A Tale of Two Plots: Plot 39
By Angie, Feb 10 2013 09:16PM
As previously mentioned, I have two allotment plots. We took plot 39 over in June 2010, having been on the allotment list for two years.
We had a choice of a few plots, but settled with this 5 rod one because it was close to the water, car park and also fairly well sheltered. The negative was that it hadn't been completely worked in living memory and it was right next door to the allotment shop, which meant it was being used as a short cut by plotholders so was well trampled.
The plot soil in June 2010 was rock solid underneath the two feet of growth, which had grown up since it had been strimmed by the allotment committee two months earlier. There was one overworked bed apparent, a tayberry located in the centre of the plot, a small shed and pallet compost bin.
Weed-wise, the plot was choked with couch grass and bindweed. Where we were able to, we dug out the weeds, but in some areas the soil was like rock and both the couch and bindweed roots were very difficult to remove completely. There were also annual weeds such as fat hen, chickweed and speedwell.
It was very clear immediately that we weren't even going to be able to dig over the beds as the soil was far too hard. So we needed another strategy, which was when I discovered the lasagne gardening concept.
In the first three months, we cut back the top growth, decided roughly where beds were going to be, covered the paths with weed suppressant and bark chips and set out two beds, marking the boundaries with waste wood found on the plot during clearance. We then proceeded to fork the soil to try to introduce drainage holes into the rock hard soil, covered the weeds with thoroughly saturated cardboard and then topped with layers of grass clippings, free stable manure, kitchen peelings, newspaper and anything else organic we could add to the piles. We then finished each bed off with compost and topped with weed suppressant, planting pre-grown courgette, salads, cabbages, strawberries and winter squash plants into cut holes.
We then created a further bed in a digable area where we grew potatoes.
The lasagne concept worked really well for our situation. Everything thrived in the beds and, although we hadn't removed large amounts of the couch and bindweed, we found the weeds were weakened through being swamped with organic matter, and the majority were easily removed by hand when harvesting the beds later in the year.
We purchased a selection of fruit trees on dwarf root stock which we decided to plant along the boundary, training them on wires as espaliers and fan train trees. We also had soft fruit trees - raspberries, gooseberries, black and red currants. We planted these all through weed suppressant and mulched over with bark chips.
By Spring 2011, we had managed to acquire a free greenhouse through a friend of a friend who wanted rid of there one in their garden. We labelled each pane and took copious photographs before dismantled it and then we transferred the frame and glass to the allotment plot. In our heads the dismantling and re-erection was going to happen on the same day, but in reality, it took far longer to dismantle than we realised. We ended up completely the rebuild the following weekend.
We had also managed to move the tayberry whilst dormant over winter to another location and cleared that bed.
We planted up overwintering onions and garlic in two of the new beds which cropped well. We dug a bean trench in one of the new beds and filled this over winter with kitchen peelings ready for the runner beans.
With the soil more workable over winter, we cleared and dug over three more beds ready for summer planting and planted up a cut flower bed at the front of the plot with spring bulbs.
By Summer 2011, we planted up a new herb bed at the top of the plot near the shed. The lasagne beds were planted up with chard, beetroot, spinach, celery, salads, sweetcorn and squashes (in the bed previously used for strawberries the previous year). The strawberries were planted under the fruit trees in a forest planting style.
We replaced our small shed for a slightly larger version - gifting our old shed to a fellow plotholder.
We installed a picket fence made from pallets across the front of the plot to set off the cut flower border and hold back the flowers from the shared path.
We installed a further water butt to the greenhouse and put in some edging around some of the beds using decking planks. We planted overwintering onions and garlic in the original lasagne beds.
By spring 2012, the plot was burgeoning, the onions and garlic were growing well. The spring flowers were flowering in the cut flower border and there were lots of signs of green growth through the plot.
We used the greenhouse to good effect, starting off our tomatoes and courgette plants ready for the summer crops. I potted on the courgette and squash plants until they went into 12 inch pots, after which I planted them into the borders. The early summer crops were excellent. The onions, although some were lost with white rot, were a good crop. We also had great success with the broad beans and strawberries.
Summer 2012 was a pretty poor affair for us due to the incessant rainfall which affected most of the UK. I think our plot faired better than many, but the harvest was affected - both in terms of snail and slug damage, but also due to various mould/spore type diseases. We had to dig out our potatoes earlier than expected due to blight and our garlic crop was badly affected with rust.
We did have good harvests from our runner beans, peas, french beans, mange tout, courgettes, summer squashes, tomatoes in the greenhouse, chillis, sweetcorn (eventually), beetroot, salads, spring onions, strawberries, chard and raspberries. The herb bed also flourished with the extra rain.
We got word in June that we had reached the top of the allotment waiting list again for a further 5 rod plot and took on plot 37 - next door but one to our original plot.
I will cover the next plot in detail in my next post.