Go find some bargains!

This point in the year is a great time to grab a bargain at your local garden centres and DIY shops. Thinking for the winter and following year ahead you can pick up all sorts of tools and materials that will be sold cheap as it is the wrong season to be selling them.

For example, we have grabbed some mini polytunnels of varying materials that we can use to help warm a patch of soil next year and protect those seedlings next year from frost and predators, and they were better than half price! Fertiliser is another good bargain find, as it’s not used as much this time of the year, so large buckets go cheaply.

So do get hunting now as it’s never too early to start prepping for next year.

Failing tomatoes

Tomatoes are probably one of the most rewarding crops to grow yourself. Not because they make it cheaper than buying in the shops, we’ve definitely learnt that is not the case this year! But because unlike the shops you get amazing tasting tomatoes and can get all sorts of varieties ranging from beef tomatoes to black cherry tomatoes. For us it was one of the first crops to be allocated space in our plot.

 

We have since learnt the hard way that growing tomatoes outside is a tricky affair.

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Every single tomato in our allotment got blight! Being the first time planting tomatoes we didn’t know you could get blight on tomatoes, and thought maybe we were silly to have planted some next to potatoes, but that turned out not to matter as other tomato crops that were planted nowhere near potatoes got it! So each one has come out.

There is hope for us yet though as we have also planted some in our garden at home. These too are outside but they are isolated from anything else growing in the garden and are planted against a wall in a sheltered area. So far they have an abundance of green tomatoes on them and no sign of blight, so we still have a chance of getting homegrown tomatoes.

So we’ve learnt for next year to invest in some tomato greenhouses, and keep them away from everything! You’ve got to try everything once I guess!

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions www.laboromarketingsolutions.com

Attack of the Mice!

Having spent most of the time making sure that slugs and birds don’t get at our crops we have forgotten about the sneaky mouse!

Last weekend we spent a good bit of time getting our courgette, butternut squash and pumpkin seeds planted up. We put them in our little greenhouses amongst other seeds and seedlings, but returned to find every single seed of that variety had been munched. They even had the cockiness to eat them in one of our seed beds and not even clean up after themselves!

So we have resorted to the peanut butter on a mouse trap method in amongst the seeds just so they know to stay clear. Let us know if you have any decent ways of keeping the mice away.

 

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions http://www.laboromarketingsolutions.com

Sorting out a rotation plan for your plot

In my last post I brushed on the topic of a rotation plan for you plot. I wanted to go into a bit more detail about this as it’s also new to me, and I think it is a very important base to a successful crop.

A rotation plan is essentially a system which moves the vegetable and fruit groups around your plot each year. You can get anything from a 3 year to 5 year rotation system, which basically means it would be 5 years until the same vegetable group would be in the location where it started in year 1.

This is done for 2 main reasons. Firstly it stops your soil being exhausted by the same crop taking the same nutrients each year. It also reduces the risk of disease establishing and becoming difficult to get rid of. So you can see why this is so important to the success of your plot.

Below are the vegetable groups you will be using in your plot, and what vegetables are included in each group.

Vegetable families

You can be flexible with how you design your rotation. If you have a decent size then try to go for the 5 year rotation plan. Our plot is twenty by 5 metres, which is plenty big enough to fit that in. If perhaps you are doing this in your back garden or a smaller space, then don’t feel like you have to squeeze it all in. Go for a 3 year rotation plan, or just ensure that you do not plant the same crop in the same place each year. And of course if you really detest the vegetables in the Brassica group then don’t plant them! Below is an example of a 3 year rotation plan.

Rotation plan

Amongst this you will also be able to sneak in certain crops. Not all crops need to be rotated, and if you find a bit of space then slot them in there. These crops include courgettes and squashes, along with leaves such as lettuce and spinach. These can essentially be fitted into your overall rotation plan, which if you look at my plan below shows how I have achieved this.

Sketch plan of our plot

Lastly, if you have the space then set aside a bed for more permanent crops. There are a variety of crops out there that are perennial , which means they take 2 years to produce anything. These include crops such as asparagus and artichoke.

To summarise; create a rotation plan that suits your plot and your needs. Once decided, separate your plot either by raised beds or paths. Make sure you have a plan drawn up so you know what the next stage is the following year. After all this the next stage is prepping your plot. In my next post I will be looking at what tools are helpful to achieve this.

What to do when you inherit your plot

So, you’ve just taken over your plot. Now what?

Well it all depends on what is already there, and at what time of the year you take it over. We got our plot in November, which meant nothing was really going on with regards to growing things. If you take over in Spring, then you want to look at getting some plants planted as soon as possible, and the same goes for the summer. If you take it over around September/early October think about planting for some winter harvests.

Part of our site was still in control of the previous tenants as they had some winter harvests, but apart from that our site was clear. Lucky really when we saw the state of one of the other free plots! And you might not be so lucky. So just take a step back and assess the plot. Keep what you want, and take out what you don’t.

For us, the first thing to do was draw up a plan of what we wanted to do with it. Being a garden designer, this is probably the designer in me having its way! But it is worth while, as once it’s on paper you can’t forget it. Below is a scan of the plan I drew up.

When creating the plan, always keep in mind the rules of the plot you have taken over. For us, we are not allowed to erect any permanent structures like sheds, nor are we allowed to plant trees, and it was also stipulated that we must leave space between the fence and the edge of our plot, due to maintenance and pest control.

Sketch plan of our plot

Our plot is just over twenty metres long so we have a good bit of space, but make sure you design your plot to its size. Don’t try to squeeze stuff in, but at the same time don’t waste the space you have been given. As we have a large plot we have decided to go with 6 beds. This allows us to do a 5 year rotation and have one bed for permanent crops.

A 5 year rotation I hear you ask! It’s all to do with not planting the same crop in the same place each year. This lessens the chances of disease, and certain crops take and leave nutrients in the soil, which will benefit other crops going into that soil the following year. I recommend reading up on both of these approaches, as there is a lot more to it, and it is easily adaptable to your plot. I will be writing a post about how to plan your allotment what ever its size, and rotation plans, so keep a look out.

In Summary, once you’ve got your plot, the first thing to do is assess what’s there. Is there anything you can keep? Anything you want to get rid of? What are your neighbours growing, etc. Then sit down and draw up a plan of how you want to set out your plot, and what you want to plant over the year. Then, depending on what time of the year you take over the plot, get planting or get maintaining and setting up your plot.