I suppose it was inevitable really. Having spent more time up at the allotment – mostly in a fine drizzle – I’ve decided I need to leave a little more space at the rear of the plot, both for the utility area (compost bins, comfrey, log pile) and for a seating area. It’s not really very different, I just swap the back two pairs of beds for a single pair of slightly wider beds, so that the two back left hand pair of 1m x 2m beds become a single 1.2m x 4m bed and the right hand pair of 1m x 2m beds become a single 1.2m x 3.6m bed. I wind up with a slightly larger planting area, albeit no longer roughly north-south aligned, which will be ideal for potatoes and brassicas that will be long time in the ground like sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli. A picture makes it a lot clearer:

Revised Planting Plan
(Click for full size version, but good luck reading my handwriting...)

Its all very well having it neatly laid out on paper, but with the seed and potato order in I need to get the plot ready for planting. Which would be fine if the weather would co-operate! The allotments have pretty good drainage, so in the early part of last week I was able to get out and finish rough digging the first bed area. I was even blinded by the sun much of the time, not that I’m complaining about that you understand, but as you can see by the photo below the skies had darkened to what has become the typical leaden grey by the time I left.

First Completed Rough Dug Bed

The next day was wet, so of course I decided it was the perfect opportunity to take the new storage bench up and assemble it. After all, I wouldn’t want to waste a dry day on that, now would I… As the new compost bins had also arrived I loaded up Cameron and headed up there in steady drizzle, armed with the combination to the gate.

Cameron Delivers

So convenient to be able to park right next to the plot, although apparently if you do this on a Saturday the cars of the parents yelling at their kids on the neighbouring football fields block the gate in, so you are stuck for the duration.

I wasn’t the only one lunatic enough to be up there in such dreary weather. I met a woman who was determined to plant her bargain shallots and asparagus crowns, but who was happy to chat about plot layouts. She confided that she was viewed as a bit of an oddity by the old-timers, for her love of growing annuals amongst her vegetables, so she was delighted when I confessed I planned two strips of cutting garden.

First out of the van were the new bargain compost bins – a generous 330l capacity with a bottom access hatch, £17 each or two for £25.50. Not really surprising that several other plots have clearly taken advantage of the same council-subsidised offer. Not pretty, but very practical, and not having to build them means I can concentrate on preparing the ground.

Compost Bins

I can’t set them up just yet. The line you can see above running through the rough grass indicates the back boundary of my plot. In amongst the rampant couch grass lie half a dozen strawberry plants, which need to be rescued and re-planted. Which means I need to get the bed they are to be planted in ready. Which means waiting until the ground is workable again. So at the moment I am piling up the compostable material in a corner, not that there is much of this so far, as I can’t compost couch grass! But at least they are there, ready and waiting.

Next out of the van was the storage bench. I had harboured dreams of having a lovely wooden affair. There are some great wooden storage benches out there, some even made from hardwood from a sustainable source, but they are all expensive and would be spoilt by adding a hasp for a padlock. Fortunately MIL and FIL called in to Costco en route for a weekend of feasting with family, and spotted a cheap plastic version complete with locking point. Its not pretty, but it is practical. The sight of me wrestling with large pieces of plastic, pulling the increasingly damp and battered instruction booklet out of my pocket every five minutes, caused much amusement to another fellow allotment holder, but I did get it assembled.

The Bench
Inside The Bench

As I said, not the prettiest of items, but very functional – I can get all the tools I need plus landscaping fabric, netting, soil tester etc. in there, and when I get organised I will add a box with mugs, teabags, UHT milk and our small stove for refreshments. Oh, and I also need a cloth to dry the seat with, gardening with a damp bum is not my idea of fun!

I dug out the weeds and put down weed suppressing membrane before I put the bench in place, but I still need to work out what to do with the rest of the area. When I have marked out and dug the back right bed I will be left with a strip of soil followed by a narrow grass path followed by the bench – too many different levels to be useful. I’m thinking about removing the grass so that I can level the whole area to the edge of the bed. Then perhaps I could either sow with fresh grass seed or cover it with landscaping fabric and then perhaps bark chippings. For now, though, I have somewhere to rest my weary bones and admire my emerging kingdom and somewhere to store tools and other essentials. Next challenge, marking up the first beds and creating some paths between them. Weather permitting…

32 thoughts on “The emerging anatomy of my allotment

  1. Nice to see you getting it all under control – our lawn needs renewing and I’m considering a kitche garden instead – not as much space as you have but i’m looking forwrd to the challenge

    1. I think replacing lawn with a kitchen garden sounds perfect! But then I always think that grass in a small garden is a waste of growing space ;-) Good luck!

  2. Janet, I admire so much your energy and enthusiasm – your plans are so exciting. Those compost bins look just the thing for an allotment. The storage bench seems like an excellent idea.

    1. Hi Cyndy, thank you. I really love being up there, it is a beautiful location and even in the wind and the rain it makes my heart sing.

  3. If you have anything too expensive on your plot it may just walk.

    I’m odd too as I have annuals growing amongst my vegetables and some perennials too!

    1. Hi Sue. Three cheers for us oddities then! I don’t see why it can’t be pretty as well as productive, and anyway, all those insects are great to attract in.

      PS Am feeling quite excited about planting Dahlias and mulching them as you do…

  4. Janet, You’ve made wonderful progress! I like the bench and the bins look perfect to me~Before long the garden will be growing and you won’t notice anything else! gail

    1. That’s the plan! I am wandering around the house doing chores but actually my head is full of visions of my plot in full production…

    1. I was jealous for ages, then I got my piece of dirt to play with! Hang in there, glad you are extracting vicarious enjoyment from my adventures.

  5. The patient gardener was also drawing up plans for her plot the other day. Now when I also read your post today Janet I realise that I have been missing out. Keep up the good work, I will probably progress to planting a few salad greens and maybe a carrot or two between the perennials. Oh just thinking about Dahlias again, I have 100% success storing Begonias in the loft, next time I have Dahlias that’s where I will put them.

    1. I know, Helen and I are travelling similar roads at the moment – I’m hoping to learn from her…

      And do plant some edibles amongst the pretties, they can be very pretty too, but you get to eat them. Peas, Dwarf French Beans, coloured salad leaves, Pak Choi, all very productive and delicious but also lovely.

      Good luck with the Dahlia storage – I am going to try Sue’s approach of leaving them in the ground but mulching with straw and plastic.

  6. That looked like a good plan for your lot. But its hard work all the way! Here have been raining too and I just work like mad when we had a break before it starts raining again. Good luck and happy gardening. Looking forward to see changes to the lot!

    1. Indeed – hence my little and often approach, to avoid outright exhaustion… Now if it would only stop raining for long enough for me to get some digging in…

  7. I think that little bench is brilliant and it looks good too. OK if you drink too much coffee when you’re down on the allotment – are there WC’s nearby????????????

    1. Hi Rosie, you have hit on the flaw in my plan… There are plans for loos in the future but who knows how long that will take. I asked whether anyone had thought about setting up a couple of composting loos, but this didn’t go down well. I suspect in summer people walk 5 mins to the local pub, have a pint and use their loos. In the mean time, care has to be taken to limit fluid uptake!

  8. So wonderful that you can work the soil already. Of course mine is hard as a rock and will be so until late March. Not to mention it’s covered with about seven inches of snow! Your description of your plans is entertaining and helpful.

    1. So glad I don’t have that depth of snow here, that really would put paid to my plans! Glad to entertain. Actually sunny today so hoping to get some serious digging done.

  9. The bench looks great, It is great to see how your allotment is taking form! I so wish I had a space like that too.
    Keep us posted on how it develops.

    1. Hi fer, I’ll certainly keep you all up to date with progress – and setbacks, which I’m sure will occur…

  10. Your allotment is shaping up quite well. I like your bench, perfect with the storage in the seat. Good luck rescuing the strawberries from all that grass….what a task!

    ps- Will send you the bread recipe from my other computer later today. My sourdough came out quite well even though the water evaporated before it was done. About to do another loaf.

    1. Hi Janet. Turns out there is weed suppressant fabric under all that grass, so I’ve extracted four of the strawberry plants and brought them back to pot up until I can plant them out in their new home, enabling me to set up the compost bins. So now I can really get going on clearing the plot!

      Glad to hear the sourdough worked out well, its amazing how the water evaporates isn’t it. Good luck with the next loaf, will look forward to recipe.

  11. aloha

    what a detailed drawing…now comes the fun part, digging in the dirt and getting your hands dirty :)

    thanks for sharing that and showing us your garden today

    1. I’m never happier than with dirt under the fingernails and gently aching muscles from working the earth!

  12. Quite interesting on your allotment. In 2006 my friend and I flew to Edinburgh (from the States) where we stayed for 5 days, then took the train to London. All along the way we saw the allotments. This practice was quite new to me coming from farming country. Backyard gardening is quite popular here. Allotment gardening just seems so efficient. I enjoyed your plan. cheers. ann

    1. Hi Ann. Allotments are a wonderful way for people with no or small gardens to grow things, and as an escape from a very built up area too. I know what you mean about seeing loads of allotments on train journeys over here – I love the eclectic mix of styles and the outrageous constructions people create as sheds and greenhouses.

  13. Boy, you have gone into this project at an amazing pace and have accomplished so much. I guess the waiting really energized you.

    1. A lot of pent-up frustration at not being able to grow many edibles is currently being taken out on the couch grass and dandelions!

  14. Posts like these are candy! I think your compost bins and tool bench are great (and you can always paint them if you want them to be aesthetic). I love hearing about potatoes (still need to order those), shallots, asparagus, and brassicas.

    1. Hi Wendy, thanks for visiting. The bench is really useful – and comfy too!

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