Welcome to plot 17C.

Heritage has taken on an allotment locally to grow vegetables and possible some flowers. We will be blogging about our trials and tribulations regularly. This we are hoping will give our customers inspiration to have a go themselves. For those that have already started growing their own we will provide fresh ideas and help with similar mistakes and issues such as pest and disease advice and solutions. It is a perfect opportunity to use our own products and showcase their benefits.This first post will be all about how we went about applying for allotment space and the initial planning and preparation of the ground.

We applied for the allotment around 6 months ago and only received confirmation that we had secured one a couple of weeks ago. Other people we have spoken to say they have waited years so we consider ourselves fortunate. It is a very simple process. All you do is contact your local council by either email or phone to register your interest and then just wait.
Once we had been given access we went up to survey the plot which as you will see from the pictures was pretty wild and overgrown; The council were kind enough to strim it for us. With it been so late in the season we decided we needed to act fast to have any chase of growing and harvesting some veg. To-do this we decided to use the "no dig method" proposed by Charles Dowding which he has proven not only saves time weeding, but the difference in harvest weight is so small it seems a bit of a no brainer. The "no dig method" meant that we could lay our soil improving compost straight onto the ground thickly which plunges the weeds into darkness hopefully killing them. Obviously the perennial weeds such as dock and bindweed that we have in abundance are going to take some careful weeding until we weaken the root stores enough to kill the plant, but we will get there. We originally wanted to lay cardboard under the compost but could not source enough.

For anybody who is just starting to set up their own allotment or garden we cannot stress the importance of drawing up a plan. It does not have to be perfect. In the last Heritage allotment we just roughly made up 4 beds and did no planning. We seeded and planted wherever there was room which meant that we had not factored in crop rotation more of which I will come onto later. This time we wanted to plan what was going where so specific vegetables benefit from plants growing before them and the soil in each bed can be adapted for the plant families growing within them for example brassicas following legumes; brassicas (Broccoli, kale and cabbage) are a very hungry plant family and legumes (Beans and peas) fix nitrogen which help the brassicas grow on the next crop cycle.

We split the plot into 5 beds. This gave us enough room for a rough area at the back for compost bins and paths between the beds wide enough to get a wheel barrow along. We first thought we wanted to have 1.5 meter wide beds, but after laying it out decided on 1.2 meters because you can access the center of the bed comfortable from either side preventing us having to stand on the soil compacting it. With the beds worked out we measured the length, width and decided on the depth of compost. From this we could work out how much compost we would need in meter cubes. To do this you measure Length x wide x depth all in the same units. This will give you the amount needed. Alternatively if you click on this link  and click on "Quantity calculator" under the "Buy Now" button and it will let you type in your measurements and automatically work out meter cubes needed.

To work out the depth of compost that we needed we went back to Charles Dowdings website for his ever useful advice on depth of compost to get planting straight away. His recommendation was 20cm (6 inches). If you have dug up your bed and removed the weeds then you will only need 2inchs (5cm). The worms will do the rest.

Once the soil improving compost was laid it was time to plan what I was going to plant. We wrote down a list of all the vegetables we liked to eat and then researched there family groups so that we could work out what could be grown in what bed and then designed a crop rotation from there. Crop rotation is really important to stop pests and diseases accumulating in the soil. Every plant has different nutritional needs so by rotating the crops it stops certain nutrients getting completely depleted. This obviously does not apply to perennial vegetables that stay in the same place once planted.

The plan we decided on was:
Bed 1 – Legumes – Peas (Seeds) and runner beans (Plants)
Bed 2 – Brassicas and salads – Purple sprouting broccoli (Plants) , lettuce (Seed) and radicchio (seed)
Bed 3 – Root and Onion – Carrot, Beetroot, Radish, Spring onion (All seed)
Bed 4 – Fruit – Gooseberries and strawberries. The Gooseberry bushes were already there when we moved in.
Bed 5 – Cucurbits/Corn – Courgettes, Small pumpkins and baby corn.
We also have some perennials, rhubarb and artichoke, growing in the rough area at the back.

We are limited by season as a lot of things we wanted to grow needed to be sown in early spring. So chose vegetables that were still ok to sow or buy in plant form. The will be additions to the beds which we will keep you up to date on.

The next allotment blog will show how we sowed and planted plot 17c.

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