A bare two months since I took over the allotment and first put fork to ground. Since then I’ve had to dig over the whole plot by hand, got rid of I don’t know how many bucketloads of stones and built a compost heap of weeds almost 5 feet high. As a bi-product I have lost over half a stone in weight and got myself a credible suntan.
You can always try the short-cut route and hire a rotovator. The problem with that of course is that it won’t clear the stones from the ground and any perennial roots are chopped up and buried. A sure way to ensure a good crop of regenerated weeds 4 weeks later.
The other plot holders must have taken pity on me, and have been more than generous with their advice. Owning an allotment is a failsafe way of making new friends very rapidly. Add to that the simple pleasures of working outside with no interference from mobile phones and only distant sounds of passing traffic and I have never had second thoughts about taking on the allotment.
With the English weather so variable not every day has been perfect. When I did the hardest part of the digging we were in the middle of a drought so the ground was as hard as iron and by mid-afternoon almost too hot to work. Then we had two weeks of nearly constant rain which turned the ground to mud. The past month has been up and down – sun and showers and cloud cover, a typical English summer. Vegetable growing brings you closer to the cycle of spring, summer, autumn. Winter for the most part is supposed to be feet up in front of the fire. Looking forward to that.
As I was not able to do any planting until early June I was way behind the normal soil preparation and cultivating timetable. However, I already had a tray of chitted spuds put by back in March that were simply gasping to go in the ground so first priority was to dig over enough space for three rows and get them planted. I managed to get them planted by the end of the first week in June and they came through 7-10 days
later. The race was on to catch up with other crops. Next to follow were runner beans, leeks, courgettes and french beans, and a row of rhubarb roots donated by Lisa, a fellow allotment holder.
We brought with us from our previous home two boxes of dahlias, all that were left over after giving away as many as we could to friends and family. With nowhere else to put them I planted them in the allotment, mainly to keep some of them alive for the future. An added bonus has turned out to be that they are an excellent weed-suppressant. Planted relatively close together, their foliage produces a dense cover that excludes light and moisture to the ground beneath so that any weeds that try to break through don’t stand a chance. They (the dahlias that is) are also starting to come into flower.
The potatoes are now just about ready to be lifted, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that under all that foliage we’ll find something to make the effort worthwhile. After a slow start the warmer weather has brought on the french beans and they are starting to produce. Only a handful at first to take home for a salad, those that don’t get eaten raw and straight off the vine – crunchy and delicious! The courgettes have raced ahead of everything else and are now appearing regularly on the barbecue.
Another couple of weeks and the potatoes should be ready. As soon as I have lifted all the potatoes I want to start getting the ground ready for an autumn sowing of broad beans. Over-wintering broad beans can bring harvest time forward by one month or more and (so I am told) can increase yields. That will take me into crop rotation and a full annual cycle, so time to start thinking about a planting plan for next year. No more excuses and time to up productivity.