It came as rather a shock when in September 2010 I had a call from the council asking if I was still interested in an allotment. I had been on the waiting list for 4 years and had completely forgotten all about it. Unfortunately the allotment was situated about 10 miles away, but despite that I jumped at the chance.
It was clear that the plot hadn’t been worked for a couple of years at least. It was extremely over-grown and strewn with garden rubbish, the only living things were rather impressive thistles, rampant Bindweed and what turned out to be a few sickly Gooseberry bushes.
After consulting Martin, Pat and the rest of the team, I was advised to spray everything with a good dose of weed killer before attempting to dig it over. This is exactly what I did and a few weeks later the weeds were dead and I started to dig each bed in turn (there are 4 altogether). My plan was to concentrate on a couple of beds so that I could start growing some autumn onions and garlic and have a bed ready to go for potatoes in the spring.
After removing bucketfuls of perennial weeds and roots (especially Bindweed) I was able to sow my potato bed with Caliente Mustard to act as a green manure and left it over winter to do its stuff. The other bed I dug over and added in liberal amounts of Organic Extra in preparation for my onions and garlic.
I was delighted to finally meet some of my neighbouring plot holders and extremely grateful to David who lent me his rotavator which saved loads of time and my back!
Despite my plot looking a complete mess and still needing a load of work, I decided that it was more important to concentrate on getting something into the ground as soon as possible. In November I planted several rows of Onion Red Cross sets as well as a row of Garlic Provence Wight and our new Garlic Red Sicilian.
Pretty much everything survived the winter (some of the garlic didn’t make it) and I was able to start gardening in earnest from February onwards.
One weekend was spent helping myself to well rotted manure from a local riding stables, it was back breaking work and because we’d had about a month of rain, the manure was sodden and incredibly heavy. You can imagine my dismay as an estate car load of sacks barely covered one third of one bed!
From then on, I decided that that Organic Extra was a far better solution - not only is it concentrated but it comes in buckets with a re-sealable lid so I can use it whenever I want!
I followed my autumn planting with three rows of heat prepared Onion Hyred sets (I’m interested to see if there is any benefit from autumn sowing onions and garlic – there is plenty of office debate about this), some Calebrese Marathon plants and Garlic Solent Wight and Lautrec Wight. I planted the garlic in one of our new Gro-Beds as an experiment, these could be perfect for growing garlic - especially if you have heavy soil. I was told by an expert that garlic enjoys well drained soil but loads of water. Apparently in the wild, garlic grows best in poor soil high up near the snow line where it benefits from a steady drip of water which quickly drains away...