I started keeping an allotment journal after reading Richard Chivers’ post on the subject last year and it’s been an invaluable tool, so this year I’ve gone a step further and also made an allotment plan and spreadsheet. The plan and spreadsheet’s main purpose is to keep me on top of planting and sowing times, and to keep the feeling of being overwhelmed by the allotment at bay. There’s security in feeling organised.
The spreadsheet lists the vegetables, herbs and flowers we want to plant. Rob hasn’t decided which tomato and pepper varieties he’d like to grow so I’ve noted all that we have so he can choose at a later date. He’s also persuaded me to lighten up on the squash front. I may have been getting a little obsessed with them.
If we keep to the spreadsheet we’ll know when to sow/plant, when to harden off, and when to harvest. I’ve also included a note section for little reminders and pointers to help us along the way.
Last year’s plot plan was very ad hoc, and we made it up as we went along – generally recording beds after they had been dug.
This year we have clearer goals of what we’d like to achieve and we’re trying to be a little more organised. There’s still chance for it all to go to pot, and we’ve learned with allotment gardening that things don’t always go to plan, especially when your site is overrun with rabbits.
The red dotted lines are beds we have yet to build (Bed 7 and 8). Bed 7 is where the old plastic greenhouse once stood and judging by the state of the soil it hasn’t ever been dug before. I’m currently trying to weed out the nettles and bindweed so we can build an asparagus bed there. We have Mondeo and Ariane on pre-order from Thompson & Morgan. In Bed 8 I’d like to experiment with the Three Sisters method of planting. I’ve earmarked Earlibird F1 sweetcorn, Borlotti beans Lingua de Fuoco 2, and two varieties of squash: Delikates and Uchiki Kuri. This bed, however, may have to wait until next year depending on the condition we can get the soil to. If it’s anything like Bed 7 then I’ll be digging through heavy, compacted clay.
Bed 1 was last year’s potato bed. A friend gave us her currant and raspberry bushes at the end of the summer so we rushed to get them into the ground and this was the only available bed. We don’t know what varieties they are but we may have to move them if they don’t do well as this is the wettest part of the plot and first to fall into shade.
Bed 2 had courgette and Jerusalem artichokes in it last year, but we weren’t keen on the artichokes so have decided against growing them again. We still need to dig the bed to remove any stray tubers. This year we’ll use the bed as a nursery bed, and overspill bed – and I think Rob would like to grow some mangelwurzels so this could be where they end up.
Bed 3 already has onions in it, but I didn’t make a note in my journal of which variety after writing the planting label. I’ll try and remember to look next time I’m at the plot. I also suspect mice have taken up residence in this bed after eating last year’s Brussel sprouts. We’ve netted the onions as they’ve been nibbled by rabbits and deer (and possibly the mice), but we’re not really sure what will become of them.
Bed 4 and 5 have been commandeered for my squash and pumpkin habit. I originally had plans for five squash beds but Rob has talked me down so I’ll save some varieties for next year. This year I want to grow Turk’s Turban, Vegetable Spaghetti and Honey Bear F1 alongside pumpkin Polar Bear F1.
Bed 6 will be our brassica bed with broccoli Raab ’60 Days’, Swiss chard Bright Lights, kale Nero di Toscana, and Pak Choi White Hybrid F1. I’d also like to squeeze in a couple of sunflowers Helianthus Red on the end.
If all goes well and according to plan we hope to have a planter with sweet peas Best of British growing up the east side of the shed, and two hanging baskets on the south facing side with tomato Balconi Red, and pepper Sweet Sunshine F1. We also hope to grow some tomato and peppers in the greenhouse alongside a Black Beauty aubergine. This depends on the state of the greenhouse. It’s on the list of jobs to do as it currently lacks panes and the door doesn’t open!
We hope to convert what is left of the sinkhole into a wildlife pond or bog garden, but we’ve pencilled that in for next year. Writing this post has made me realise just how much work lies ahead of us. Ultimately, we want to keep allotment gardening fun and as stress free as possible so whatever doesn’t get dug or built this year will get done next year instead.