I hope you’ve had a good christmas holiday and that you’re looking forward to 2016.
There’ll be a big change next year and we’re getting ready to leave the allotment, so come and have a look round before I close the gate for the last time at the end of the month.
Two years ago exactly it seemed unlikely that anything would ever grow again after the allotment was flooded. But the resilience of nature won in the end, and the flood proved how tough plants can be, despite what nature throws at them and my often clumsy, random approach to growing.
Raised beds were built by my husband and filled with some lovely well-rotted manure, this lay-out helped me to be a little more organised about what and where to grow things.
The little fruit cage worked well, needing little effort after it was set up, except pruning and adding well-rotted manure to the soil a couple of times a year.
Things were ticking along nicely, then I got a bit carried away and took on the un-loved strip of land next door, it seemed the best way of keeping the invasion of weeds at bay, and it was quite an invasion from the waist-high nettles and bind-weed that had been growing there for at least twenty-five years.
I was determined not to use any chemicals to clear the weeds, although I admit to being very tempted at first, it seemed such a big job and I’m not very patient, but the rest of my plot was organic, so common sense prevailed.
I set to and strimmed the waist-high nettles and bind-weed, and covered the ground with cardboard, which eventually rotted away and helped to improve the soil. I got the cardboard from a local kitchen fitters who were more than happy for me to take as much as I wanted, and I was happy to save it from the skip.
The cardboard was covered with tarpaulin to excluding as much light and rain as possible.
After the best part of a year I pulled back a section of the covering and planted potatoes. I continued peeling back sections of cover until most of the section was planted with winter squash, leeks, french beans and courgettes, nasturtium and sunflowers are added to the mix for prettiness and pollinating insects.
The small fruit trees created a lot of shade, which made the courgettes sulk, but I was so pleased to have some vegetables to pick and the weeds had mostly gone. It seemed amazing that such a simple strategy could work so well, I didn’t have to buy anything special or contaminate the ground with chemicals, it just took time, and not as much as I expected.
I’ve learned such a lot about growing food, I did take the crop failures personally at first, but trial and error is the only way to learn, and although many things didn’t grow as well as I’d hoped, there was always something nice and fresh to pick for most of the year.
So the next chapter begins, a vegetable plot in the garden at home, read more about this here.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson.