I stuck to my plan and at the first opportunity nipped back down to the allotment to do a little gentle ground preparation and planting. I’m tackling things in moderation – not everything has to be done at once!
But first there was a trip to Homebase to pick up critical items like bamboo canes (handy for laying out beds) and price up what was available to plant and, of course, since I can;t go near a garden supplier without spending money, I may have bought some bulbs for the pots at home. Picked up some off cuts of marine play from the local timber merchant as I plan (at some point!) to make a little painted sign which has the plot number and my name on it! After shopping swung home to collect tools, wellies and camera and head out to the plot.
Ground prep and layout
I spent the first part of the morning cutting down bamboo canes to 40cm and messing round with a tape measure marking out potential layouts. I’m planning a no-dig/low-dig system because it’s easier on the back and knees and way better for the ground if you can do it. So, the plan is to lay out beds which are roughly 6 x 3ft (1.8m x 90cm) separated by narrow paths. Once the beds are marked out I can work in a little manure and then take care not to step on the beds themselves only on the paths. The result is your beds don’t get compacted and it’s much better for the plants.
Once I’d got the framework laid out (though I’m sure it will change) I cracked on and:
- sorted out the patch of ground under the compost bin. I’d been dithering about whether to leave this at the back of the plot (the path dividing the plots is much narrower at the back than at the front and I was considering ease of access when bringing compost from home to deposit). In the end I figured the back of the plot was a better place because who wants to see a giant black bin from the front of the plot, and once things grow in it might be better hidden. So decision one made!
- then I marked and dug out three beds which will run along the left hands side of the plot (if you’re standing at the front). It was easy going with the one nearest the compost bin and the one in the middle, but the one closest to the path had quite a few deep rooted brambles – obviously the rotivating only went so deep! – and also the soil seems to have a lot of clay in that one patch.
Here’s the result! Doesn’t look like much of an impact when seen from across the plot, does it?
Here’s a better view from the bottom behind the compost bin (left) and from the front looking up the plot (right)
You can seen how conditions vary – the middle bed and the one at the back are a lot less riddled with giant chunks of flint than the bed at the very front which still needs a bit more attention.
It took me just over 2 hours and then it started raining so I bailed to go home and have a cuppa and change into clothes which were dry and not covered in dirt. Luckily around 1:30pm it cleared up, so I scuttled back to the garden centre, picked up some organic manure, onion sets and garlic, bark chippings and a small rosemary and small lavender plant and headed back.
Once back it was a matter of hefting 3 bags of manure from the car on the road into the plot (my first action is going to be to propose we buy a communal wheelbarrow to save my back!) and then to dig it into the newly laid out beds.
This is the bed closest to the compost bin after having had lots of lovely organic matter added and laid out with onions and garlic just before planting:
The compacted soil on the left hand side is where I’d been stomping down to form the base of the narrow path (40cm wide) separating the two beds.
And this is how I left it yesterday afternoon after manure had been dug in and planting done:
Onions and garlic varieties planted
The bed nearest to us is planted half with 50 onions (a variety called Radar which is supposed to be good and resistant to bolting) and half with a variety of French garlic known as Germidour – which I understand to be reliable and producing large pretty bulbs in early summer.
There are bark chipping down to mark the paths/boundaries between the beds. The little green plant you can see between the first and second bed is a lavender and the one between the second and third beds is a rosemary. Having the herbs will mark the border nicely and hopefully, come Spring, help attract beneficial insects into the plot. I’m also probably going to plant at least one of the other beds with a wildflower/bee/butterfly mix.
The middle bed is manured and waiting for me to get back down there and plant it up with some shallots (variety Jermor) and another type of French garlic. I’ve also got a couple of rhubarb crowns ready to go in and some spring flowering bulbs!
I haven’t seen the tenancy handbook yet (they’d run out of copies when I picked up the key) so I don’t know what the regs are about fencing. Depending on how things go I may turn the beds into raised beds, marked out by planks. But I’m making sure I can handle it before I invest even more money into it! There’s plenty of time to do all of that in Spring!