Thursday, 28 March 2013

March Soon Disappears

My last post was 20 days ago (as I write this). In it I stated a number of aims that would be completed on the allotment during my week off work. Well, not all were completed (I am blaming the weather) but good progress was made.

The first task that was completed was putting up a fence around the plot. It surrounds both plot A2 and my parents plot A1. We used fairly sturdy fence posts purchased from Mole Valley. We laid them on the ground and figured about one post length would be an ideal spacing between them, a post driver was used to bash them in. This was quite a difficult task to accomplish on the first day for a couple of reasons, the first being that the ground was frozen and the second our general incompetence. Despite these two set backs we managed to get quite a few in, maybe they were not perfectly straight but as we kept reminding ourselves "it's only an allotment!" 

One at a time

The second day we continued installing the fence posts with much greater success. This was because the sun was out and the ground no longer frozen! Also another chap on the allotment site had taken pity on us and kindly lent us a post level to use. We had actually been using a level, not that you would have realised, but using the post level made it so much easier. Even so, one particular post went in so wonky I wasn't happy and tried to remove it from the ground with disastrous consequences. 

I think it's broken

Unfortunately at the start of the day we only had just enough fence posts to complete the job. A quick drive to Mole Valley and back...

They are straight. It's your eyes that are wonky 

For in between the fence posts we had a roll of plastic with fairly small holes in it. I really don't know what you would call the stuff, but it seems pretty popular with other plot holders. If it is good enough for them...

Plastic fence stuff. Wire, staples, hammer

The plastic would be attached to the fence posts with staples. A wire was then attached over the top to try and keep the whole thing as sturdy as possible. No fancy wire tensioning tools were used, just me trying to pull on it as hard as I could while a staple was banged in. We then stood back admired our handy work and prayed the whole thing won't get blown down during the first strong winds

The fence

As you can see from the above photo the fence goes around the perimeter of the two allotments. It is a very exposed site and I feel another fence in between plot A1 and A2 is going to be required. Otherwise my plot is still going to get a battering and it would be nice anyway to have a divide between the two. 

After the fence was erected our attention turned to the patio. This was to go in front of the shed to provide a nice area to sit out and relax in the sun. I had allowed an area about 2m square, but due to the slab sizes it is a bit smaller than that. The slabs were to be placed directly on the soil, using sand probably would have helped but I didn't want to buy any and it's only and allotment! The area was dug over then raked as level as possible judging by eye. Whether this was any help what so ever I am unsure. The ground was quite wet and when laying the slabs we were walking all over the soil making it very un-even. However, over the course of 2 very cold and slightly wet (half) days we managed to lay the patio. Unfortunately I failed to remember to take any photos, but I am sure you can imagine what it would look like. Nevertheless, I promise I shall take a snap and post it soon.

Another task which I said would be completed was creating and digging over the new narrow beds. Unfortunately this is yet to be finished but has been started. The old path created from stones dug out of the beds has been removed and the first 4 narrow beds created and dug over. 

The old stone path - my knees loved it

There are so many stones in the soil! It amazes me really. No matter how many are removed, after a few days it looks like none were. Do stones breed? Where do they come from?

The above photo was taken standing on the fantastic new patio and shows the 4 narrow beds ready for the year ahead. There are still some leeks remaining and some purple sprouting (with no sprouts) which will soon make way. I am hoping to put something down on the paths - like after the first bed in the photo. Carpet and old lino off cuts have been scrounged from work for this but possibly more needed. I think it will look better than bare soil and also help to keep the weeds down.

So that is kind of where Plot A2 is up to. March seems to have flown by! 

Friday, 8 March 2013

The Coming Week...

Recently things have been fairly slow up at Plot A2. A combination of work, bad weather and visiting friends/ family have kept me away. There are still harvests to be had; leeks, kale, cabbage, parsnips and turnip. However the kale is beginning to go to seed and the leeks will be gone soon. It really is time to put my efforts in getting everything prepared for the new growing season!

I am already further behind than I had wanted to be at this point. The good news is I have annual leave that needs to be taken, so next week has been booked off to put in some hard work up the plot. So hopefully by the end of next week there will be a post informing you of the phenomenal productiveness that is absolutely inevitable(!)*

The following tasks shall be accomplished:

  • Fence erected around the plot
  • Patio area created in front of shed
  • All new narrow beds created and dug over
  • All weeds will meet their end, even those on pathways 
  • A general tidy up so the plot looks better than the neighbouring plot
Hopefully there will also be time to begin sowing. I'll be borrowing space on my parents south facing window sill (if there is any space left). Failing that I may have to chance it in their unheated greenhouse or maybe wait a little longer.

* May depend on the weather and alcohol consumption/ laziness of the author.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Crop Rotation Problems = Murdered Parsnips

Monday was a fairly nice day weather wise so finally the allotment got some attention! I had been meaning to begin reorganising the plot using the plan I wrote about here. When I arrived it quickly became apparent the task wasn't going to be as straightforward as I had thought. Instead of just turning up, digging over some new beds, creating some new paths then sitting down with a cup of tea - I realised there are still plants yet to be harvested where I wanted to dig. This was an extremely stupid oversight.

Anyway... I figured I would begin at the shed and work from bed 1 to 8 (as on the new plan). This works out quite well as bed 1, 2 and 3 are going to have potatoes in, which I think (please correct me if I am wrong) are the first seeds to be planted direct. Unfortunately this bed at the moment still contains leeks and parsnips. Both of these crops can be harvested well into the new year - March for parsnips and May for leeks. So I ask you this; How do I factor this into crop rotation? The Roots & Onion bed should become the Potato bed the following year, and as I understand it, ideally should have manure applied in the autumn prior to planting the potatoes. This problem also arises in other beds where there is still a fair few plants that are yet to be harvested.

Twisted parsnips and an imposter

After thinking about this for some time I decided I would dig up some of the parsnips and leeks that were in my way and just work around those that remained. I suppose having some parsnips and leeks to eat this week really isn't that much of a problem. Well, I thought I had dug up all the parsnips that would be in my way. But every so often I could here a a crunch as I sliced through a parsnip that was hidden below the ground with no foliage above. The parsnips we have gathered intact are generally pretty small anyway, and extremely deformed (is this due to our stony soil?) but it was still very annoying.


I managed to dig over what will be bed 1 and weed around the remaining leeks. Then turned my attention to behind the shed where I hope to have a composting area. It is a bit of a mess at the moment and is going to need some work.

Compost area / fly tipping

The weather looked like to was going to take a turn for the worse. So I packed up and inspected my days work. It really didn't look much! I could really do with having a week off to dedicate to getting the plot ready.

There will be a path running through those leeks

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Plot Planning for 2013

Unfortunately the weather recently has meant I have been unable to do anything on the allotment. No snow, just lots of rain. Well, that isn't entirely true - last thursday was a lovely day, sunny, cold and crisp but I spent that having a walk at Golitha Falls. I had a great day but I did keep thinking about what I would be able to achieve at the allotment on my other day off (the friday). Well friday was a washout so I sat down, got out paper, pencils and a ruler (I haven't used one of those in years) and made a plan of the plot.

I had previously managed to get up the allotment and measure it boundaries, I tried to be as accurate as I could but the measurements are approximate - and possibly unreliable! Here is a basic plan of the plot in 2012:

Plot A2 2012
c = Compost (this has not been made yet)
p = Patio (this has not been made yet)
1 = Roots
2 = Brassicas
3 = Legumes
4 = Potatoes

Working on the plot this year I realised that the beds were too big. To weed successfully I had to walk on the soil, compacting it. I really want to be able to reach every part of the bed from the paths. After reading some books I decided when re-planning the plot the bed widths to be 1.2metres, which would mean this should be easily achieved. In the literature it is recommended pathways to be 60cm wide with at least one main path 90cm in width. I have included these recommendations in my plan, it does mean some growing space shall be lost on what is already a small allotment but I hope that the beds will be far easier to manage this way and by growing in blocks rather than rows i  can cram in more plants to keep up yields.

Here is the first plan for 2013:

Plot A2 2013?

The 'path' at the top of the plot will be the main path at 90 cm in width. Behind that is a hedge which runs between the allotment site and the road. There are quite a lot of roots from the various plants in the hedge that so it makes sense to increase the path size here and have it run the length of the beds.

The beds are not all exactly 1.2m in width, 1 is slightly smaller, this is just to fit them all in.
With rotation in mind here is what the beds will contain in 2014:
1 = Potatoes
2 = Potatoes
3 = Potatoes
4 = Onions & Roots
5 = Onions & Roots
6 = Brassicas
7 = Brassicas / Legumes
8 = Legumes

To enable a fairly even square metre per bed, 7 shall be split in half.

We put up a shed on the plot last year which does need a thorough tidy and organising! To the right of the shed I plan to have a compost area, at the moment it actually looks like a thriving Ground elder bed. Hopefully I will be able acquire some pallets to build a couple of compost bins, failing that I do already have a black plastic up-turned dustbin style compost bin.

 To the left of the shed I hope to have a small patio area which will be approximately 2m in width. As I currently live in a flat with no outside space it would be nice to have somewhere to go and sit on a sunny day and have a cup of  tea.

Fence! The plot is very exposed and gets extremely windy up there. My dad has already bought some fence posts and a fairly strong plastic mesh type fencing in a role. Hopefully we shall get this up when he returns from holiday. Nearly all the plots on the site have some sort of fencing around them, some have more than one! The allotment secretary reckons it is a must have.

I am counting on my days off this week being much better weather wise. I really want to start on rearranging the beds and digging them over. The hope is, with smaller beds they be easier to manage and what is grown may actually be half decent.

Now my attention turns to what veg to grow in 2013. I think I need to be realistic and not get too carried away with seed buying. Block growing will enable me to cram as much in as possible but I feel space is going to be at a premium on plot A2...

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

2012 - A brief overview

This post should give you a brief understanding of what happened to Plot A2 last year. Most likely no correct procedures were followed (I don't know what I am doing!). Even so there has been, and still is, edible veg produced - some of it very nice too. There has also been some absolute failures - carrots and peas that didn't germinate at all, onions and garlic that grew some nice foliage but then had nothing under the soil, celery that stayed alive after planting but didn't grow, amongst others...

Anyway, here is that brief overview I was talking about.

Plot A2 was taken over by myself and my parents on February 2012. We (well *they*) also took over the adjacent plot A1.

We are located on the North Cornwall coast, a couple of miles up from the beach. This is a lovely location and makes for some nice views but it also means it is very exposed and subject to some extremely strong winds!

Plot A2 is a 'half plot' and triangular in shape, although it isn't a full sized plot it isn't actually a 50% reduction in size but it does mean a 50% reduction in rent! Plot A1 is full size. The idea would be for A2 to eventually be my allotment and A1 my parents. When we took them over they were barely detectable as separate growing spaces and pretty much just grassed over.
Let the digging commence!

I was doing shift work abroad at the time and had to fly out just as we had taken ownership, so my hard working parents began the tiring task of digging them over and (trying to) dispose of all the perennial weed roots. Plot A2 would be done first as it is smaller and therefore looked a more manageable task! So for 2012 it would be a joint effort on A2(although they did most of the work!) and 2013 would see myself take charge.

A2 was dug over one bed at a time. When a bed had been finished it was planted up with some seedlings that had been raised in a greenhouse by my parents and other plug plants bought from a local garden centre. Apart from where the potatoes were planted there was no addition of organic matter but a scattering of chicken pellet fertiliser to try and give the plants a fighting chance.

A very basic planting scheme was undertaken to assist rotation in the future. Starting from the point where a shed would eventually be placed four beds were created. Which in 2012 went something like this:
1 - Roots
2 - Brassicas
3 - Legumes
4 - Potatoes
The plan was loosely followed - onions and garlic ended up in the potato bed as it was the first to be dug over. But it was a little bit of forward planning (which is good) which is probably going to get chopped around a bit by me this year (which was inevitable).

Once A2 was finished being dug over and planted up A1 was started on, but I won't go into that here as this blog is about A2 - it has had a shed erected on it and has a proposed patio, therefore far more important!

Overall I would say 2012 has been a success. My parents have previous experience growing vegetables in their garden and greenhouse and were able to produce some lovely tasting produce which we are still harvesting and enjoying. 2013 sees A2 transferring into my name and solely my responsibility which I find very exciting. It could be an interesting year as I am probably entirely incapable but hopefully it will be fun what ever the outcome.

Soon there will be a post with the plans for 2013. I am planning on doing a little rearranging of the allotment; reducing bed size, making more beds and more paths. Adding a fence, small patio, compost heap etc... Until then here is a couple of photos of A2 as of the 18th of January 2013.

Looks a bit like an allotment?

View from the shed. Plot A1 can also be seen

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The First Post.

Hello! This is the first post in what I hope will be a record of all the things happening on my allotment, Plot A2.

I am a novice gardener. So I am afraid there will be no advice offered here, but hopefully a few observations and notes on the successes and (what I am sure will be many) failures. The inspiration behind starting 'Tales From Plot A2' is this post on the fantastic blog Real Men Sow. There are so many great gardening blogs out there with lots of great advice for us beginners. But I think what they do best is offer up lots of motivation and enthusiasm to get outside and get gardening.

I acquired Plot A2 as a joint venture with my parents last year. I didn't really have a lot to do with the digging over or growing in 2012 - apart from some cut and come again salad which did brilliantly - This year it is under my care (my parents do have the adjacent allotment - A1). It is not quite a full sized plot, rent wise it is a half, but it should be more than adequate to get me started in veg growing. I will hopefully write a follow up post later in the week with a bit more detail on Plot A2 which will include a sum up of 2012 and plans for 2013 + some photos.

A word of warning... I am not a writer and have never written a blog before. Hopefully you won't find the writing style here too awkward and you may even stick around.