Whenever I look at other peoples allotments online or in magazines, I get a bit frustrated at not being able to see the whole plot. I always want to see more, I want to be nosy. If I go on a train journey somewhere I love it when we go past an allotment site, and I secretly want the train to slow down so I can absorb every detail. If we’re out dog walking somewhere new and we come by an allotment, I have to linger and look. I’m the same with people’s gardens too, but allotments are so different, they offer little tips and clues as how each person does it.
So anyway, I thought I’d take you on a walk down my allotment path and show you how it’s looking, rather than blogging about one particular vegetable. I’ll get back to that in due course.
I won’t show the herb bed at the very top, as it’s a weedy mess at the moment and will soon be ‘under construction’. Although that’s not to say the rest of the plot is perfect, not by any means, as you will see.
The circular wildflower bed has been stripped out, except for a few remaining cosmos that have fallen over now that their supporting neighbours have gone. It was previously full of wild poppies that were a beautiful riot of colour, however, they self seed freely and liberally so, as I don’t want to upset my neighbours, they had to go. I’m planning on filling this with foxgloves, cornflowers and nigella for next spring, and no doubt the poppies will be back, as they are every year.
At the top of the main beds is beetroot and what remains of the broad beans. Then a row of dwarf beans, shallots and then the A frames of canes supporting sweet peas and climbing beans, with lettuce growing in-between.
Passing by the beans, there’s a very weedy row of calendulas, then 2 courgette plants (1 yellow, 1 green) and the sweetcorn in a block to the right, and then the tomatoes.
My shed is more or less in the middle, so I don’t have so far to walk back and forth to it (though I still do, forever get to the top end and think – bugger I forgot the secateurs). There’s a water butt on either side and a blackberry bush growing at the back. It’s just had a bit of a clean out, so I don’t mind showing you the inside. It’s a bijou residence, complete with essential storage facilities (shelves) and character features (cobwebs).
If you’re a self confessed fan of sheds have a look at these pictures from the Shed of the Year competition for 2013. John wants the one with the pub inside!
After the shed is the dog, and after her is a bed that contained the garlic, onions and early potatoes. This has been dug over and sown with buckwheat seed, which I’m growing as a green manure. Then there’s a row of sweet williams for cutting, (some daffs hidden either side of these) and then the raspberry bushes.
After the raspberries are the spare and very unruly tomatoes, calabrese growing under the mesh, and purple sprouting broccoli.
The butternut squashes and cucumbers have been trained to climb over a small tripod of canes, which has worked well for the cucumbers, but the squashes are intent on taking over the bed no matter what.
Then we have leeks which are coming on pretty well, and some main crop potatoes.
The second early and salad potatoes have died down already on top, so have been cut back until we get around to harvesting them. And finally the strawberry bed and some fruit trees and bushes in between the compost bins, and that is it.
It’s not perfect, we have nettles and bindweed and lots of couch grass. We have whitefly and caterpillars and slugs. But we also have lots of ladybirds and bees and butterflies. The occasional frog or local cat (until Bess spots it). And lots of very friendly and helpful people. It’s my little oasis for when I want to escape from the computer.
This is a little extract from Alice Fowler who writes for the Observer magazine – she wrote an article (read more here) about the importance of attracting pollinators to your garden and allotment. Made me feel good to know hers is weedy too!
“Allotments and gardens are good for insects; all those scruffy corners and weedy patches provide fine dining for our pollinators. The most visited plant species in all the urban habitats sampled were weeds such as dandelions and lawn daisies. So if you want to help pollinators, then leave some weeds around.
I have creeping buttercups weaving along my fence line and dead-nettles growing among my sage. I edge my allotment paths with lawn daisies: grown without grass, they are truly handsome. I merely pull off the seed heads and uproot them when they start to colonise too much space.”
What a refreshing change it was to read that. I think allotments are not what they used to be, they can be whatever you want with a bit of imagination and a fair heap of graft.