Saturday, 23 April 2011

Pause for thought

It has been just over a week since I began on my allotment and after the initial flurry of activity I've reached a waiting stage.  Whilst a small area has been cleared of weeds and planted (potatoes, onions, a few leeks, garlic, broad beans and two small rows each of beetroot and parsnips), the rest has been sprayed with weedkiller; this will need a couple of weeks to take effect before more ground clearing, digging and weeding can take place.  After around a week there are already some early signs that the weeds are beginning to suffer as they appear somewhat paler than their surroundings.

This pause has created an opportunity for me to think and to make plans but also prepare.  Both preparation in terms of planting seeds at home to then transplant when the ground is ready but also in obtaining some of the items I'll need to get things underway.  Luckily there were a few slabs and pallets piled at one end of my allotment which along with others will form the base for a shed and my compost heaps.  I'd like to use recycled items and materials where possible.  So far my local Freecycle sites have provided me with a water butt and wheelbarrow, both well used but perfectly functional.  I shall continue to look for either a shed or materials to build one, along with other things which can be used to store water.  A family member had a large roll of left over weed suppressing membrane which they were only too glad to see the back of; this will be useful to me as it can cover sections of ground keeping the weeds at bay allowing me to tackle one section at a time.  The use of old carpets for this job is discouraged on our site following previous tenants using these then leaving them behind for others to remove.

As well as being on the look-out for 'stuff', I've had my thoughts on plans and strategy.  First of all I began by reminding myself why I had applied for an allotment - not only to obtain fresh food but to expand my growing experience whilst at the same time getting fresh air and exercise.  Next was to decide what I wanted to grow (we wrote a list of the vegetables and fruit we used regularly).  Then my task was to research the best strategy for using my land to grow it and put down some ideas on paper. 

In addition to other allotment blogs, I found John Harrison's book 'The Essential Allotment Guide' a very useful source of information and in accord with the advice provided by my allotment neighbours, most especially site champion John.  My plan involves beds for permanent crops (herbs, rhubarb, possibly asparagus later), four crop rotation areas (potatoes, onions & roots, brassicas and legumes) some spare ground (to try different things each year perhaps) and space for storage, seed beds and sitting/work areas.  As well as giving me an idea of what I'm working to achieve this plan also helps me to structure doing things in stages and identifying the priorities.  Having got two of the rotation areas planted already, my next task is to clear and plant the other two rotation beds whilst preparing the permanent and spare beds for full use next season perhaps.  I understand that these plans may need to be adapted and changed in light of my experiences but I feel more confident to deal with things by having my initial ideas on paper.

Thanks for reading. 

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