March into Spring

A reminder that Spring has officially begun!

Allotment spring flowers

Daffodils on the allotment

Metrologically Spring began on March 1st. However according to the astronomical calendar, Spring started on Friday with the vernal equinox and perhaps you were lucky enough to see the eclipse. I was in Bruges, had a great holiday but it was so overcast that there was no chance of seeing the eclipse!

So Spring is definitely here and I am starting to panic. Fellow allotment bloggers, I am very envious when I read how much you have achieved on your plots, I am way, way behind. Not all the plot was dug over at the end of last year and that has been the first task to complete this month.  Last weekend started off bright and sunny so The Husband and I set to work.

Digging allotment plot

Let digging commence!

The original plot had been mostly finished and is now ready to go.

Plot dug

Dug and done

The newer plot needed more work –

Plot to be dug

Bed needing attention

and is just about finished. This bed had loads of bindweed in it last year and so I was having to try and dig out the roots as we went along in the vain hope that it won’t be quite so prolific this summer! I took on this second plot last year as it’s adjacent to my original plot and had been neglected for the last few years. It needed a lot of work to bring it under control (credit given to The Husband for this achievement). One bed was devoted to potatoes and the existing fruit bushes, one to butternut squash and some flowers. The third, small bed was carpeted(!)and will probably be used for the compost bins.

I’m feeling happier that most of the ‘groundwork’ has been done but there’s still so much more to do and I know that we have limited spare time over the next few weeks. The raspberry canes on the second plot require pruning, the strawberries should be thinned out, all the fruit bush beds need weeding…. So much to do, so little time!

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5 questions to ask before taking on an allotment

I have had an allotment for 7 years and it has been such a rewarding and enjoyable experience, so much so that last year I even took on another plot! It’s great spending time in the fresh air, watching your crops growing, harvesting the produce and then being able to cook and eat food you’ve grown yourself.

Allotment

 

However, if you’re thinking about starting up an allotment, or even a vegetable plot in your garden, then you need to ask yourself these questions before committing yourself.

Am I prepared to make a regular commitment? The allotment requires tending nearly all year round, so you need to be prepared to give your plot regular attention. (Well, you may allow yourself a break in the winter months!) There is no point spending all weekend working on your plot then not touching it for a month. Why? If left unattended, weeds will take over and you’ll waste your time  To have a successful plot you need to commit to working on your plot regularly from March to October.

Do I have the time?  Without a doubt, having an allotment takes up a lot of time. Are you motivated enough to make the time to go to your plot? As a rough guide, I would estimate a minimum of a couple of hours each week is needed – more in the planting season, and even more if there is a hot, dry summer.

Am I up to the physical work? When I took on my first allotment it was a wilderness. Luckily The Husband was brilliant and thanks to him it was knocked into shape in no time. You may find that you inherit an overgrown plot and that is a tough job. If you’re not up to it, is there anyone else you can call on for some muscle power? Hopefully, you will be taking on a well-maintained plot and won’t have to sort out a jungle but even then there is still a fair amount of hard physical work. My advice is to do a little and often. Don’t spend a whole weekend digging your plot over and then not be able to get out of bed on Monday morning!

Am I prepared for disappointment? Sadly, sometimes things go wrong. After spending much care and attention on a particular crop, it doesn’t produce anything. All sorts of reasons come into play; it doesn’t suit the climate or soil, wildlife devours it, it becomes diseased. Be prepared for the fact that not everything you plant will be successful. Try to learn from your mistakes so that the following year you could try a different approach. Don’t let your failures discourage you – it’s all part of the fun!

What will I do with the produce I grow? Brilliant! You’ve got a bumper crop! Now what are you going to do with it all? Obviously eating it fresh is the best – but sometimes there’s just too much! Believe it or not, some years I get sick of eating raspberries and strawberries! Friends, however, might be delighted to share some of your harvest. Some produce can be frozen as it is, some might need to be cooked in some way before freezing – think soups, purées. Last year I had to invest in a chest freezer just to store my produce. Other produce can be stored for a while, like potatoes, apples and onions or preserved in other ways, like pickling or jams. So when you’re planning what to grow, bear in mind what you’re going to do with all your lovely fruit and veg.

So you’re prepared for the hard work and ready to commit regular time to your allotment. Great! Now you need to decide what you’re going to grow so I will be sharing my tips for planning your plot in a future post. Watch this space!