For the first time this year, I have been to the allotment. Mr C has made several visits over the winter so it was exciting to see the difference and admire his hard work. So much has happened there, and the recent (unexpectedly) warm weather meant we had a whole afternoon there on Sunday. Compared to last winter, it wasn’t anywhere near as muddy. This time last year we sunk ankle deep in the mud, but thankfully it’s just a bit damp now.
The original shed now has a rather lovely potting bench under the window, built from leftover pallet wood from the shed construction and some reclaimed worktops. The only cost was a few screws! It certainly neatens the place up.
We also got another shed that the chickens will live in once a couple more adaptations have been made (a door cut in the side with a little ramp, and a nesting box!) Mr C has built a decent sized run for them between the sheds, so they are near the water, which will make it easier to look after them there. It also uses the space well as the gap between the sheds isn’t really a growing space so it made sense to give it to the chickens. The main shed window still gets full light, so the potting bench can be used well. All we need now is a super name for the new chicken house, ‘poultry paradise’ sounds a tad cheesy! (That massive shed cost all of £25 as Mr C was asked to move it and got given first dibs!)
Around the base of the run you can see mesh that has been buried. That is hopefully to stop foxes digging into the run (at least we’ve tried). The same mesh has also been used to make tree protectors, as either rabbits or deer have been nibbling our trees.
As well as the structures on the allotment, some of our attention has had to turn to the plants. Our delivery from a plant supplier arrived and needed dealing with fast! We were fortunate that the weather was on our side, and Saturday was spent planting strawberries in pots and dealing with blackberry canes. Lots of fun was had by the children using the compost we fetched from our (free but legit!) local source on Friday. The strawberries are residing in the greenhouse for now and the blackberries have a temporary home on the patio whilst we plan out the allotment properly.
Our delivery also contained raspberry canes, which we planted straight out on the plot on Sunday. We roughly planned where they would go, and marked out paths using planks of wood to hopefully prevent the children from going on there and breaking them. (At the moment they look like a lot of sticks poking out of the ground and they’re not easy to spot, hopefully the path will stop me tripping over them and breaking them too!)
Before I did any planting, I tidied up the allotment, gathering up any stray bamboo cane structures from last year and pulling up the dead weeds. I also moved the raised beds to one side so that the soil can be rotavated in a few weeks. Deciding exactly how much to tidy was quite tricky, as things like the straw which we had on one of the beds will actually rotavate in quite nicely. In the end I went for ‘get rid of the scruffiest bits’.
It’s amazing what you can manage in a few hours, and we feel more ready for planting in the spring now we’ve got it tidy and more organised. Little things like the potting bench make a big difference, although I think I’ll still do a good chunk of the initial seed work at home as I can squeeze it in around the children. (By the way, their contribution to the tidy up was putting about 3 weeds each into the wheelbarrow before disappearing to play football. They returned to ask for wheelbarrow rides just as I was putting it back into the shed!) Our next big task is to draw up an official plan for planting, and consult with the children about what they’d like to grow.
Several times in this post I mentioned the cost of things, as we are trying really hard to source things cheaply and locally, and also repurpose things that may be seen as ‘rubbish’ to others, such as the wire mesh used around the trees. We are lucky that our neighbour, also a keen allotmenteer, has done a bit of trading with us and lent us tools (like a post hole borer for putting in the chicken run). By keeping down unnecessary costs, we will then be able to buy other things that we can’t get so easily. (I’m trying to avoid buying too many plastic consumables, and use natural sources where possible, such as the peat pots we picked up cheaply at the end of last summer.)
I’m not entirely sure that winter is done with us yet, so any more plant work can wait. I feel much better now I’ve been back there and can think about what we want to do this year. We are hoping that this little redcurrant hasn’t poked it’s leaves out too soon!
How’s everything on your plot? What kinds of jobs do you do in February to prepare for the year ahead? Please share, I’d love to hear.