Food: April plans for the allotment

So if you've been following me on Instagram for a while you'll have seen that we have had an allotment since 2017 after having our name on the list for over 5 years.

The only thing was, by the time we got the yes, I was one week away from having our first baby! We've always been used to doing a lot of stuff and just thought we'd fit it in around other stuff but of course, anyone who has had a baby knows that they take up a lot of time, then we renovated our cottage and then we had another baby, so yeah, life was busy. Plus growing season was mostly over. 

So last year was the first year we were really able to take it seriously and I loved spending time with the kids potting up little seeds and watering them every day. Especially as during lockdown there was not a lot else to do. It filled many of our spring and summer days when I was entertaining two little ones under 3.

I've wanted to write about our plot and what we grew but was so busy doing and learning last year that I never really got round to it. I plan to do a bit of a round up of last year and a lessons learned kind of thing, as well as take you along with our plans for this year.

So the first issue we had to tackle when we took on our plot was that it was seriously neglected with waist high weeds. We did as much by hand as we could but then had to hire a couple of machines to help. There is no power on most allotments, so we had to use petrol equipment of which we had none. We hired a strimmer, which made short work of hacking the weeds, and we also then got a rotivator to turn over the soil as it had lots of grasswort and other underground weeds.

I then learned that it can make the issue worse, as it spreads the weeds, so we resorted to covering it over for the winter with weed suppressing fabric. No surprises but it got absolutely savaged by the great british weather and was useless within a few weeks.

Luckily we were able to get some tarpaulins like off the side of trucks. and they were really heavy duty. We covered the whole plot for the winter and that was it until we started working on it. 

When we took them up in spring, the weeds were gone but the soil needed a hoe to turn it over. We had heard that it can render the soil infertile so we planted potatoes, garlic and onions all over to help provide some nutrients and prepare it for growing the following year.

Then last year we were ready to go with doing it properly. I had found a really helpful group on facebook called 'No Dig Growing' and we talked about using that method, where you layer cardboard and top soil and grow on top of that. It's meant to mean less weeds but we decided to just go traditional and see what happened.

We haven't yet got a big greenhouse so we used a little one and some propegator trays to start things off. We planted carrot, leeks, brocolli, caulflower, broadbeans, potatoes, onion, garlic, beetroot, strawberries, rhubarb, squash, courgette, among others. 

Some things require indoor sowing first and then replanting and others can go straight in the ground. I started carrots off in the trays in the greenhouse and after learned that its better to put them straight in the ground. Needless to say they never really took off. I did however learn that they are best put next to onions or leeks, as it deters pests.

Here's how each of our crops did:

- we got a LOT of broadbeans and had bags in the freezer. They are so easy to grow and proflific, however, if you're not a fan of broadbeans then its a bit useless. We ate loads, and they do make tasty bean burgers and are nice in risottos for bite, but we soon got a bit fed up of them. We even gave lots away.

- We also got a lot of onions and potatoes, and they help to nourish the soil so are good to plant in areas of low quality or where you've never grown before. Potatoes also do really well in bags if space is an issue.

- The squash did great and we got around 10 squashes but they do take over an area a little bit so either given them a defined space or grow them upwards against a structure. 

- I started the carrots and parsnips off in the propergator and they looked to be coming on really well but sadly when we transplanted them they didn't take. I have since heard it's better to put them straight in the ground after first frost.

- The cauliflowers and brocolli never took at all. I'm going to try again this year. Purple sprouting broccolli is easier to over winter and is hardy and we did get one plant from that.

- The leeks have over wintered and done great. We can't wait to start using them.

- we had a couple of different tomato plants in the greenhouse that grew ginormous but just got leggy and never fruited. I don't know where we went wrong, maybe not feeding often enough. I'm going to try bushy cherry tomato varieties this year in containers.

- we got plenty of lovely courgettes through last summer and some of them grew as big as marrows. This year I would like to train the courgette and squash upwards and want to create a stucture in the one of the beds.

- I've also done a whole bed of dahlias as they look amazing and one tuber gives hundreds of flowers, but rookie error, I forgot to plant them in pots first, so they went straight into the ground and then we've had some frosts so we'll see.

- I also have some wildflower seeds and sweet peas to put out somewhere but with lockdown easing, we seem to have less time for this.

We are making some changes to how the plot looks to make it more manageable with a few tweaks, so I'll try to snap photos each week now that the weather is improving to show you how its looking and hope we get some good results.

Have you considered growing a veggie patch?

No comments

I love to hear from people so please don't be a stranger and say hello!