Rhubarb
Allotment,  CoffeeAndYarn

Allotment Lessons Learnt, Part One

In 2018 we took on our first allotment and I’m completely hooked! Getting out into the fresh air and working hard whilst letting your mind wander is marvellous! We’ve learnt a lot this year, mainly due to the extreme weather of 2018, so I thought I would share our the lessons learnt from the first year of the allotment, to see if anyone else finds them useful.

Expect To Have Some Hiccups

We took the allotment on in January as a completely bare plot. The gentleman who’d had it before had kept the soil dug over, but hadn’t put in any structure. Apart from some blackcurrant bushes and apple trees, we had a completely empty plot to do with as we wanted. We have grown things before, but only in our garden so to have an empty allotment was both daunting and exciting!

Top view if the allotment showing the shed and plotted beds.
Bottom view of the allotment showing the fence and plotted out beds.

After measuring the plot and creating a plan, we bought seeds and vegetable plants for the year and planted our potatoes, garlic and onions.

Unfortunately, the Beast From The East came, the plot flooded and we lost everything and had to start again! Being pregnant and having such a hot summer also hugely set us back, although we did manage to grow courgettes, runner beans, potatoes, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, rhubarb and apples, so we still did fairly well. Had it not been for the weather though, I think we would have grown a lot more. I’m mostly gutted about the shallots we lost, as I was looking forward to balsamic pickled shallots later in the year!

Our flooded allotment plot showing submerged beds and weed suppressant.

Plant Seeds In Decent Sized Pots 

After seeing them on Gardners World (we love you Monty!) and also social media, I thought I would try growing seeds in 6cm coir pots. These were OK for some things like Cosmos. For the bigger plants like sunflowers and brassicas, the pots just weren’t big enough and really hindered the growth of the plants. It may also have been a coincidence, but the lavender REFUSED to germinate in these pots at all. I suspect because they kept the soil too moist.

I also tried initially to grow all of my veg directly in seed trays and this was a complete disaster. Won’t be doing that again!! 

This year all of the seed will be grown in larger plastic pots that I already have. Once these are no longer usable I will then look at more sustainable alternatives. 

Never Under Estimate The Power and Perseverance Of Pests 

I was naively optimistic about how much the plants would suffer from pests. Most of the plants were grown from seed at home, and the slugs ravaged EVERYTHING.  I had to use copper tape on the seeds trays the pots were in and daily check the undersides of plants, removing slugs that had sneaked in. They ravaged the plants in my  beds too. It was only when I deployed garlic spray that the poor plants got some peace and subsequently managed to flower.

Seedlings growing in coir pots, sat in a seed tray with copper tape around it.

I put beer traps near the worst effected plants, like the salvias and delphiniums, which were very effective. It’s a short term fix though and I hate killing things just so I can grow flowers. If we ever need to rely on our home grown produce I’m sure I’ll think differently, but right now I’d rather deter than kill.

A toad nestled among Cosmos seedlings in coir pots.
Our garden toad; squashing the baby Cosmos and ignoring the slugs literally right under his nose!

At the allotment, I thought not covering the strawberries or netting the brassicas would be fine and that the pigeons/slugs/birds/every-other-creature-apart from us wouldn’t want to eat them. I was wrong. Subsequently we lost a lot of the strawberries and the broccoli, cauliflower, brussels and squash were eaten completely! 

This year I have bought some pipe and net to protect them so hopefully this will help. 

Being Pregnant Does Reduce Gardening Capabilities 

Again, I was naively optimistic (can you see a theme developing here??) that being pregnant would not substantially hinder my ability to garden. I was wrong, again. I was able to garden, but having a bump hugely restricts things like bending down, weeding, digging and carrying. With the heat of 2018’s summer, I was only able to work for five or ten minutes at a time. I’m SOOOO excited for this year when I will be able to garden unhindered and share the allotment with our beautiful daughter.

I hope you found this helpful! Keep your eyes peeled for the next post!

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