Alliums galore!

This year we planted as much as we could in the way of onions and garlic. Being our first year, we played it relatively safe in the types we went for. We planted white and red onion, shallots and garlic.

They were definitely worth it as we got a tremendous crop from all of them, and not a single one lost. I would love to say we had a secret to the success but it was just the basics of keeping them moist, weed free and giving them a feed of standard fertiliser.

They are certainly a rewarding crop as you don’t have to do too much to keep them alive, and you physically see the crop coming out of the ground!

 

We started them off in trays first in a greenhouse

We started them off in trays first in a greenhouse

Some were 10 times there original size

Some were 10 times their original size

IMG_1248

Not one single onion was lost!

We were told that garlics would produce multiple cloves this time of year, but how wrong they were!

We were told that garlic would produce multiple cloves this time of year, but how wrong they were!

Roast vegetable vindaloo

Our first recipe is up on our recipe page, and this week it is Vegetable Vindaloo! Please check it out and let us know if you give it a try.

https://allotmentadvice.wordpress.com/the-seasons/

 

Long time no see!

May I begin by apologising for being such a rubbish blogger! I have disappeared off the radar for a couple of months and struggled to find where to begin again! I promise I have been very busy saving the world. During the summer months I am a keen ecology field surveyor working with GCN, bats and reptiles, which means I no longer get evenings or daytimes free!

Our allotment has been extremely busy as you would expect for this time of year, and over the next few weeks I will share what each fruit and vegetable has done, what we’ve learnt and what we need to learn for next year. But I hope that all the followers with your own plot have had many a success!

So far we have had crops of potato, onions, shallot, garlic, broad beans, peas and courgette. We have lost our tomatoes down on our plot, but the ones up at our house are fine. The asparagus we planted has come through and gone to flower as too has the globe artichoke. We have a late surge of runner beans soon ready to pick, more courgette and butternut squash coming through also.

We are even trying to sneak in a couple more crops before it’s too late!

 

Like I said a lot has happened while I’ve been away and I will be going into a lot more detail soon.

 

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions. laboromarketingsolutions.com

The planting begins!

My apologies for this late post, but it’s been a bit busy around the home.

IMG_0917IMG_0918Planting has started down in the allotment and everyone is excited. The other week we transplanted all our onions, shallots and garlic. I know there are some people who directly sow their plants into ground but we decided to grow them inside first then transplant them out. So far this has seemed to have worked very well!

To transplant them we used a pencil to ease them out and then using a dibber, we made holes in turned over soil. To get a straight line we used string.

Along with the onions family, we have planted out early potatoes and sown a row of carrots. As an experiment we are also starting some carrots inside and transplanting them out. We have heard that transplanting root crops can be risky, but thought we would give it a go and see the difference between techniques.

Again being warned off by many people we are going to try Asparagus. I shall be writing a full piece on Asparagus and the steps we took to plant it, so won’t say anymore here.

We were a little late with the beans and peas but have managed to get in our first batch. The broad beans were looking a little sorry for themselves in the greenhouse but have now perked up and are doing well. The runner beans however have flailed a bit. We think it may have been due to a frosty night and us not protecting them, so we are keeping an eye on them to see if we can still use them, otherwise we may cheat and buy some seedlings from a nursery!

 

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

 

Update on the Berwick allotment

With the height of allotment season just around the corner I thought I would let you know where the Berwick plot is in its preparation stages! 

As you can see from the picture, our plot is finally dug over! It may have taken us a little longer than intended but lazy Sunday mornings got in the way! Plus there was no real rush for this. We added manure to two thirds of the plot to add that extra bit of nutrient to the soils, but keep in mind not all vegetables enjoy the manure.

 

Storage area

Our compost/storage area is near completion. We have levelled the area out as much as possible and added a layer of geotextile and wood chippings to ease long term maintenance of weeding, and this stops it from becoming a mud pile!

We have assembled a compost bin, and left room for another one next year and bought in our pea sticks and canes ready for use on the plot.

The only thing left to do is to make a storage box for all our tools as we are not allowed a shed on site, and to also find a couple of chairs so I can sit there with a beer on a hot summers evening!

 

Potatoes

Last weekend we got round to chitting our potatoes. This was done late but it’s fine as potatoes do not have to be planted straight away and they do not technically have to be chitted, it just gets the process started quicker then it would underground.

They are currently sitting in various points around our house where they get some natural light but stay warm.

 

 

Seed

 

As we don’t have a greenhouse and much room inside we have done the next best thing and bought some pop up greenhouses. For the price you pay you get a lot for your money. We have been able to get crops started as early as possible thanks to these contraptions, and it will certainly help us down on the allotment.

So far we have sown everything that we can plant in March, the one thing we did forget was to stagger the sowing of crops to stop them being ready all at once, but we can tackle that hurdle when it comes to it!

 

 

Propagator

Another little handy tool is the propagator. Because we do not have access to constant warmth inside the house we have hold of a couple of small propagators, not the electric ones just the basic. In these we have planted the more exotic crops such as peppers, chillies and aubergines. They need a little extra push to get started as they are not used to our climate and the propagators really help with this, as we can leave them inside in a sunny spot and they will gain that much extra heat.

 

That is it for us for now. Come the end of the month we will have our plot fully ready and begin the first batch of planting. Once the current seedlings are moved to the allotment the next round of later crops will be sown. I hope that everyone else is on track with their plot and do let us know what you are up to.

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

Sowing seed and chitting potatoes

In this post I am going to talk about what we should be looking at starting in our allotment for the year. By now your plot should almost be ready to go. Don’t worry if not as there is still time to turn over soil and add compost. I still haven’t finished prepping due to all this weather! You should be looking at applying some fertiliser to the ground in preparation for planting. We are just going to use standard fertiliser from a nursery. Do look into what of your chosen crops like/dislike fertiliser and apply so.

A lot of the books would have told you by now to sow seeds indoors/greenhouses. We haven’t done this because simply we do not have the room, so I am going to by-pass this area of sowing. (If anyone out there would like to talk about this area then please let me know)

The one thing we are doing inside is potatoes. Potatoes are always started off indoors and this process is called “chitting”. A lot of people would have started this by now but we have been a little lapse with getting them ordered! But again there is still plenty of time to do this. When you go online or to your nursery to buy some you will be faced with different varieties. There will be some for mash, some for roast and others for salad potatoes so do take your time in choosing them.

You will also notice they come under different categories. These categories are classified on how long the potatoes sit in the ground before they are ready. There are “Earlies” which are normally ready to lift from 80-110 days after planting. These are the first varieties you plant, and you will look to do this from mid-march onwards, weather dependent. This will give you a crop in around June/July. Next are “Second earlies”. These varieties take anything from 100 days to 120 days to mature. You can plant from mid march onwards, but are usually planted early to mid April, and this will get you a crop in mid August. The last variety is “Maincrop”. These take from 125-140 days to mature. Again these can be planted from mid-march onwards, but tend to be more popular to plant in mid April. This will get you a crop from late August through to October.

I’m going to be getting a mixture of the varieties. By using all three, it will give you a spread out crop from June through to as late as November. We planted some potatoes last year in May and got a good crop from them, so you really don’t have to rush getting them planted if you can’t. I would say that the earlier you get some in, the longer the spread of the crop.

During March we are sowing a lot of crops, most of which will be sown at the end of the month. These crops are broad beans, peas, onions, shallots and asparagus. So if you haven’t got these seeds yet do so as you do not have long. There are of course other crops out there that will be ready for sowing so check your chosen crops.

One crop that you can actually start planting from now onwards is garlic. We plan to have plenty of garlic, and are using plain bought garlic from the shop. I will be doing a post on garlic explaining the best way to plant it.

The crucial thing when sowing your crops is quantity. Keep in mind that if you plant 30 broad bean seeds at the same time, you will have 30 broad bean crops ready at the same time! Spread your sowing out. There is a good window for sowing the majority of the common crops, so spread the sowing out to make sure you are not inundated. For example you can sow broad beans from mid march to late april. That is six weeks difference for you to play with.

Do keep in mind the weather. All the guides on sowing and planting you see in books and the internet are based on a normal British spring. This time last year we had snowfall, pushing the growing season back a month. If the weather is right there is no reason you can’t plant in early March onwards, but there is a risk of frost still, so be aware.

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.