Allotment Diary (June – Week 3)

I was still feeling a bit rough at the start of the week, so Debbie drove me to the allotment and we worked together on the last jobs of spring (we are running slightly late). We cleared the second early onions and planted the last of the sweetcorn and winter squash. All the beds were weeded and we switched from fleece to butterfly netting on the brassica beds. In mid July we remove the nets altogether so that we can harvest easily.

We finished planting the allotment for summer!

By Tuesday I was feeling back to normal though, so I turned the two compost bins and then set to, tidying the plot. A lot of dross accumulates through spring as I focus on the growing and forget the aesthetics. More important though is that the plot accumulates a lot of trip hazards that need clearing away, before the summer visitors arrive for a look around. All that clearing up and watering took me 8 hours, over two days and it’s a great feeling to be finished. All that remains now is weeding, watering and harvesting.

About half of the second early onions

This year we’ve finally executed our new plan for the allotment in summer. That’s to focus on crops that need the extra protection of low and high tunnels and crops that are easy to look after; perennials, squash, winter brassicas, root crops and alliums. Everything else is at home, where they are so easy to look after.

Our garden only needs about 1/4 the effort of the allotment for the same area. It has no perennial weeds, few annual weeds, less pest pressure. It’s more compact, watering is all automatic, harvesting can be done in small quantities. The few jobs that are needed, are usually done in passing or when I have a few spare minutes to fill. I rarely have to schedule time to do serious work.

The garden couldn’t be more different to the allotment, which in many ways is a terrible place to grow food. It has horrendous deep rooted perennial weeds that are an endless chore and huge annual weed problems. The pest pressure is immense and watering very manually intensive and in limited supply. Because so much of the space needs to be protected with nets, plastic etc it is complex to manage and needs lots of maintenance. But, and it’s a big but, it lovely community space, a great place to escape to and relax and it’s VERY cheap to rent. Where we live it’s literally impossible to buy a house with a big enough garden to be self sufficient.

Our long term strategy is to retreat to the garden as we get older. Gradually transitioning the allotment to perennial crops and easy to grow ones. One day we might just garden at home and buy a few low value, space intensive veggies like winter squash, carrots and onions.

Plenty of time to put my feet up now

I’ve also realised that I value having lots of space in the polytunnel, more than I value the extra harvests that come from cramming it full of containers. This extra space makes working in there a joy and gives me more flexibility to respond to opportunities.

So much space in the polytunnel now, although it will soon be like a jungle

In the back garden I’ve started clearing the spinach beds that unexpectedly went to seed. That means I have nothing to re-plant in them and I really dislike having empty beds, but there’s no other option. New veggies are 2 weeks away from planting.

I abhor empty beds, but the spinach flowering took me my surprise

Finally I’ve been busy pricking out seedlings: lots of lettuce, Asian spinach, autumn and winter brassicas, chard and beetroot.

Abundant harvests return after the early June dip

Harvest volumes are increasing again now, having taken a bit of a dip in early June. Despite trying hard to reduce the amount of veg we grow in summer and shift the focus to growing, staples and more for autumn/winter and spring, we’ve still ended up with too much. It’s amazing how quickly leafy greens grow in summer, when well watered!

Not long now before we stop buying tomatoes

So it’s been a busy gardening week, but with that last big push over we are now in gardening relaxation mode. We really only need to pop into the allotment for an hour a day each evening now. The rest of the days are our own. I’ve been out cycling and we’ve had a lovely day on the beach, celebrating Jennie’s birthday.

We hired a beach hut for Jennie’s birthday

I’ve a new way of tracking my first harvest dates now. The beauty of this new system is that it’s fully integrated with my sowing records, so I automatically get ‘sowing to harvest’ and ‘planting to harvest’ data. New firsts are at the top.

Here’s what I sowed this week:

Here’s what we planted this week.

We are now at full harvest volume, feeding everyone on our target list for this year and one lucky extra person as we have a bit of a surplus.

Here’s our harvests for the year so far, with the most recent at the top.  We hit our target for last year and harvested over £12,000. We will never harvest as much again as we have less land now, our objective has changed now.

Here’s a list of the preserves for last year. We don’t have any preserves this year yet, although Debbie is certainly making a lot of stewed rhubarb and dried parsley for immediate use!

YouTube videos for the week can be found here:

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

8 Responses

  1. It’s interesting to hear the differences between the allotment and your home garden. Here it was not that costly to get a house sitting on 1.6 acres, and many of the nearby homes have large lots also. We too are plagued by lots of annual and a few perennial weeds like Bermuda grass and dock. As for your long range strategy, I’ve giving up growing difficult (for me) to grow things like carrots and onions. We’re trying to concentrate on things we just can’t buy, or things where homegrown flavor and quality win out – like tomatoes for instance.

  2. Right now we grow everything, but when deciding for the future and deciding what we grow for the kids our criteria is a mainly a mix of how tasty a veg/fruit is, how expensive it is, how prolific it is and how much it is treated with pesticides in commercial production. Onions, potatoes and carrots are all cheap to buy organic and take up a lot of space, so they will be the first to go. I doubt there is a single property that has close to even a 1/4 acre around here, our tiny kitchen garden is considered to be a big garden for the area. I grew up with a 1/2 acre as a kid and all my family and friends had similar gardens, so it took some adjusting to. We are however fortunate to live in a garden town, with wide open spaces, woodland, dunes, beach and many lovely parks and children’s adventure playgrounds, so we can’t complain : All the best – Steve

  3. You might be interested to know that your garden is about 25 times our growing area Dave!

  4. Urban gardens are another matter. Our lot is 8000 square feet (a corner lot) but with much of the property consumed by the footprint of the house and areas too close to the street to do edibles., Our growing area for edibles is about 25 feet by 30 feet which includes most of the fruit trees. It is a challenge, especially with a 30 foot tall house only 10 feet to the east. Small space urban gardens are about making do with constraints. My solution has been very intensive planting in 2 foot high raised beds. Then add living two blocks from the ocean in the fog belt. But my garden is generous when compared to some urban gardens.

  5. One of the thigs I love about urban gardening Sue is all of the micro-climates. Debbie’s allotment plot is in full sun/wind all day, mine has a big tree that shades at mid-day, but the home gardens are rich with opportunity for tuning the myriad different locations to particular plant needs! Your garden is about the same size and mine by the sound of it.

  6. Cherie says:

    Tony and I are planning on moving to a small bungalow with a large garden when he retires next year. We have no preconceptions as to where that will be but Lincoln looks promising. The gardens look really big and will be great for us to grow as much as possible in. I love Wales but the houses are blimmin grim. Fleetwood is also on the list of places to look at as I holidayed there a few times many years ago. Garden size will be out main criteria.

  7. Lincoln is my home town, Fleetwood is a favourite cycling destination for me, but my daughter – a youth worker – says there is quite a poverty driven crime problem there, although the coast is lovely.

  8. Of course St Annes is the perfect place to retire, plenty of bungalows adjoining the allotment site, but small gardens

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: