The allotment: first year report

This Bank Holiday weekend marks the first year anniversary of when I got my allotment and to be honest, a year ago, I would have really hoped it would be looking a lot better now than it actually is.

A refresher to how it looked this time last year.

new allotment 1

new allotment 2

And now this year, photos taken from the same spots, although with a different camera, the camera I was using last year seemed to have had a bit more of a zoom on it (even though I hadn’t been using a zoom function, they were taken with a horrible camera phone).

allotment 2011

Not much difference lol.

Actually there is, unlike last year there are more edible things than just raspberries and bloody Jerusalem Artichokes growing there. The plot was going so well (relatively) and I was just about keeping on top of the weeds but then I hurt my knee earlier this summer (in all seriousness probably due to overuse because of all the weeding I was doing), I couldn’t do anything for a month and even though my knee is now better, I’ve been fighting a loosing battle ever since. I’ve since been weeding as much as I can (which is not as much as it should be because of the summer holidays and my new job) but really the whole thing needs digging over again and as my summer crops begin to start to finish, I am increasingly getting into a position where I can do that. I think the number one thing I’ve learnt this year is that my hoe is my best friend, I was keeping on top of the weeds prior to me hurting my knee, because I was regularly hoeing away the tiny weed seedlings as they popped up (with an all too depressing frequency) but that is in no way as bad as not doing that and then having to clear the fully grown weeds instead.

Anyway, I was down the allotment this afternoon (you guessed it, weeding) and before I went I back home again I made some lists.

Someone hitching a ride whilst I was weeding today

To improve on next year

More / better protection – I can’t get by on just two polytunnels (thanks rabbits), specially next year when some of the fruit bushes I planted this year reach maturity, so on my allotment shopping list is:

  • Fruit cage
  • At least one more small mesh tunnel
  • A large mesh tunnel (or something similar) suitable for cabbages
  • Small cloches
  • Rabbit proof fencing

Wider paths between planting – if I have any hope of getting the kids more involved in the allotment.

Soil improvement – some of my plants did not do well this year and I suspect it’s either been this slightly strange summer or my soil.

Weed suppressant membrane and/or gravel – gravel in my herb beds and membrane in my fruit bed (which is the worse place for weeds)

Less potatoes – potatoes did quite well (and they’re great for improving soil structure, I can testify to that) but I’ve come to realise that we don’t eat that many potatoes unless they come in the shape of crisps or potato waffles (thanks Boy Lacer). I planted three varieties this year, next year it’ll be two.

More herbs I actually use – I still have some doubts about having my herbs up at the allotment, as I am not that organised to think about what herbs I’m going to need for that days cooking when I’m up there, but what the allotment could be good for is growing herbs I would use in bulk, mainly for things like pestos, so mass plantings of basil, coriander and parsley (I don’t restrict myself to just basil pesto) would be great. I am also (at least technically) still interested in growing herbs for herbal remedies, something I didn’t do anything about this year, hopefully I’ll be able to explore that further next year.

A seating area for the kids – currently there’s nowhere really for them to hang out and that has not helped this summer holidays. I’ve always planned for an area where they can sit and at least play on my iPhone if they’re bored (and ugh next year they’ll both have DSs, which they’re saving up for at the moment) but the area I was thinking about was by the fence which was the area I never got round to clearing. Currently if we all go up the allotment Girl Lacer normally helps and Boy Lacer goes and sits on a neighbours’ bench (with my iPhone).

Actually using my crops

Allotment successes

Potatoes

Salad (to a degree)

Courgettes

The flower bed (which I hope to extend next year).

Allotment disasters

The squashes

The aubergines

(Both have flowered but none are producing fruit, I  have virtually given up on the aubergines (to the verge of wanting to dig them up in a fit of petulance), I know I may still possibly be in luck with the squashes but I really doubt it).

Something I've really enjoyed this year is taking photos up at the allotment, even if sometimes I only have my camera phone on me.

To do in the future

Short term

Plant winter beds (moving the salad beds away from rabbit highway)

Green manure the rest.

Long term

Clear the last bit of untouched allotment by the fence

Do the building work that is needed by the fence.

(You can tell those last two are linked can’t you!)

Allotment report 2010-2011: Must do better

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