With just over a month till winter officially begins The process is starting again ( and if you’re smart you’ll have got a head start.) Weeding, clearing, digging and mulching. It’s the first thing you do when you get a plot and you do it again in the winter, every winter, with hopefully a lot less weeding providing you’ve kept on top of it through the year. But each winter, it almost feels like you’re taking on a new plot again. With your plans for last season (hopefully) accomplished, you’re thinking to next year with new plans and dreams. You’re plotting. That’s my take on it anyway ( and I’m only in my first year of having my own plot!). It’s like starting again but carrying on. And As I am planning/ dreaming / plotting for next year, I’m also thinking about the one just gone and how exactly I got to here.
But First, a little about me. An introduction. I’m not new to gardening but I’m definitely a novice.
I have pretty much grew up with an understanding of how allotments work; my dad always used to have one. An early memory of mine being when I was having a nosy in the rickety shed of his allotment, lifting a pillow up off his wooden stool and finding under it the biggest spider I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. It was the size of a dinner plate ( in my child’s mind). I screamed, ran for my life and never went in to that shed again. So Strange that I do not have a fear of spiders. It’s the wasps I cannot handle, absolutely petrified of them which as a gardener I reckon I might have to get over.
My Dad is also the head gardener of the grounds of a large country hall in North Yorkshire ( 20 acres). His Father and Brother both worked for the councils horticultural department. A little clichéd I know, but It does seem to run in the family this gardening thing.
Going back again, I Was never into sport as a child, but I liked the idea of being in a club, I wanted to be a part of something, so I was absolutely delighted when it was announced that the caretaker of our primary school was setting up ‘Gardening Club’ and consequently devastated when it only ran for 2 sessions. (I think because of the fact that including my self there was only 2 attendees.).
This is getting a bit biographical now, long story short, I lost interest. Cutting the grass became a chore required to earn pocket money. College, University and Work Get in the way of such interests. But 2 years ago, somehow, it found me again; I really don’t know how but it did. Like it did my father and his Father. Like I say, it must be in the blood.
Over them two years I became quite obsessive about gardening and learning about it. All of my dads books borrowed and read. Gardeners World religiously watched. Gardeners Question Time religiously listened to. YouTube video binging, Blog following and more books added to the shelf for now and then and future reading. For dipping in and out of and rereading for pleasure ( Ivington Diaries, The lost Gardens of Heligan ) and rereading for facts forgotten (RHS encyclopaedia of gardening, Gardeners Pocket Bible etc. ). I’ve been teaching my self whilst learning from others.
Late last year I applied for allotments at several different sites ( one of which being the same site that my Dad had his on all those years ago) within about 5 months I got a letter from the local council; a site located about a 10 minute walk from my house had a vacant plot and it was mine if I wanted it. That same day I went to visit the site. It was in a decent condition. Not totally overgrown with weeds but would still take some work. The Greenhouse was what really swayed it for me. What a luxury.
This is from that day. The very first photo I took of the plot. There and then I rang to accept and excitement ensued.
I already had a basic plan in my head. ( that’s a Lie, the plan was already on paper somewhere, I’d drew it weeks before I’d even been offered a plot.).
On my next morning off ( working part time that’s nearly every day) I went up to my newly acquired plot with a ball of string and marked out my plan. Very basic, I was to have a 3 foot wide ( in hindsight I wish It had only been 2 foot wide. Two reasons: less grass cutting and more space to grow) grass path running up the middle of the plot, and one diagonally half way up the plot to form a cross, separating the plot into four halves for crop rotation and easier access. So far it’s proving an effective move.Paths marked out, I dragged my Dad, my Mam , my brother and My partner all up to the plot to begin clearing the weeds.
Team work is by far the most effective and organic method of weeding that exists. And to spend time like this with the family is a beautiful, nostalgic thing and it continued happily through the summer months, and without them things would certainly have been a lot slower. It was a head start, one I’m extremely grateful for, and more than anything it’s memories. Since summer ended I’ve been left to it, winter digging something I’m really enjoying carrying out solo. Oh dear it appears I’ve gone from an autobiography to a job application: ‘ I can work in a team but also when needed can work alone’ .
Somewhere along the line we also put together a flat pack composter and ever since we’ve been filling with Kitchen and Garden waste, egg boxes, newspaper, leaves and anything else that can be composted.
It Soon works it’s magic.
Traditionally you should put manure on in winter, but as the old Mantra goes : bollocks to tradition.
This was another job I wanted to do on my own; I have no idea why, but I wanted to do it, I think I just like testing my physical fitness. 18 heaped barrow-loads of shite wheeled from quite some distance ( our site has a pile, well rotted, free for everyone to use) and spread across the plot. It was hard work, but one of them jobs that makes you feel great afterwards. Shattered but great.
My dad brought his tiller to mix it all into the ground and we let it settle for a week.
Then, Armed with a list of vegetable varieties as recommended from my trusty copy of the ‘ vegetable expert’ I went shopping. Only to find out that the majority of the recommended varieties in this book no longer existed or were very hard to get if they did. Serves me right for taking advice from a book written in the olden days. So I did some more research compiled a second list and made an order. As soon they were delivered they were in the ground. It was early summer by this point so we decided it was better to sow direct and that we did, drill by drill, each row marked out with bamboo and noted in a diary to make sure we didn’t forget what was where.
Around this time we bought a couple of boxes of grass seed, prepared the ground of the paths We’d marked out and sowed the seed onto the fine tilth. And as the grass grew so did the vegetables.
Out first was the beetroot, followed closely by French Beans and sweetcorn. We even managed to get hold of some seed potatoes which, considering it was June by the time we got them in, we still got a decent crop from. Tasty too.
Around this time we also put a flower border in front of the greenhouse. I filled it with Spring flowering Bulbs, Verbena Bonariensis, and Pelargoniums, amongst others.
A good water once or twice a week and things soon came on and harvests became regular.
This year by far the best cropper were the French Beans (Cobra) They were never ending. We’re still using them now: bags and bags of the things in the freezer ( why let them go to waste?).
The sweetcorn was good too, we used two varieties, sun dance and swift, both beautiful.
I also grew some Paris Silver Skin onions, they’ve been drying in the shed for a few weeks and this week I managed to get round to pickling a jar. A month or two before I find out if they’re any good. Hoping to open them Christmas Day.
Of course there was disasters too. The peas were neglected and dried out ( our site is quite the sun trap, and we did have some very hot days indeed this summer) the lettuce came and went and I think we got about 7 carrots in total from a row of three. Don’t even get me started on the cucumber. The Pumpkins were okay I suppose.
Next year will be better, there’s no doubt about that. We can take our time. But As well as that. We have a trump card…
…Aside from the weeding, clearing , digging and mulching, this winter I plan to make the greenhouse that we were very generously left by the previous tenant a greenhouse again. It seemed to have been used as a shed by him for some time ( something so far I have continued to keep up). I have already made a start and It’s almost quite usable again. In fact it was sort of usable this year, I managed to do well with 6 tomato plants, but next year I shall be starting most things off in seed trays rather than sowing direct so having a greenhouse for the first time is going to be an absolute bonus.
And that pretty much takes us up to now, where it’s back to the digging.
From here I shall try to keep you updated in real time, that way my posts hopefully should be a little shorter than this one.
For now I shall Hope, Dream and plot.
Start again and Carry on.
And I hope you do too.