Getting the allotment garden
So from 11th November, Jon and I got the keys and became half plot allotment garden owners at our local allotment site. We are well aware of how lucky we are to have only been on an allotment waiting list for seven months; we were originally told it would be a few years wait. So if you are toying with the idea of taking on an allotment, get your name on the list now as you may have some wait ahead of you!
The state of our messy plot
Our plot was rather unloved for some time – which is why we were able to have an allotment garden so soon. Others higher on the waiting list for an allocation saw the plot, and all decided it was too much work to take on.
While there is an awful lot of bindweed, carpet and couch grass to remove, as we have started to clear the allotment garden site, we can see how much the plot was once loved. Under layers of soil and grass, we have found premade brick beds and flagstone paths and brought it back to looking reasonable and manageable pretty quickly.
We were very lucky with our allotment garden as it already had a shed. We are currently on probation for our allotment, so we are not allowed to erect a shed, polytunnel or pond for three months. Whilst wonky and full of left-behind clutter, our shed means we don’t have to lug all our tools down with us every time we visit.
This month’s jobs
Our first jobs set by our allotment committee were to clear the pathways around our site, which were very overgrown, and to set up water collection from our shed roof. The plot had two water butts that weren’t in use, so Jon set about putting guttering on the roof and getting those working – very useful for summer!
Clearing outer paths
Our outer paths didn’t need much work; other than one vicious rose bush, it was mostly clearing lots of nettles and brambles. Despite path etiquette being of high importance to our allotment committee, the rose bush on our plot had been allowed to take over the path, with sharp eye height branches going across to take out other unsuspecting allotmenteer. It took a few days of cutting back this beast before we could dig it out to remove it. We also found a huge amount of bindweed had started trying to take over this rose bush.
The bathtub at the edge of our allotment garden has also been emptied and moved whilst we decide if we will keep it and what we can do with it.
Some beds on our plot weren’t in too bad condition as someone had tried last summer to manage it before giving up. We dug up each of these beds and removed every piece of bindweed (and other weeds) we could find. Other beds not in use we weeded then mulched with manure available from our allotment (£1 per barrow)
Planting out garlic, onions and broad beans
As it was November, we could plant out garlic and onions. We planted Elephant, soft neck Garcua and Topadrome French Garlic, as well as shallots ‘red sun’, white onion ‘Radar’ and ‘Senshyu’, red onion ‘electric’. These have had to have insect netting over as we were told the allotment has suffered this year from Allium leafminer.
We also planted at home on the window sill Broad bean Aquadulce Claudia and Bunyards Exhibition. We saw a fair few rats at the allotment, so we chose to sow them at home to prevent them from being eaten. We then hardened them off by putting them outside for a few hours a day, increasing their time outdoors, and then planting them out under a cloche to overwinter.
There was a strawberry bed already in place that was out of hand. We cleared it of weeds, put down membrane and replanted the strawberries as well as a few pineberries. The pineberry were gifted from a kind local allotmenteer and will turn white with red seeds when ripe. Whilst still a strawberry these have a more acidic, slightly pineapple taste but will go softer quicker than regular strawberries.
Planting soft fruits
November is also the time for soft fruit, so from Homebase, we picked up some clearance £1 green gooseberries (which look dead but we shall see) and some thornless blackberries.
We also went to the garden centre and chose two blackberries – ‘Big Ben’ and ‘Ben Lomond’, a redcurrant ‘JVT’, boysenberry and jostaberry, for our soft fruit area. We also chose two established pink lemonade blueberry bushes at the garden centre. These have been planted in their own little bed as they need ericaceous (acidic) soil. The berries on this blueberry will be pink, which apparently confuses the birds from realising they are ripe. We covered these bends after planting with cardboard and woodchip to deter any weeds that may try and get through.
There already looks to be an established autumn raspberry bed in place, so these canes will just need cutting back in February.
Building a blackberry trellis
Our final job this month, as the temperature dropped and very definitively went from very mild autumn to thick winter snow, was to erect supports down our plot for the thornless blackberry and boysenberry.
We followed Lovelygreens idea for making a fence down the side of the allotment garden for these to grow. We used gardening wire, eyelets and round fence posts with precut points so they could be easily hammered into the ground. During this time, we were lucky to be joined by lots of robins and a fox. Quite, cold times on the allotment garden have proved to be so calming and beautiful. After planting the thornless blackberries and boysenberry, we put pipe around the bottom of the plants so that when the grass paths need strimming in the warmer months, the base of the plant cannot be damaged.
Going into December
We were fortunate to get the plot just at the tail end of autumn so that we could get some things in the ground before it froze and get so much time clearing the allotment garden, but we are preparing for some quieter months with fewer jobs ahead.
Next months jobs
- Choosing and ordering seeds from our allotment group
- Planning the space and layout
- Clearing space and constructing a palette compost bin
- More clearing of the plot – both weeds and rubbish
- Possibly defining borders between plots a little more
Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for the plot!