Allotment Diary – Week 2 – 2017

Planning for the coming season…

This week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how my allotment fits in with my lifestyle and my future. I have three grand children with another on the way and I would really like to pass on to them the concept of growing your own food and thinking about different, natural, ways of doing things. I do realise, however that I’m competing with i-pads here, so I’m going to have to think up ways to involve the kids and make growing fun.

I’ve created a new plan aimed primarily at growing food that can be picked and eaten without cooking or preparation. Strawberries take up the whole front of the allotment and we usually get several kilos of fruit from my plants. Strawberries are great for kids to pick and eat, and we can even take a carton of cream with us in the summer.

With Halloween in mind, I’m going to plant one or two beds with pumpkins and try to get the kids involved in that process. From seed to carved lantern. Peas are another great vegetable that can be picked and eaten raw. How many kids have actually seen peas in a pod? “Pod? Is that an I-Pod Grandad?”

Cherry tomatoes are also going to take up one or even two beds. I’ve had success with Latah in the past and “Tumbling Tom” looks good too. I’ll be planting into lots of compost placed on top of the beds rather that planting into tubs. I’ll also be planting salad leaves, lettuces and spinach which can be picked for a quick, appetising salad.

A few fruit bushes (Redcurrants, Blackcurrants and Blackberry) may be planted in the beds to the front of the allotment this year. Most of the supermarkets offers various varieties at reasonable prices. Also, I’ll have a bash at growing peach bushes in pots. Fruit trees (Apple, Pear and Plum) will be planted at the back of the allotment, but I may have to wait till November as they need to be planted into cold soil. I already have Rhubarb at the back of the allotment and I’ll have a bash at forcing some this year.

I have plans to grow, tomatoes (Shirley and/or Alicante), Melons, Cucumber, Peppers and Chillies in the greenhouse and I’ll also be starting salad potatoes off in there in February. Not sure if I’m going to be bothering with main crop potatoes as they can be bought quite cheaply in 25kg sacks.

I’ll also plant spring onions, leeks, garlic, onions, and maybe shallots, but I’ll not be trying to produce large quantities. They’ll just be to show the kids how we grow them from seed.

Allotments are by legal definition “Recreational Services” provided by the Council (Harwood v Reigate & Banstead Council, 1981). My allotment is 1/16 of an acre and while it would be possible, by careful management, to grow a vast amount of food to feed my family, I quite like the idea of my grandchildren enjoying the space that we have been lucky enough to acquire. I also keep chickens and, while we don’t eat a lot of eggs, I think it’s important to keep them and show the children where eggs actually come from. I’ve mentioned the idea of keeping rabbits for the kids, but my wife isn’t keen.

My beds this year will be 4.5 metres by 0.4 metres and I’m going to have grass pathways between. Grass clippings are great in the compost and I have a petrol mower already. It’s also nice to have grass underfoot in the summer. Talking of compost, I have eight black plastic bins and I’ve recently filled one of them with a straw, food waste and spent brewing grain mix. Rats and other rodents love the food waste and spent brewing grains so I’ve placed the bin on a chicken wire base to keep them out. I’m experimenting with this and also hot composting with straw and fresh horse manure. I think compost is the key to successful growing, but I don’t have hundreds of pounds to buy it in, so I’ll have to do it the hard way or rather the Allotment Lifestyle way.

Thank you for reading this weeks newsletter.

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