Sunday, 21 January 2018

Sunday On The Allotment - Winter Clearing

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Winter
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Winter

As I looked out of the back door this morning I did wonder about going out to my plot - or staying indoors in the warm.

A bit wild and windy in West Cornwall today, but not too cold so I decided to brave the weather and was glad that I did. It wasn't so bad once I got moving.

For the last couple of weeks I've focussed on on simple task - clearing growing beds ready for sowing seeds in March. First to go in will be Potatoes and Broad Beans, so I'm working on the beds earmarked for those first.

Allotment Growing - Potato Bed

One thing that I've learned in previous years is that putting effort into preparation now pays big dividends later in the growing season. Its also relatively easier because, while there are still some weeds to clear, they are fairly dormant and so easier to get out.

My method is simply to hoe over the ground, remove weeds and any big stones that pop up. Then I add a layer of leaf mould followed by a layer of compost from the bins on my plot. I don't do much more digging, unless I need to. I leave everything to bed down and work in naturally - as I've said before on this blog - let the Worms and Weather do the work!

Allotment Growing - Potato Bed

So my potato bed is now pretty much ready. I'm just wondering whether to add a bit of manure from my pile and maybe some chicken manure pellets. Now I've just got to be patient and wait until March before getting my spuds in the ground.

If you are a new allotment grower and thinking about growing spuds, you might find this blog post from last year helpful:
Spring On The Allotment - First Sowings - Potatoes

Allotment Growing - Turnips

Before I headed home I checked on the final crops I have left in to harvest over Winter. I still have a few Leeks - and some Turnips that are approaching monster size. I'll need to get those out soon.

Allotment Growing - Swede

Also my Swede - seem to be growing ok but a bit small to harvest just yet. I'll see how they grow on into Spring.

Last Summer I made plans to grow more crops over Winter and exactly as I expected I've had mixed results. As well as the crops above I sowed Winter Spinach and Autumn King Carrots - neither of these have come to much. But I will repeat this next year. If you are interested take a look at my blog post:
Allotment Growing - Autumn and Winter Crops

More news from my little plot in West Cornwall coming soon. More pics and posts are on:
Allotment With A Sea View - Facebook

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

A Year on the Allotment - January - Compost Bins

Allotment Growing - Compost Bin

A Year on the Allotment
A series that aims to help new allotment growers to get started and produce lovely crops to eat.
This post is about getting started on building compost bins and making compost.
This can be added to your plot in future years to improve the soil.

1.2 January - Compost Bins

Compost is a "foundation stone " of the allotment - in my opinion.

Making your own compost on the plot is a great way of recycling goodness back into the ground year on year. It will improve both the fertility and structure of your soil.

It will also save you money - and this is one reason why many allotmenters have a plot in the first place. You'll have less need, or no need, to buy in compost and manure.

Allotment Growing - Compost
Allotment Growing - Compost
So - building a compost bin, or more if possible, is one of the first things to do a a new allotment plot. Making compost takes time so its worth starting right away. It will also help to keep things neat and tidy as you will have somewhere to put stuff as you clear your plot of weeds and other unwanted plants.

Start by planning your layout - on paper, or maybe using a computer based tool if you prefer.

Choose carefully where to put your bins as moving them later would be a pain. Obvious spots are on the edges or corners of the plot. Try to choose a spot that you can get to easily with a wheelbarrow.

The next thing - decide what sort of bin you want.

Plastic "Dalek" Compost Bin
Plastic "Dalek" Compost Bin
A quick solution is to buy (or scrounge for free!) a plastic "dalek" type bin. The advantage of this is a quick fix - just drop into place. The obvious disadvantage is that it may cost money. Some people think these look a bit unsightly, but I don't personally, they are very functional.

But I have found on my plot that these bins are a bit too small to hold all of the material that I want to compost down. So I've build a couple of much larger bins made from wooden pallets.

Wooden Pallet Compost Bin
I've written a post previously about this - so I won't repeat it here - but please comment if you have anything to add or have any questions:
Building A Wooden Pallet Compost Bin

Finally - if you don't have the time or resources to do any of this yet - that's fine. You can just start a compost heap in one corner, pile up any organic waste materials and tidy it up later if you want.

The main point that I'm trying to make is - just get going and get composting - one way or another!

Here are a couple more blog posts on the subject of compost and composting that you might find helpful:

Spring Preparations on the Allotment - Compost - Part One

Spring Preparations on the Allotment - Compost - Part Two

More posts for A Year on the Allotment coming soon.
Get inspired - get going.
Happy growing!

Friday, 12 January 2018

A Year on the Allotment - January - Preparing Ground

A Year on the Allotment - January - Preparing Ground

A Year on the Allotment
A series that aims to help new allotment growers to get started and produce lovely crops to eat.
This post is about getting your plot ready for growing, but not all at once, doing it one bed at a time. That way you can see visible progress and get some crops growing quickly.

1.1 January - Preparing Ground

January is the time to start thinking ahead, planning and preparing for the new growing season.

Its a great time of year to get going and start looking forward to warmer and sunnier days ahead.

It is too early for sowing or planting most crops, but any preparation work that you put in now will pay dividends later in the year. Besides - there is not a lot else to do on the plot at this time of year.

Clearing Ground on the Allotment
Clearing Ground on the Allotment
Preparing growing beds is a key job and a fairly simple one, although it may be hard work, depending on what you are starting with. I love working on the plot at this time of year, anticipating the Spring and keeping warm by doing some physical work out in the fresh air.

If you've done a plan for your plot and crops - start by working on the beds where your first will be sown. I usually start the year with Potatoes and Broad Beans. If you haven't yet drawn up a plan, no matter, start in one corner of your plot and work outwards.

Planning Your Allotment
Planning Your Allotment
For more about planning and some help to get started - take a look at my earlier post:
Allotment Planning - Crops and Crop Rotation

First - a tip for new allotment growers, who have just taken on a new plot.
Don't try to do everything at once!

I've seen many new plot holders try to clear the entire space before getting any crops in the ground. Some do succeed, but many get discouraged by the amount of work and the lack of visible progress. They then often give up.

Clearing Beds on the Allotment
Clearing Beds - One at a Time
It is far better to work on one area at a time. Get one or two growing beds cleared and ready, get some seeds or plants growing, see some visible results.
So - choose an area to work on and get going!

First - mark out your bed with some string if it is not already defined clearly.

Dig out and clear any weeds. A hoe will be enough for most weeds, but and grass / turf may need digging out with a spade and fork. Add the weeds to the compost bin.

Growing Beds - Adding Compost
Next - if you have any - add a layer of compost. This will add nutrients and also act as a mulch to suppress weeds. Even better - again if you have any - add a layer of leaf mould first, then cover it with the compost.

If you don't have either, don't worry, crops will still grow. Making your own compost takes a year or so. One of the first things to do on a new plot is getting a compost pile going, which you can build up through the year, then cover and leave to rot down until the following Autumn.

Allotment - Compost Bin
Allotment - Compost Bin
Here is a post about building your own compost bin:
Building A Wooden Pallet Compost Bin

I  generally follow a "No Dig" approach to my growing beds. I don't dig any of the compost or leaf mould in, I just rake it roughly level and leave it on the surface. The weather and worms will work it into the ground for me.

Once you are done - you'll have the satisfaction of a new growing bed ready for crops later in the year. You may need to give it a hoe to remove any weeds that pop up, but that's about it.

Allotment Growing Beds - Ready for Planting
Allotment Growing Beds - Ready for Planting
As mentioned above - two of the first crops that you might sow in Spring, maybe in March (depending where you are) - are Potatoes and Broad Beans. Both fairly easy to grow and will produce crops early in the year.

Here are a couple of blog posts with more about that:

Spring On The Allotment - First Sowings - Potatoes

Spring Sowing On The Allotment - Broad Beans and more ....

More posts for A Year on the Allotment coming soon.
Get inspired - get going.
Happy growing!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

A New Year On The Allotment

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Winter
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Winter

Another year on the allotment begins - with January blue skies and sunshine in West Cornwall.

This weekend I made a start on preparations for Spring sowing and planting.

I started on the bed where - under my crop rotation system - I'll be planting potatoes in March. I cleared the weeds, added a layer of leaf mould and then a layer of my own compost.

I found it really satisfying to be using stuff recycled and made from my own plot. The leaf mould has been rotting down since Autumn 2016 and is now ready to use and add structure to the soil. The compost bin that I've now opened was also covered and left to rot down in Autumn 2016.

Allotment Growing - Potato Patch

The bed is now partly cleared. I'll clear the rest and then leave it for the weather and worms to do their work before planting the seed potatoes. It will just need a bit of weeding with the hoe and raking over in March.

This year I'll be using Pentland Javelin again, as last year they grew well as both a first early (June) and second early (July onward) crop.They also stayed blight free, although there is no guarantee that will happen again this year!

Allotment Crops - Romanescu

My Winter crops are coming to an end, with just a few leeks, turnips and swede still in the ground. My Winter spinach has failed to come through. But one unexpected bonus - this lovely Romanescu. We had this with Sunday dinner.

Allotment Wildlife - Robin

Finally to complete a lovely day on my plot, my little friend the Robin has returned and was with me for most of the afternoon.

More news as Winter passes and Spring returns - soon.