Sunday, 14 April 2013

What a difference a month makes

It's been a few weeks since my last post and much progress has been made.  While the will was there to crack on and get allotmenting, the weather really was quite horrifically cold and rendered all attempts at digging pretty impossible.  But as luck woud have it, I found myself with a weekend without family and an unexpectedly warm weekend last weekend and up to plot 68 I went to meet up with Oli and aughter Frayer for some digging etc.  In the weeks previous I had amassed 40 odd metres of ply cut into 8" high lengths and 50 wood stakes, all for the princely some of £0.00.  With this in mind, the raised beds were top priority.  That and some hard core digging to get the ground ready for planting.  By Sunday afternoon, 2 raised beds built and a similar sized non raised bed section all dug and ready, a large pile of stick and general waste removed from the middle of the plot and cut into handy, useable piles and the place generally tidied up.  One thing of interest is the arguement over whether raised beds are any good, so time will tell over the course of the  summer which yields a more successful crop.

Next we need something to plant!  One wasted hour at work on Monday later and a wide selection of seeds had been ordered, ready for the next visit.  I've opted in my first year to go for some simple crops - potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, tomatoes, beans and some rhubard and yesterday we got the potatoes in.  I've gone for Arron Pilats and Pentland Javelin earlies which have gone in the non raised bed.  I'll be getting the main crop ones in the raised bed soon.  The main blocker to this at the moment is no soil in the raised bed, it is sat in a load of black bags in the garden waiting for transportation.

All in all, given that we were only given this overgrown stretch of clay in November, it's not looking too bad.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Rotivating for success - a beginners tale

The weekend rotivating has become immovable.  Firstly booking a day with fellow allotmenteer from No 7, secondly spending time to organise a rotivator for the weekend for free - these things do not come cheap, weighing in at about £150 for the weekend.  Allotmenteering is all about recycling, making the best of what you can get your hands on.  It is not about spending hundreds and hundreds of pounds in an attempt to turn a patch of weed covered heavy clay scrubland into the garden of eden.  So, with everything in place, a small matter of icy winds and near freezing temperatures was not going to put me off.  With said machine in the back of the van, children, wives, grandparents, friends, friends' children wrapped up, ready and enthusiastic, off we went.

The Rotivator itself is a cumbersome, heavy lump of metal that takes two decent sized men to lift and two people to push/pull.  Our plot is a few minutes down a thin grass path, meaning that by the time it arrived at the plot, any worries I had about working sub-zero had vanished.  Within an hour or so of getting the thing fired up, we had a good 7m x 4m plot cleared and churned and with a little practice I had mastered my turning, stopping,  starting and making the machine work for me rather than fighting to get it to go in a straight line.  At this point the children complained of being cold and bored, as did some of the grownups, leaving a final faithful three remaining.  It was at the point when only I and my neighbour, lets call him Oli for arguments sake, that the mishap occurred.  Oli, while still mastering his rotivating skills and while I was not watching, managed to drive said machine off the end end of our plat and alight it in a small, but sturdy fig tree.  And that's how it happened!!

Anyway, all in all a successful morning.  We have now cleared the majority of the plot and can crack on with the next stage.  What I have learnt is the rotivator is all very good, but it has only started what we need to do.  One of the old boys told us no one had turned the lot over for the best part of 20 years and we should dig it before rotivating - sadly this was after our rotivating had been done so we now look forward to weeds a plenty.  The soil is very heavy and digging from scratch would be near on impossible.  Rotivating has made it easier for us to do some proper digging and get the beds in.  It is not the answer to my prayers, it would seem there is no replacement for blood sweat and tears.  I'm also now one spade and one fork down.  The middle prong of the fork snapped after 5 minutes,  the handle of the shovel snapped not that long after.  The shovel was free, the fork a present from my Dad for Christmas (boooo!).

One thing that is already growing is artichokes.  There are loads of them dotted around with no real method.  My idea was to dig them all up, maybe split some off the roots and rehouse them in something that resembled a straight line.  What I did not know but do now is the roots can grow to quite a size, some of the larger plants developing roots the size of those associated with small trees - god only knows how long they have been there for.  Anyway,  a compromise was reached in so far as some were dug up and the patch where most of them were will now be the artichoke patch, thus removing the need for unnecessary artichoke cleansing.

For now, no more.  Next up is some good planning,some good digging and some reading up on what's good and easy to get in the ground next month - suggestions welcome.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Weekend working, weekend weather

A quick update ahead of this weekend's work. Not sure how this weather and my rotivator plans go together, will let you all know how I get on

And as a brief intro, I'll be using one of these, weighing in at a monstrous 12bhp

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A little introduction - the humble beginnings!

Back in November time, after 6 months on the waiting list we got out hands on plot 68 and joined the ranks of allotment owners the world over.  Our great plot measures 25m by about 6m and has never officially been used as an allotment plot before.  Its 5 minutes walk from home and we're sharing it with our neighbours down the road.

Unofficially some of our allotment neighbours have been planting a few bits and pieces but when it came to digging, weeding etc, their work was lacking!!  In reality what this means is a decent sized plot covered in longish grass with no real structure.  After a few chats we have found out we have plum trees, damson trees, a good sized fig tree, possibly a walnut tree and a splattering of artichokes.  What we also have is undug heavy clay soil and lots of grass to get rid of.

After some reseacrh I now know the following

1.  Artichokes are easy to grow

2.  Fruit trees like clay soil

3.  Raised beds maybe a better option for the clay soil

4.  Digging is hard work!

So far, other than said shed we've started pruning the trees back a bit and are gearing up for a day of digging at the end of Feb, the soil is very wet and heavy at the mo.  General advise seems to be leave it for a bit!

This is how it looked at the start