage and packaging on all orders over £25 and a free bay plant on all orders over £15

Ends 5th January

No automatic alt text available.

Closing down sale, all vegetable seeds 25p per packet.

Thompson & Morgan

Seed Sale - Vegetable seeds from 99p

Ends 7th January at midnight

Sarah Raven

Up to 50% off vegetable seeds

DT Brown

Buy three or more packs of seed potatoes and save 20% per pack.

We've Got an Allotment!

So after years of waiting we've finally got ourselves an allotment. It all happened quite by chance, with just a  few phone calls and emails, in the end it actually proved quite easy.

Driving to  a nearby pub for lunch a few weekends ago, nailed to a tree was a handmade sign stating 'allotments for rent' with a  phone number to call; of course I immediately slammed on the brakes and took the number down. We've been on the waiting list  for the councils allotments in our local area since we moved back in July last year. In a interesting conversation at the time with the then chairmen of the allotments he said that often the waiting lists were that long that people just didn't bother with it any more; in fact the last time that one of the plots had become available he contacted everyone on the waiting list and they had all been on it for so long that they had either moved out of the area or were no longer interested in getting one. The list was scrapped and started again, which gave me the faint glimmer of hope that I may be somewhere near the top of it, the complete silence ever since perhaps indicates otherwise. Indeed if I do ever get the call, I myself will become one of those that are no longer interested, having secured one elsewhere.

Following a conversation with the landowner I went to meet him the next morning up at the site. It turned out that he was a beef and sheep farmer with a fairly extensive farm in the area, his wife also runs a garden centre which adjoins their house which is possibly where the interest in growing comes from. I couldn't believe how many were available, of the twenty or so plots I had a choice of at least five; after spending over a year on a waiting list in the space of two days I had made a phone call, walked into the field and picked a plot.

Having been part of the River Cottage land-share scheme a number of years ago I realise that a private allotment might cost a bit more than a council or community site but I was pleasantly surprised when told how much it would be for the year. I had previously paid a farmer £30 plus some veg every now and again whereas this new site would cost £120 for the year. Certainly a lot more than some but I can't complain at £10 a month, especially with the convenience of being only a ten minute drive along some beautiful country lanes.

As I had the choice of so many I chose one on which the previous occupier had constructed a shed, homemade of course but it could almost pass for something that had been purchased it's in that good shape. The plot had also been completely dug over within the past year so the soil is in pretty good condition too, although it has now become largely overgrown the majority of this is chickweed, thistle with a few docs mixed in, nothing particularly well established all small enough to pull by hand.

The farmer also offered to rotovate and spray with with weedkiller prior to me making a start, the weedkiller I declined, I have no interest in growing non-organically, however him rotovating will certainly save me a lot of digging.

So whilst I wait for this to happen I've cleared a small patch to plant some soft fruits into, not that it was urgent but as any new allotment holder will know I was just desperate to spend some time up there and get going on what I could.

I've since been back and tried to clear the patch of all the perennial weeds prior to rotovating, any suggestions on composting methods for these will be gratefully received.

They'll be plenty more updates on all of this so keep an eye out.