Hi – (click on a picture to enlarge) - I'm recovering after a hip replacement and would like to share some pictures of our allotment from the last few years.
Last year - with work commitments and the weather against us, we weren't able to get done much at all... it really was all a bit of a washout.
There are approx 40 plots on our site, just nice, it's surrounded on all sides with back gardens and you can't see it from the entrance so we get very little trouble from veggie burglars.
I've cut the main grass here for a few years and yet people still wang rocks on there... so I cut high and it's been enough to stop someone coming in with a sprayer.
But we love our allotment and the time can just fly by. Our first plot was 20ft x 100ft -- the first thing we did was to put up four reinforced pallet bins, bolted together, one 6x4 and three 4x4. We fill the big one first, then turn this into the next one, then the next one until the last turn goes through a stout wooden framed riddle to get out the few sticks and stones. It is possible to have finished compost inside a month if you've the time and/or energy!
What we wanted was not raised beds so much, but to have defined 3-4ft wide beds.
Around then, I made a timely mistake with an estimate on a turfing job and we got ourselves 12 narrow grass paths across the width, down the length of the plot. It looks a bit pretentious but it was (sort of) free and we have the petrol machines to keep it neat
Our plot was getting a bit full up of flowers - we were running out of room – having the flowers gives us a lot of pleasure and we haven't got as many out to work as was the intention – so when the old couple next to us finally called it a day, we were very pleased to be given their plot – I'm not sure this is right when there's a waiting list but current plot holders get first shout, that's rules.
This white Agapanthus we found in a pot underneath nettles at a garden clearance – we split it up and lined out 40 plantlets
I once just had to go into someones garden to ask what 'that flower' was and the lady gave me a piece, it was a lovely pale sky blue iris - we still have it twenty years on - and last year we bought a few more varieties to increase up on the plot...
So this was our second plot, which we'd had for two years before getting it underway... one row of raspberries (at supermarket price) pays rent for both plots several times over - both plots together equal nearly 450 square yards and we pay £20 a year
After the initial thorough dig and removing carpets, window frames, bindweed etc. we wanted to try the no dig method. I've read that just one teaspoonful of rich garden soil can hold up to a billion bacteria, several yards of fungi, several thousand protozoa and scores of nematodes – we've plenty of material to use as mulch for the worms – and you can't find a better garden helper - they leave behind eight times more micro organisms than they eat and their castings are loaded with calcium, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and large amounts of humic acid, an excellent natural soil conditioner.
“Perceived as lowly, but actually holy, the earthworm feeds the soil, even it's waste, improves the taste, of every pea and bean”
Worms have survived mass extinctions over hundreds of millions of years while other species perished. It now appears it may be possible to figure out just how the land masses broke apart - and carrying the worms with them, drifted to far corners of the globe by studying the distribution of worm species – why, for example, Caribbean worms are closely related to those in Fiji
This year we've done well with french, broad and runner beans, the beetroot, potatoes, cabbage and broccoli were good... the strawberry bed was a little tired so we've reset a new one for next year and we've picked 20lb of autumn raspberries and planted four redcurrants...
Of all home grown veg, we find that fresh pulled carrots surprise the most people in the difference from shop bought - but we haven't attempted them for two years because of the carrot fly – we've tried earthing them up like potatoes and used pelleted seed to avoid thinning, but enviromesh is maybe the only sure answer...
We bought some mesh for this year and decided to let the carrots fight it out with the weeds underneath – mistake – the weeds won – we sowed again end of august under glass sheets – we're hoping, but not expecting too much
The leeks also need meshing away from leek moth and / or leaf miner as I found out again last year - I cut them down to ground level and they came up again but this year they're under mesh and we've planted them in clumps of 4 or 5 like I believe they do in the east – we''ll see...
Our outdoor tomatoes had always succumbed to a late blight but in 2011 we had a decent crop of beefsteaks for the first time - the thought of just picked tomatoes made me try and ensure success again in 2012 and I made this box for some cordons
but the wind blew it over the first night... it could've worked if I'd had it anchored in time? We stuck with bush varieties under these corrugated sheets this year.
Earlier this year we used our cloche to bring on early potatoes - this photo was taken on May 1st
Geoff Hamilton once showed us a test he was doing with two identical plots - same flowers - same veg - same soil, one was grown with the 'help' of synthetic chemicals, the other not. He found no difference in produce quality but the bees did – while one plot had the occasional visit the other was alive with bees.
This pretty Phacelia tanacetifolia is one of our favorites, it's sold for green manuring, it seeds like a weed, we always leave some in and the bees love it.
Chives (great for edgings) and tree onions - or - "Egyptian Walking Onions" - Allium proliferum :-
We also grew a lot of Romaine lettuce this year.. which was lucky as ducks love it! -
A one / two day old Mallard turned up on our doorstep that looked like she could do with some help... but when she got too big to live inside with us we found her a companion..
here they are, up at the allotment, about five weeks old..
When I first grew veg I failed with onions, oh well I thought, they're cheap to buy in the shop and then I read what chemicals the farmers used to grow their onions.
It was around that time I heard about cabbages that produce scorpion poison to kill caterpillars... and I saw an open university programme where two blokes fishing had caught some barbel with extra bits growing on their heads – they found it was the pork luncheon meat used as bait, made from pigs fed growth hormones. Thirty years on and we've got nuclear fallout to think about... (sorry, but I find it worrying)
The reason why we work is basically... we've got to do something to feed ourselves. I believe everyone deep down wants to work and it's just plain wrong that people are on the dole more than a few months and doing nothing constructive.
While I was in hospital the care I received was exemplary – I had only one complaint – the food –
I'm no expert but it's my guess that It IS possible to feed ourselves with real food but it would mean much less meat and to farm close to home. "Can Britain Farm Itself"