The allotment diary: starting to plant

A few weeks into getting her long-awaited allotment, Rosee Woodland has been busy clearing and even planting, thanks to a helpful legacy left by the previous tenant. 

28th July 2017
View from Perretts Park allotments

I’ve had a really busy couple of weeks on plot 6a.

You may remember that my new allotment was incredibly overgrown.

However, as I worked over the site to ensure it was safe for my mate Jon to strim it, I made a brilliant discovery. Hidden under the tall grass and bindweed were three huge sheets of weed suppressant fabric.

They’d been in situ so long that grass was seeding through them but pulling them back revealed large areas of space that were fairly free of growth and looked like they’d be easy to dig over.

I'd resigned myself to not being able to plant much at all until spring, so it was fantastic news.

The clay soil was rock hard thanks to a dry June, so I knew I couldn't dig until it had rained quite a bit, and bided my time with other jobs, planting some tomato and courgettes into large grow-sacks to give me something to come back to water.

Grow sacks
Growing tomatoes and courgettes in grow sacks and an old trug gives me a reason to visit the site regularly - I moved them to a sunnier spot shortly after taking this picture

Once Jon had done the strimming (he arrived complete with boiler suit, ear defenders and face shield and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself) the plot looked even larger.

More importantly, the structure of the terracing was revealed. It turns out I have five terraced beds, each one larger than the entire growing space in my tiny north-east-facing back garden.

Tarraced allotment site
An extensive haircut by my pal Jon has revealed five large terraced beds. Old radiators are a very effective and long-lasting terracing material

And finally, pretty much exactly as Jon finished the cutting back, it started to rain. And rained and rained and rained.

Once there was a enough of a break in the downpour to spend some decent time on site I dug over the three patches that had been pre-cleared by the old membrane, put in small leek and broccoli plants, both a bit later than ideal, and sowed several rows of dwarf bean ‘Purple Teepee’

Leek plants
Leaving at least 20cm between leek plants gives plenty of room to easily hoe off grass seedlings like these as soon as they appear

Two weeks after potting them up my courgettes and tomatoes are showing their first fruit so I’ve given them a feed and will leave them in their pots as they may not like being moved now they’re producing.

First courgette
My first courgette - a nice surprise on my latest plot visit

I also planted a couple of raspberry canes a friend had given me, tightening the old wire strung across the end of one of the terraces and tying them in. My generous pal had unfortunately provided them with very little soil and it was a couple of days before I could get digging, so they aren’t looking very happy. One, I think, will survive, but I’m not convinced about the other. I should have waited until autumn of course. Lesson learned!

However, the tayberry which I uncovered in the same row while cutting back is looking great after a prune of last year’s dead wood and I’m hopeful I’ll get some fruit from it next year.

Tayberry and raspberry canes
A happy tayberry (left) and sad raspberry (right). It's better to wait to transplant raspberries until October.

Next up, I’m debating attempting to dig over the half of the top bed that wasn’t covered in membrane as it’s only sparsely seeded with grass.

The middle terrace, where the grow sacks are living, is my biggest challenge.

It’s absolutely smothered in bindweed, there's an old raised bed half-buried on it and it's been earthed up for potatoes, so it’s a very uneven surface to work on.

It also seems to have been the dumping ground for the plot as I’ve found a hose, rake and huge bags of cut up plastic bottles, presumably used as cloches in the past.

Debris found on site
I've used a couple of planks and some plastic net to weigh down this tangle of plastic bottle cloches, hoses and junk and stop it blowing away, until I can tackle it.

Sorting that little lot out is my next job.

In the meantime I’m waiting for my few crops to grow and enjoying spotting all the different beasties around the site - more on that next time...

Catch up on Rosee's first blog here


 

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