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!

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