The Peachicks have been hard at work at No17 transforming it from a patch of weeds to a productive plot. In this post, Allotment Diaries #2 – You Chose a Plot… Now What? I’ll take you through our first couple of visits to our very own allotment and all the work we had to do before we could even consider what veggies to plant!
And if you missed The Peachicks @ No17 – Allotment Diaries #1 all about Picking the Perfect Plot then hop over and have a read here.
Before you go and raid the garden centre for every little gadget they have – this is all the equipment we have at the moment! We can borrow other larger equipment like tree loppers from the site reps. We also do not have a wheelbarrow but can borrow a trolley. Being shedless also means it is coming home with us every night. Although there is space for us to leave it in the communal store, we need it for sorting out our garden at home!
- Notebook or clipboard & Pencil
- Water Bottles for Drinking
- Two Large Forks (Make that One now)
- One large Shovel/Spade – it was £7.50 in Asda!
- One small hand trowel
- Two pairs of heavy duty gloves
- One large watering can
- One Hoe
- One edging tool
- Pair of Secateurs
- Brown Plastic trug
- Ball of string
- Very large PVC glass clear tarp (can be sat on, strung between trees to hide from rain and pegged onto seed beds for temporary cloche!)
- Pack of baby wipes
- Squirty bottle of diluted hand soap
- Plasters & a Toilet Roll for sorting out cuts, scrapes & general Peachick Clumsiness!
- Tin of teabags & coffee sachets from various stays in hotels
And finally this… One Empty Sweet Freedom Choc Shot Bottle for Dairyfree milk for Tea/Coffee. To keep it cool we double wrap in foil and put it in an insulated lunch bag with freezer pack!
The Peachicks also have their own little gardening sets. Absolute bargains from Asda – a small fork (£1), hand trowel (£1), watering can (£2.50) and a small metal bucket for carrying ‘stuff’. They probably should have gloves too as soil contains all sorts of delightful bacteria, however, we prefer to encourage them to wash their hands frequently.
The very first thing we did before anything else was sit on the edge of the top of our plot, with a cup of tea and biscuits. It just gave us a few minutes to fully take in the size and number of jobs that needed doing.
First things first, mark out the plot boundaries. We used large sticks and a LOT of string. It gave us an idea of the whole space we were working with and enclosed the area. We also did this for other areas to make them out of bounds for The Peachicks until they had been cleared. The site of the previous greenhouse was littered with glass so this was definitely a no-go! Hubby also measured the size of the plot as he went round marking it out.
Find the Ground!
Before planning where the beds were going to go we needed to find the ground so we could record what permanent crops or existing structures, if any were already there. We spent the whole of the first day we were there making piles of sticks, clearing away old bits of glass, random bits of rubbish and mounds of straw and old dried foliage. We also levelled overgrown weeds just so we could see the ground.
DO NOT ROTIVATE if it is covered in perennial weeds – its like cutting the head off a hydra! Use a big fork and dig them out – roots and all.
Draw a Plan of your Plot!
It doesn’t have to be to scale, you don’t even have to put the measurements on. But just having a plan of the outline of your plot is a great starting point. Mark on the compass points. You can work it out using Google Maps or a compass app on your phone (especially useful if you go on a day like we did with horrible weather!)
Beds, Paths & Permanent Crops
Walk your whole plot, investigating the ground for signs of existing beds (wooden frames), paths, fruit bushes, strawberry patches. This will be more obvious with some than others like asparagus or horseradish…
Actually the most useful information came from other plot holders popping over and introducing themselves. Each one of them told us a bit more about what it used to look like! We found out there had been 4 buildings on it, an asparagus bed, strawberry patch and where there had been a chicken run! The fruit trees and bushes were easy to spot but without the site rep we wouldn’t have known what they were without leaving them a season. Mark out the boundaries of these patches with sticks and string – you can decide which to keep later on!
We took over our plot Mid-March. This didn’t leave us a whole lot of time before we needed to start planting stuff. So we have taken the decision to just re-edge all the beds that are already there. We can then tweak the layout over the winter. This is photo is a large strawberry patch, surrounded by remnants of wooden frame and wood chip paths.
Make a List:
Once you walked the plot once, marking the things you find on your plan, start a to-do list… Our to-do list is more of an excel spreadsheet. Anyone who knows me knows how much I like a spreadsheet so really any excuse to make one! There are also a few apps around that help you to plan and tell you what to plant where. Or you can just make do with a good old clipboard and piece of paper!
For each crop, patch, bed or structure you find record it on the list along with notes as to what you need or want to do with it… Here’s a snippet of our original notes:
- Strawberry Patch – String around border. Re-chip paths to either side. Reinforce lower edge with boards.
- Asparagus Beds – Clear last years foliage, recover exposed roots/crowns, remove weeds, reinforce lower edge.
- Fruit Bushes – Leave alone this year, keep stinging nettles around base to encourage ladybirds, Net Cage??
- Fruit Trees – ??????
Start a Compost Bin
Be prepared – you will get a LOT of advice on the perfect compost recipe. Every gardener has their own way of making compost that is the ‘right’ way. I have my own that has always worked but I know when to wave the white flag and just nod & smile! (or secretly giggle to myself while listening to the many raves about egg shells – yes I know they are AMAZING for compost BUT I can’t touch them!)
We got given a compost bin as there was a load of spares on the site. If you are not so lucky a lot of local councils offer them for sale at a discount or have deals with companies. Personally I’ve always used a double pallet/pile system – you get a lot more compost out of it, it only costs the price of the pallets AND its easier to turn – you just flip from one bin to the other.
Leave the weeds root side up on a hot day to dry out before you add them to the compost bin.
Go Home and Plan!
Spend a week, playing around with the layout of your allotment using pen & Paper and then time on the plot with string & sticks. But remember to check you can get to all of your beds without standing all over them or another one.
Consider whether you want long thin beds for neat rows of things like onions, leeks etc or if you want lots of fairly small ones. Having lots of little ones for each veggie will mean that you break up your workload. You can tackle each one at a time as they are ready for sowing or planting!
We have kept the beds in that were already there. Plus we have sorted out a bed just for the girls to have their own little plots.
I should probably add that I tend to go for a mixed planting approach. I use companion planting as there are a lot of veggies that benefit each other. Hop back for the next Peachicks @No17 post to find out what went where … but in the meantime here’s a sneak peek of the finished layout!
*The large patch of green weeds in the left hand side of the photo is for hubby’s shed and is currently inhabited by at least 4 different species of ladybirds. We have also spotted several different bee species on it this weekend alone. Once the rest of the plot is established we are going to build an insect hotel and plant a wild flower garden around the trees. Only when this is done are we going to remove these plants – once a zoologist…!*
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