Moley's Allotment Journey

Discussion in 'Allotments Discussion' started by Moley, Feb 9, 2020.

  1. Moley

    Moley Super Gardener

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    My big Christmas present from the family last year was an allotment in the village. I was told it was a full size plot, but it was only when we made the trip down there that I realised the words 'full size' were in bold, neon lit capital letters and underlined a few times.

    The plot, which is supposed to be 8m x 16m but is closer to 9m x 14m, is currently split into four beds of completely different dimensions with one of the length sides being the perimeter fence. The only things showing above the ground were some sprout plants at one end and a variety of fruit (which with help from our neighbours we've determined are honeyberry, autumn and summer raspberries, gooseberry and blackcurrants) at the other.

    With it only technically becoming ours on New Years Day, we're very much playing catch up with jobs that would ideally have been done at the end of the last growing season. As such we've decided to treat this as a construction year, with growing taking second place in the list of priorities. The rules however state that only 25% of the plot can be left uncultivated so we might have to get clever with how we use the space until the plot is in the optimum condition.
     
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    • Moley

      Moley Super Gardener

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      They might be different in size but one thing all of the beds had in common was the amount of stones that were in the soil. A quick trip to Wickes and Wilko for some timber and a roll of mesh and we rustled together a sieve that was only slightly bigger than our wheelbarrow.

      With the sieve built we decided to jump in at the deep end and get the larger stones out of one of the two largest beds. Thankfully the amount of stones drops considerably once you get 2-3 inches below the current surface, but it still took a good 50 barrow loads and 7 hours over 2 days to get it sorted.

      allotment01.png

      Before...

      allotment03.png

      ...after...

      allotment02.png

      ...and our new collection of pet rocks.

      Thankfully our plans for this year involve only needing to do this again for the bottom third of another bed, as I don't believe my back can take doing that all over again.
       
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      • ricky101

        ricky101 Total Gardener

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        Hi,

        That looks real hard work, though not sure we would have bothered as small stones like those only pose a problem to deep rooted crops like carrots and parsnips etc.
        Generally they help open up the soil.

        They look more like beach pebbles than typical garden stones, wonder if someone has deliberately added them, or are they the norm for stones in your area ?

        As for the 25% rule, have a word with the club/allotment secretary see if they hold you to that this year, as taking over a large abandoned plot, not many would be able to make it 100% productive in the first year.
        If they are up their own backsides and say you must do at least 75% this year, then just broadcast sow some cheap green manure crop or similar onto the undug areas, job done for this year.
         
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        • Moley

          Moley Super Gardener

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          If the stones had all been on the smaller side I probably wouldn't have bothered, but we dug a few test holes throughout the bed and were pulling out some absolute whoppers from each of them. Couple of days work later and we have a few more possibilities in terms of what we can grow in that bed and with it being a large job it lets the rest of the holders know we're not just going to be pottering around and that we're serious about it all.

          From having a walk around and discussion with some of the other plot holders it seems like large stones have been a pretty common problem with the site and that the corner we're in was the site's former dumping ground, which was cleared and turned into 3-4 additional plots about a decade ago. That dumping included the larger stones from all of the other plots - which were claimed and used for the paths on our plot - hence us having considerably more than everyone else does.

          It also turns out that one our neighbouring plots belongs to the site secretary (who explained that they shifted about 9 tonnes of stones from theirs) and they said that the guy who had ours before us had left the bed we sieved completely empty last year - which explains the amount of moss that it had. They do however have superiors in the form of the council who visit all the sites in the area a couple of times a year as the waiting list has barely moved for years. We only got the plot we did because we were the only people who were willing/ambitious/stupid enough to take it on at full size - meaning the council didn't have to come and clear it and then split it back into two.
           
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          • 2nd_bassoon

            2nd_bassoon Super Gardener

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            Wow @Moley , what a space! I agree with @ricky101 , I would hope that the fact that you're "showing willing" as it were will give you some leeway re the 25% rule for this year at least - especially since it sounds like the previous owner was letting things go a bit.

            Are you thinking about a tunnel/greenhouse at all given the size you've got to play with?
             
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            • Moley

              Moley Super Gardener

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              Sadly no sheds, tunnels or greenhouses are allowed or we'd absolutely be building a polytunnel on part of it. Not heard an official reasoning but I'm assuming it's because there is a public right of way running through the site so they can't secure it entirely.

              Seems like our best option is to make the most of what is already in the ground and turn at least one quarter of it into a fruit cage. Just need to do the sums and work out the best route for that.
               
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              • ricky101

                ricky101 Total Gardener

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                Yikes, no sheds or greenhouses ?? what do you do when you want a pee ! cannot go flashing if its a right of way :rolleyespink::biggrin:

                Perhaps get one of the little quick errect tents, at least you can then shelter from the rain etc and take it home with you .

                For a cheapo fruit cage we use 2"x1" treated timber and Wilkos cheap netting that when stretched still allows the Bees in, just staple it in position and use metal L brackets to join the timber.

                Might give you some breathing space before errecting something more solid and costly.

                000034.jpg

                000035.jpg
                 
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                • Mike Allen

                  Mike Allen Total Gardener

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                  Wow! how times have changed.

                  I could write a book on this subject. I worked a plot/allotment with my dad in times past. It was the size of a football pitch. No mechanical aids, no onsite water. Just a shed. Soil, work and sweat.
                   
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                  • Steve R

                    Steve R Soil Furtler

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                    Moley,

                    Nice plot and good size too, mine is approx 14m x 36m. You have cleared a big area and that is a good start, whilst you are set on configuring the rest of the plot this year why not get a few simple crops in, I would of thought that it would be more than enough to appease even the strictest warden.

                    The area you have cleared, 3/4 fill it with spuds..not much maintenance and you get a crop first year, then a few pkts of seed in the last quarter, suggest parsnips, carrots, beetroot, radish, spring onions and lettuce. All cheap seeds and it will give you a good idea of what your plot grows without too much maintenance down the line. Then you are growing something first year whilst developing the rest, I think that is more than reasonable.

                    Steve...:)
                     
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                    • Moley

                      Moley Super Gardener

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                      After a few days putting together another issue of a football programme, the weather played nice just long enough to get another patch of the allotment 'sieved' and the autumn raspberries cut back to the ground.

                      after001.jpg

                      Also managed to find some photos my David Bailey wannabe Dad took when he was securing us the plot just before Christmas. Nice to look back and see just how covered in stones and moss the beds were before we started sieving.

                      before001.jpg
                      before002.jpg
                      Think I'll make the most of the stormy weekend to get the plan for the rest of the year decided once and for all.
                       
                    • Moley

                      Moley Super Gardener

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                      Hats off to Marshalls for their customer service. Ordered this on Wednesday night with the expected delivery date of next Wednesday - only for it arrive first thing this morning. Will definitely be using them again.

                      marshalls.jpg
                       
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