A day-to-day guide to creating an allotment garden from a starting point of absolutely no knowledge and no experience.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Overnight it has snowed in New Malden - quite heavily in fact. I wonder how the crops are coping but I don't get the chance to check them out. I am in the middle of chopping down a tree in my back garden - and pruning another one. It has left me with a lot of branches to chop into firewood which means I haven't got much time to spare. I do keep checking to see if the skip that was promised for the end of February has materialised but nothing so far. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I have some jobs to finish off before a brief half-term break in Paris. I finish digging the last bed and then lay down two barrow-loads of manure over the top of it. I'm planning to put some of the potatoes in here. Because I have recklessly been throwing the top layer of soil into the two neighbouring overgrown plots, it looks like there's been a war going on round this part of the plot. My hope is that no-one else will ever venture down this far. I then weed among the onions and broad beans. I haven't got a very good hoe so I use my son's Bill and Ben handfork instead. It looks much neater after I've finished and I then top dress both crops with chicken manure pellets. I did it last year as it is supposed to give them a boost after the winter and so I use up the remaining pellets and scatter them around the individual bean plants and onion bulbs. Let's hope there are enough pellets to give the crops the kick-start they need. I won't be seeing the plot for more than a week now. I hope I'm pleasantly surprised when I next walk down there.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I am determined to finish clearing the last overgrown bed today. I still have a heavy cold which makes the job that little bit more difficult. The plot directly behind mine is empty and overgrown and because this last bed borders it,I have been a bit naughty. I have been digging up the top layer of soil - usually a big sod of grass - and then throwing it over the fence into the neighbouring plot. Not exemplary behaviour I grant you but then I think all sorts of rubbish was dumped on my plot when it was vacant. At one point I nearly do myself an injury. The clod is so heavy, it tears the fork from my hands which flies over the fence too - smashing me on the chin on its way down. I dust myself off and retrieve the fork and carry on. I am sure that some plot holders can see my offence. Joyce and Eric come to say hello and I look guiltily at all the clods of soil on neighbouring plots. Ah well. I nearly manage to clear the whole bed. I have about a square foot left to do. Then I will throw down some manure on the bed which is destined to be a potato bed. When I get home, I have had answers to my questions from the experts at the HDRA. They tell me that my small potato crop was not necessarily down to lack of water and offer some advice for this year. The e-mail also says it is not necessary to chit my maincrop of potatoes but that it doesn't do any harm. They will stay in the bedroom in that case. The expert also says that I should not harvest my stolen rhubarb in its first year. I'd guessed as much. It just means I'll have to put my thieving skills back into practice at harvest time.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I use a spare 40 minute-spell to tidy up the strawberry plants a bit. I cut off all the dead leaves and pull up any bits of grass growing between the plants. I really will have to buy a good hoe to help me stay on top of the weeds this season. I then spend the rest of my time chasing after a cat which is possibly one that has been missing in the area for a while. It doesn't let me get close but I ring the owner to report the possible sighting. Tomorrow I intend to finish digging the last remaining overgrown bed.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

My hunt for egg boxes is successful - a local corner shop gives me two big trays, although the man behind the counter looks suspicious when I tell him they are for my potatoes. There is just about enough space for my maincrop. The earlies go shoulder-to-shoulder in a couple of seed trays. I stand them on the end of a z-bed in the spare room and then turn the radiator off so they stay cool. I'll be keeping a close eye on them over the coming weeks.

The potatoes are ready to chit away

Saturday, February 05, 2005

We go to Wisley where they are holding a Vegetable Question Time with a panel of experts. Among the panel is a bloke who is an expert on seed potatoes and I intend to ask two questions: Why were my King Edwards so small this year? Was it because I didn't water them enough. If so can they recommend a better variety of maincrop to grow this year. My other question is about whether recently divided rhubarb can be eaten in the first year. Unfortunately, I don't get to ask either of my questions. Lots of OAPs beat me to it and in the end I get tired of waiting for my turn and when the questioning turns to how to grow Chinese artichokes I go and join the rest of my family. The plant centre is selling a huge variety of seed potatoes and I buy 3kg of Maris Bard earlies - the same variety that I grew so successfully last year. I then opt for two 3Kg bags of Sante variety for my maincrop. It says it is slug resistant and, although it is not drought resistant at least it is not susceptible to drought as King Edwards are. I'm hopeful this will mean bigger spuds this season. I now need to chit them out. Since doing this last year, my two boys are now sharing the loft room, so that leaves me Matt's old room as a chitting room. I just need to get hold of a lot of egg boxes. I'll start my hunt tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I set off to finish manuring the two beds but some bad news about a work colleague means I come home shortly after starting.
I manage to sneak down later on for half-an-hour. It is enough time to finish putting manure down on the second of the two empty beds. Three well-filled wheelbarrows are enough to complete the job. This is where I'm planning to put the potatoes this year so the manure is going to help a lot. The only bed still to tackle is the one at the very back that I have not even dug over yet. I've got a few days off work coming up so I should be able to get it done. I dig up some parsnips - I can't believe the plot is still producing crops in February. Amazing.

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