For years allotments were out of favour. No-one wanted them, and patches of mud with a shed at one end and weeds everywhere else went to waste. Then suddenly gardening became the new rock and roll, and everyone who didn't want to dig up their lawn wanted their own council-run patch of mud. The waiting lists grew faster than the cabbages. Now, after more than three years on a waiting list, Neil Shaw has been given his own patch of green and pleasant land.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Square roots

Our eldest was six last week and as a present from a friend she got some child-sized gardening tools, so this weekend was a perfect opportunity to try them out.

Right next to the potatoes is half a bed cleared and dug over, but waiting for seeds, so she soon took care of that with her new trowel and rake.

We measured out three rows together then she helped hoe, rake and dig them before sprinkling in a lot of carrot seeds.

She took the colourful plant markers she had been given and carefully wrote "carrots" on each one, along with the date, and stuck them at each end of the row.

A little soil, plenty of water and now we wait to see what will happen.

Part of our desire for an allotment has been to have somewhere for our children to learn plenty of life lessons, and there are few better than growing your own food and just enjoying being out with nature.

They also enjoying hunting and spotting minibeasts, visiting our neighbours chickens, identifying plants (including roobababab) and sketching what they can see around them as well as playing I spy.

Throw in the literacy (writing carrot signs and reading instructions) and numeracy (measuring and creating straight lines) and a few hours on the plot competes well with a few hours at school (plus the sprouts are MUCH better).

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Making progress on the plot

Two weeks off work and a bunch of great weather have done wonders for the plot, if not for my neck and shoulder muscles.

The top patch, which you may remember was cleared in our child-free weekend, was first on the agenda after the Easter break.

It was thoroughly dug (as deep as the nearby tree and raspberry roots would allow), then raked to a fine tilth (is that the word) and finally I planted a lifetime supply of garlic and onion sets in among the herb bushes.

Seriously, there must be 50 garlic cloves and several hundred onions now in the ground waiting to emerge.

I've protected the lot with netting designed to deter the pigeons, who won't eat the crop but will revel in pulling it out of the ground.

About a quarter of the patch is yet to be used, and we plan to get leeks in there and maybe spring onions. There is also room for a raised herb bed.

The patch below last year's potato patch was next up. Cleared of weeds, double dug, couple of trenches in and it's now half full of potatos. Good job, well done. The other half is covered over waiting for a few root veg seeds.

I then managed to bash a couple of panels onto the bigger of our two sheds and have brought that back into use. Still needs a plank and a lock to make it secure, but at least it is now serviceable.

Then came the rhubarb (or roobabababab as my two year old calls it). We cleared all the grass and weeds from among the four or five well-established crowns, surround the patch with some logs and have been watering away for the past few days. The stalks are shooting up and we hope to be enjoying rhubarb crumble and custard from the start of May.

Come the winter we plan to dig up half the crowns and divide them so we get even more rhubarb in the years ahead.

Next, while the other half turned her attention to starting to clear some of the growth and dead wood from around the fruit patch at the bottom, I started to dig last year's potato plot.

As predicted, the ground has been well broken up, so most of the weeds and grasses are already out of the way.

Another hour or two and it will be cleared. A quick dig, a quick rake and we hope to get cabbage, sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower in there within a week or two.

I've also found time to construct a second compost bin (courtesy of another plot holder who was chucking out some pallets) and the other half has planted a whole heap of seeds (30 different types of plant) which are busily growing at home ready to transplant when the time is right.

And she also built a wigwam for peas to grow up, and children to play in, next to the rhubarb bed.

So what's next? At the weekend we want to pick up more seeds. I'm keen to get carrots, parsnips and swede in.

There is one more big bed to clear, up near the top near the compost bins, which we hope to use for salad crops.

The fruit plot at the bottom needs a serious clear-up and we're still trying to get hold of the allotment society's petrol grass trimmer so we can clear around the plot, including the paths.

Plenty to do, but it's looking good. I'll try to get a few pictures as soon as I get a spare minute.