The allotment diary: planting strawberries and garlic

Winter is here, but there's still a little time to dig over beds and make some late plantings
5th November 2017
allotment views

I’ve had a relatively modest harvest this autumn. That’s not exactly a surprise, given that I only took on my plot in July, and most of it was too overgrown to be unusable.

At the time I cut back the site with the help of a friend, and then covered over the worst bits with landscaping fabric.

Four months on, as if by magic, those areas are actually diggable! I’m having to time any cultivation very carefully, as Perrett’s Park allotments have pretty heavy clay soil, which responds badly to being dug in anything less than ideal conditions.

Weeds
When the weeds are looking this, err, weedy, it's time to dig them out! Avoid digging ground is boggy, like that in the top left of this picture, as you can damage the soil structure. Image: Rosee Woodland

Soon it will be too cold to get a spade into the ground, but I have managed to sneak in a bit of clearance in order to plant my strawberries and garlic.

There is something quite magical about garlic. Take a big bulb, split it into cloves and poke it about 3cm deep into dug soil and six months later each clove will have become its own bulb. Trying to explain this to my young daughter was most amusing. She just couldn’t quite believe that was how it worked!

garlic cloves for planting
Each one of these cloves should be a juicy bulb of garlic next summer, pests and diseases permitting! Image: Rosee Woodland

I’ve planted Germidour, which I’ve had success with before, and waited until after the first frost in early November as I was worried about the mild weather in October leading to an unseasonal reaction. I was proven right, as a friend who planted hers earlier, has already seen green shoots emerging. If this happens to your garlic, mulch lightly with organic matter to protect the shoots, but don’t worry too much as garlic is pretty hardy.

As well as the garlic I’ve put in six strawberry plants - two Florence, two Pegasus, a Cambridge Favourite and a Red Gauntlet. I chose a few varieties to hopefully extend the season.

strawberry plents
It's worth trying a few varieties of strawberry if you can source them. Some will fare better than others in your micro-climate, so it's a good way to hedge your bets and extend the growing season. Image: Rosee Woodland

They’ve been planted through landscaping fabric, to reduce the weeding burden and help prevent next summer’s strawberries from rotting in Bristol’s wet climate. I’ve only grown strawbs in pots before so I’m hoping the extra leg room they get will result in a bumper crop!

strawberries on site
If planting through landscaping fabric remember to weigh it down with something substantial as if it blows away it can really damage your crops. Image: Rosee Woodland

My last jobs of December are to clear a space for some broad beans, and to thin my over-wintering carrots, but I need a few dry days in a row to be able to do that without damaging the clay soil structure.

As I write this it’s currently pouring down and rain is forecast for the rest of the week, so it’s time to exercise a little patience!

 

Main image: view from the top of the allotments at Perrett's Park, Rosee Woodland

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