A lot of different to last time when we had an allotment, in 2001 we took on a full size plot with many ideals and plans. 2001 came and went along with the thinking that the real world read the same books as we did and so if we followed everything by the letter we would soon be self sufficient and the next stage would be raising our own pigs and goats. Even without the pigs and goats it was all a bit of a bridge too far in that first year, organic ideals resulted in the local pests and wildlife having a good time and just a small portion of our plot doing anything worthwhile.
The next year we re-grouped and came back to reality, left out the idea of pigs and goats, self sufficiency ideals and decided to enjoy it all instead – having food as an outcome almost as a bit of a bonus. We were being a lot more successful.
Strange to think, these were old fashioned days when you used to have to read books, you had to do things without sharing it with the world. It seems like madness that we only took around 40 photos over the whole time whereas now we’ve taken hundreds before even breakfast…. I’m glad that I was was maybe “ahead of the curve” and did keep a record, you might think of it as a “retro blog” then, with an audience of just one. Not so much different to now then…
From that I was able to see our main success were leeks and onions – that was 2003, rolling forward to 2018….
- onions – not only grew well but stored well too, I was hopeful they would be as a good as before and they were…. need to grow more next time
- broad beans – never grown before as only I like them, but great for packed lunches at work. I wasn’t going to grow over wintering ones but as everyone else was doing so I thought why not, we had a bit of space. These are currently growing now and more planned to sow in a couple of months time
- beetroot – we got two sowings of these, the second lot started in modules and planted out as small plants. Both ‘normal’ and multi-coloured, we were eating a lot of beetroot and yet I was a little bit upset that my wee did not turn red.
- rocket – two sowings over the year which kept me in green things to put in sandwiches for work each day. I plan to grow a lot more salad leaf type things this year, a bit of a mixture. Rocket is nice, but it’s good to have a bit of variety.
- french beans – never grown these before, they did really well for not much effort and not really looking after them. Just as we thought that had finished, another hidden cache of beans were found each time. A couple of different varieties for this year, different colours.
- garlic – for some reason I thought it was meant to be hard to grow. We put it in quickly as we had only just got the plot, we quickly cleared a bit and put it in. Great excitement when we saw it all growing.
- chard – I knew this was pretty tough and would get through a lot, it was pretty colourful too. We didn’t really look after it, maybe this year if we do we will have even more
- turnip – such a pity we don’t really like them, they turn out to be pretty easy to grow. Our first lot of the year were ok, our second lot were really good, having first been grown in modules and then planted out. We’ll grow them again because we have found many ways to hide it when you’re cooking
- swede – I thought I would give it a go late in the year, I wish we had grown a lot more. We have a couple of really large good ones, the others were smaller but still pretty good. More please.
- sprouts – I thought these were hard to grow and half way through I was thinking I may as well pull them up as they were not doing well. In the end, they turned out pretty good and we will be eating sprouts from the freezer for a some months.
- kale – not the most glamorous, although looks really good on a frosty morning. I thought we had lost the plants when we left them unprotected for too long and caterpillars were all over the place, but with a lot of effort picking them off constantly each plant made it through.
Not really bad, but maybe just not so good, things we won’t be doing
- raised beds – I wasn’t going to have any but we had pallet collars on the plot so thought I would give them a go. All that happened is they took up a lot of space, needed a lot of soil (when the plot is full of soil surely), and they dried out quickly. The runner beans didn’t do well, very thirsty, not the best place to plant them
- potatoes – a lot of space for what sometimes seems like not a lot. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, I seem to expect a whole sack of potatoes while instead what we get is a smaller number of nice flavored potatoes. We don’t have the space for main crop, and could we really cope with the disappointment if after all that time and space we didn’t end up with sack fulls of potatoes… We did two lots of potatoes, earlies and ones for Christmas. The earlies were a bit scabby but were actually ok, the Christmas ones did their job for Christmas day, and we don’t have much space so all was ok. This year, maybe some slightly different potatoes from those you can buy (cheaply) from the shops.
- fruit – birds seem to like fruit, they certainly enjoyed all of ours… all apart from the strawberries and the raspberries. This year I will be netting a lot.
- salsify – never heard of it before, we got the seeds on a magazine and so gave it a try. Very easy to grow, but a pig to prep for cooking and they didn’t really taste that nice. Not worth the effort for this year.
- cabbage – I like coleslaw and so I’m determined to make this happen. Out of four plants, one thrived and seemed to be doing well, until the pigeons got to it the other week. I’m not giving up, I’ll be sowing some more in March.
Secret of Success?
An alternative title might be “things I was going to do which worked out to be a good idea”.
I didn’t want beds, raised ones or normal ones. I didn’t want grass paths that needed moving. I always thought pathways need looking after and are good places for slugs and things to hide. A better way would be to have just a whole plot dug over and the pathways are made by walking over the same bits each time. I was going to dig it all over, but to help things off I thought I’d just cover it all over for two or three months and then pull it back and dig a bit at a time. I also thought covering everything with mushroom compost (because everyone loves mushroom compost) would continue what I had done before and had seen others do over the years.
I didn’t think much of it, but it seems I may have invented ‘nodig’, although of course I did (and do) dig. The principles seem to be similar (although some nodig people would turn in their grave if you mention a spade, and if they were also dead), this year I won’t dig too much but at the same time the bits I spent a lot of effort with digging, weeding, mulching are the best bits of the plot. I’ve done a bit of both, I’ll see where I’m mostly fighting with bindweed over the year…