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Welcome to the Beginning

Welcome to my blog, tis bout my fruit & veg growing allotment in Somerset U.K.
I started Allotmenteering seriously in 2009, hoping that it would keep me fit & active after a severe illness. This is the story so far.

N1 Plot 2009
N1 Plot How It Was in 2009
I was allocated a full plot from several new ones that had just been added to my local allotments. The plot had been unused for over 30 years. In fact this particular area of ground was last used when horses & ploughs were working on it. Looking at the type of weeds growing on it I knew it would be fertile and acidic. It was approximately 30 meters long x 15 wide and on a gentle downward slope from the allotment access road to the bank of a drainage ditch & hedgerow at the bottom of the slope.

After the ground where my shed was to go had been leveled and the shed construction was underway, it was time to mark out the various planting areas for fruit & veg, paths & perimeters.

Shed building & marking
out the plot Aug 2009

 The soil from the drainage ditch bank contained oodles of soot (dumped there many years ago). 50% of the bank was leveled & the soil/soot barrowed and spread over the planting areas. The other 50% of the bank was left intact to protect a variety of wildlife (lots of frogs) & wild plants living around the drainage ditch & hedgerow. The planting areas (except for 1) had previously been cleared of weeds by hand & forked over removing debris & large stones.

By the time I had the marking out done, shed, compost & manure bins constructed and the fruit & veg beds dug over it was the middle of October. The weather had been sunny & hot as work continued. I added wooden edging to the individual fruit & veg beds, made from pine offcuts & old pallet wood. (The pine offcuts seemed to deter slugs from sneaking onto the beds)? This could have been due to the rough surfaces of the pine bark or the smell of pine they didn't like? 

 All construction so far had been done using recycled materials except for 1 water barrel, purchased from my local garden centre.

I Love Strawberries

Now was my chance to get some planting done before the onset of Winter. Strawberries, Gooseberries, Black & Red Currents & 4 Goji Berries were planted into the beds at the lower end of the slope, along with 4 rhubarb crowns  which I had split from an old variety crown. I planted onion sets in amongst the strawberries. 
3 fruit trees and 5 blackberry plants had been ordered earlier, for planting out in November. Just after I received delivery of the fruit trees & Blackberry plants the weather took a turn for the worse. Heavy rain and then frost & snow, halted work until the following February. I had managed to get the Blackberry plants planted along the bottom of the plot by the drainage ditch bank, but only one survived the cold Winter. The fruit trees were kept indoors wrapped in moist cardboard until the weather improved. 

 Snow in Somerset Tis too !!
Into 2010         

It was cold wet & snowy throughout December & January so only a few tidying up jobs were done down the plot. In February I began sowing Runner Beans & Sweetcorn in pots (for an early start), keeping the pots as warm as possible inside my shed. By the end of Feb the ground in most of the veg beds was getting dry enough to rake over ready for more seed sowing. In early March I planted the 3 fruit trees I had kept indoors over the Winter. Cucumber seeds were sown into pots and kept in my cold frame. The seeds in several trays being kept indoors had gone spindly so more seeds, Tomatoes, Cabbage, Cauliflowers & Lettuce were sown under cloches directly into their seed beds, along with half a dozen rows of Carrots. 
I had decided to grow most of my veg from seed, a cheaper option than buying plants and less chance of any diseased plants spreading disease on to other plants.
The earlier sown Sweetcorn was planted out and 99 out of 100 of the Runner Beans had germinated and were also planted out. The Sweetcorn plants were kept underneath plastic milk bottles, until a couple of weeks into April, in case of any late frosts.

A couple of frosts in early April, were not severe enough to cause any real damage. As the ground & weather began to warm up more seed sowing was completed. Carrots, Swedes, Cabbage, Peas and (French Beans in May) were all sown into their allotted beds. Several rows of early spuds were sown into the last bed to be cleared of debris at the top of the plot near the road. The soil in this area seemed to be in worse condition than the others so hopefully the spuds would help to “condition” it. Main crop (Maris Piper) were added later.
2010 seemed to be flying by, the weather was generally hot with less than average rainfall, watering was having to be done regularly, even after the plants had a good soaking, a few days later
they were thirsty again!!
By June the Runner beans & Sweetcorn were coming on a treat and I had already been pulling the Crisphead Lettuce. The Strawberries were developing nicely with oodles of berries on the Alpine ones. My 4 Goji Berry plants were showing no signs of producing fruit, (These were 3 years old plants by now). The fruit trees were 1st year, but 1 Apple was developing. By October it was still, yep!!, 1 Apple. Four Pumpkins were growing nicely on top of my manure heap and the Cucumbers were running riot in amongst the Sweetcorn. In general 2010 was a good all round harvest. I was particularly pleased with the quality & amount of fruit which grew. The Runner beans & Sweetcorn were exceptional and the only downside was , 50% of my Carrots were attacked by Carrot fly & several of my outdoor Tomatoes suffered with Blight. About 50% of my Brassicas were only average, so I made a mental note to improve their planting area for 2011. July, August & September continued to be hot and dry and the usual successional planting & sowing continued. In October I planted some overwintering Onions and Cabbage. By the end of October the cold and snow came as everyone in the country will know, it was a fresh Winter. 
The only other downside of 2010 was the lack of photographs I took (or didn’t) down the plot.

Strange Weather Throughout 2011

I’ve decided to speed through 2011 so that I can concentrate on individual “up to date” posts on what’s happening down the plot, on a regular basis.
During 2011 I was working on another allotment, which was overgrown with Bindweed, Withyvine & Couch grass, my time was divided between clearing & re-designing it, as well as working on my own allotment.
The weather at the beginning of this year as most people in UK will know was like Summer. This was a good start for most seeds and plants.

My Runner beans, Lettuce, Onions, Pak-Choi, Strawberries and most other fruit &  veg were off to a flying start. The Carrots didn’t particularly like the warmer conditions and were struggling to germinate, until after a light rain shower gave them a kick start. I had to sow 3 or 4 lots of French Beans before they too germinated at the end of April, early May. The early warm weather also affected my Rhubarb plants, turning the stems soft. I had to remove all of them. Funnily enough this did the trick and I was harvesting massive Rhubarb sticks, regularly,  right through to September.
French Beans 2011 (Slow)
By the end of May, my water barrels were empty and watering with tap water didn’t have the same effect as rainwater.

The cucumbers I had started from seed were dire this year, again I think this was due to lack of rainwater. Surprisingly enough the crop I thought would suffer from the dry conditions was my potatoes, which were better than I expected, especially the “earlies”.
All of the fruit was exceptional, both in quality & abundance in particular the Strawberries, which were delicious.
Although most of the Summer was dull & overcast, apart from a few hours of rain (light drizzle), we didn’t get any significant rainfall until October. A couple of rainy days rejuvenated my Runner beans enabling me to pick several more lots of beans, ideal for the freezer. A very dry year indeed. October & November have been colder, dull, misty and damp with plenty of rain to make up for earlier in the year. A big thankx to Dave
for helping me transport 4 & a half tons of bagged  horse manure onto the plot in his van. The manure was rotavated into the beds ready for next year, just before the weather turned wet at the end of October.

November 2011
Most of my veg has been harvested by now & eaten and enjoyed by the family or stored in the freezer. Cabbages, Sprouts and some Carrots are still in situ and the vacant beds have been manured ready for next year. Mustard is growing well in the bed used for spuds earlier, and this will be rotavated into the soil later as a green manure. Most of the soil is damp now but still “workable”, so this coming week (3rd week in Nov) will be dedicated to weeding and removing dead leaves etc. My Alpine Strawberry plants are still producing quite a few strawberries.

23rd/24th November
Monday & Tuesday of this week it mostly rained so I stayed indoors doing some painting. I was back down the plot on Wednesday afternoon & got some weeding & hoeing done. The soil was damp but still workable helped by a little sunshine it had dried slightly. Quite a pleasant afternoon. Thursday afternoon was much the same, after the first frost on Wednesday night. I planted a few onions,  took 1 large cabbage home with me, for the freezer & enough French Beans for tea. Forgot to take my camera with me again!!

There's always tomorrow!!


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There's Always Tomorrow!!