Having an allotment is not just about growing vegetables and fruit. It is a place to go when you need a break, It is a haven from city life. It is a hobby like no other. It is a garden for those without. It is a place to bring the kids at the weekend, or to sit down with a flask of tea and simply enjoy the view. Some people have them simply for one crop, some people only grow fruit, some people don’t grow food at all and just use their plots for growing flowers.
Myself, I’m growing whatever it is that takes my fancy, whether it be pumpkins, strawberries or some flowers for the bees. I’ve been reading about companion planting lately, a method of gardening where you plant different plants in close proximity which benefit each other, wether it be by pollination, pest control or nutrient uptake. I have planned out a four year crop rotation for my plot, and strict companion planting methods do not necessarily fit into my plan, however, I have planted a few things with other crops in mind. I am growing chives, which I will plant near my carrots as they help deter carrot root fly. I planted borage, beside my strawberries to help encourage pollination and repel pests. I have been growing some marigolds to attract the pesky slugs away from my brassicas, and attract the slugs they do! I started my marigolds about six weeks ago, in pots at home. They germinated well and I moved them out to the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago.
Yesterday, I went to water my plants in the greenhouse, but when I opened it up, my marigolds had all but disappeared! Gone. Eaten. Savaged overnight. There was telltale signs of slugs trails on the soil. Exasperated, I took everything out of the greenhouse, but could not find the culprit. As I was disposing of my destroyed marigolds (sniff), I found a small snail on the side of one of the pots, little bugger. One tiny snail had destroyed all twelve of my marigold plants overnight, so much for moving at a snails pace! I suppose the marigolds did do their job of attracting him away from my other plants, my tiny lettuces were left alone, he did have a nibble of one of my basil plants though. I now have zero marigolds for my allotment. One can only laugh. I got rid of said snail, and made a few beer traps in the greenhouse for future slugs and snails to hopefully fall into.
The windowsills at home are becoming more and more green. The chilli and pepper plants are thriving and I will move them out to the greenhouse in a few weeks. My tomato plants succumbed to whatever illness it was that was killing them, I declared failure, swallowed my pride and bought myself some tomato plants in a garden centre. they’re a far cry form my measly efforts. A few weeks ago, I gave my dad some of my tomato seedlings and his are thriving! I obviously gave him the best ones (that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it). My courgettes germinated in a few days and are thriving so far, I was surprised to see how strong they are. Only half of my sunflowers took, but at least thats better than none and I also spotted a green shoot about to pop up in one of my pumpkin pots. No sign yet of my celery or borlotti beans but patience is the most important tool at my disposal and I need to learn to use it more!
All in all, it’s been a quiet week, we’ve only been up to the plot once, for an hour the other day, we dug out another potato bed and we’ll plant our maincrop spuds this week. They’ve been chitting away since February and have lovely strong green shoots on them.
I took the time to go for a little walk around the site and it’s great to see some of the wonderful plots, It’s amazing just how much the place has changed since early March. Every plot has it’s own personality and you’d be amazed at how many ideas you’ll get and how many people you’ll get chatting to if you walk around. Gardeners seem to be the friendliest bunch, always happy to share some advice, or ask for some when it’s needed. It really is a great community. There was a gazebo on site the other day where they were selling plug plants, they had a great selection, including some unusual varieties. There’s such a great set up on site, the allotment shop has a great selection of all things garden related and the best thing is, all the proceeds go to the Epilepsy Care Foundation so it’s worth buying on site, when possible. You can even buy your shed and they will install it for you. I’m a particular fan of the tea/coffee van that visits every weekend, and last weekend, I spotted an ice cream van on site with a queue of allotmenteers lining up like kids to get their 99’s. I think I’ll stick to my cups of tea for now though, there’s still quite a chill in the air.