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End of first season on Plot 12A


By balcony


End of first season on Plot 12A

I’m now coming to the end of my first season on the new half plot I got from the Town Council on the 1st of September 2011.

Even if I dare say so myself, I’ve done quite a bit of work & transformed it completely! There’s little to see in the way of plantings as I’ve been concentrating on clearing away the very old overgrown Raspberry beds. Thanks to an exceptionally mild & dry November I’ve been able to do much more than I could have ever imagined when I took the plot on four months ago!

Ex-Raspberry plot 1st to be dug & manured

All the Raspberry beds have been dug out & the roots removed. The couch grass (twitch) has been dug out as much as possible, but, as we all know, for as much as you try to remove every tiny trace of root, lots always remains & in the spring I expect it will be as green as a bowling green! The very first bed I dug up has sprouted a generous crop of grass!

First & second beds dug & manured

It is hard work, very hard work clearing away the Raspberry canes & even worse digging out the Couch grass! As my back isn’t in very good condition I have to stop for a breath & a rest after practically every forkful!!! It’s a real fight trying to get the grass roots apart sufficiently so as to be able to lift the mass out of the soil. I have to rock the fork backwards & forwards several times on two sides before I can get down to getting the spit of soil & roots out! An exhausting task, even for a person half my age!

The “First bed” refers to the very first bed I dug up & manured. It wasn’t part of the Raspberry beds. The “Second bed” is the first of the Raspberry beds to be dug up & manured. Hope that clears up doubts as to the numbering of the beds!

The “First bed” was planted with a few Strawberry plants at its far end whereas none of the old Raspberry beds have anything planted in them. This bed is also at the furthest end of my half plot, there is a division put up by the council gardeners which is clearly visible in the photos.

Third bed dug & manured

This is actually the “Second bed” of the old Raspberry beds. It’s the third bed from the end of the plot. There’s nothing planted in it at present.

View of bed alongside Compost heap

Here is where my plot (12A) actually starts. The main path for cars & dividing the allotments field in two down the centre is on the far side of my compost heap. I will have to do something about it in a few months’ time as it is far too big at present. Dividing it into two/three parts seems to me to be the most sensible thing to do. First I will have to empty it! Unfortunately it is totally infested with Bindweed!

Horse manure being dug in

This is the very first bed from the beginning of the plot. It was really choked up with Bindweed & Couch grass. I dug it all over trying to remove as much of the roots as possible. Later I dug it over a 2nd time adding the horse manure.

Bed finished digging in manure

It took me two days work but now it’s finished! That was just digging in the manure!

View of manured section

A couple of weeks later the 2 beds here are finished & the manuring has been finished. The 2nd bed was full of several rows of Onion sets. After weeding them & getting out as much as was possible of the Bindweed roots I pulled the loosened soil up around the necks of the plants to stabilize them. Since then I’ve mulched them with soil improver & they look 100% better!

Strawberry plants just planted out

These Strawberry plants come mostly from the plants that Gerry had in pots in his GH at home. He brought them down to the GH on the allotment where they spent about 6 months. I put them outside when they started to flower but brought them inside again when the runners started to root into the grass around the GH! I put the runners into pots & pegged down other that hadn’t rooted yet. That way I got a whole load of new plants to put in this bed.

Strawberries mulched with soil improver

A couple of weeks later Gerry brought a load of sacks of Soil Improver down to the allotment & I used a couple of sacks to mulch around the Strawberries & the Calendulas.

Calendulas & Strawberry plants on Christmas Eve

Here is the most up to date photo I have of this bed which was taken on Christmas Eve.

To end this blog I’m including a series of photos of the bed that contained Leeks, Beetroot, Carrot & Onion seedlings when I took over the tenancy in September.

Leeks, Beetroot, Carrot & Onion seedlings 16th September

Leeks, Beetroot, Carrot & Onion seedlings 5th October

Leeks, Beetroot, Carrot & Onion seedlings 23rd November

Leeks, Beetroot, Carrot & Onion seedlings 3rd December

Leeks, Beetroot, Carrot & Onion seedlings Christmas Eve

Sometime in the New Year I will continue to make updates but almost certainly the next “Episode” in this “saga” won’t be until Spring is officially here!

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Lots of hard work gone into your plot Balcony...well worth it though..:o))

26 Dec, 2011


Oh my word, you are right about couch grass and bind weed, Balcony - I don't ever think I shall be rid of them, however hard and long and deep I dig, and my back isn't getting any younger, either! I am almost inclined to let both of them get going and well under way and use a weedkiller like Roundup to get rid of the deepseated roots as well, but our manure, how ever well rotted, comes from the cowshed, and is absolutely FULL of grass seed. The latest alien to make it's way into the vegetable garden is the dreaded equisetum, and I'm DEFINITELY, however unwillingly, going to use every chemical in the book to get rid of that one - you just can't dig it out.
What variety of strawberry have you got? They look lovely healthy plants. As with so many things here, strawberries come with no details attached, and the past couple of years we've had a pretty good crop, but the flavour has been really disappointing, so I've dug them out. I'd quite like to import something better. Any suggestions?

27 Dec, 2011


You have done well in a very short time Balcony. I know, it took me 3 years to clear my plot overgrown with Couch Grass and Brambles. If you have a Border Fork, which is smaller, its easier to use to fork out the Couch Grass roots when the ground dries up in April. I leave these roots on the surface to dry then rake them up for the bonfire. There are still odd patches for next year !
Thompson & Morgan have a good selection of Strawberry plants in their catalogue, fruiting right through the summer until Autumn. Best get a few of each, and label them. I knew some gardeners years ago who had a shelf under the eave of their greenhouse. They made a 5" deep wooden 'planter' with Levington compost in, and had fresh Strawberries from March onwards. The GH was in a sheltered garden and got lots of warmth from the sun.

27 Dec, 2011


No problems with lack of warmth and sun here, Diane - probably the opposite! I need drought tolerant strawbs, if anything! Not too keen on using T & M - bad track record as far as I'm concerned.

27 Dec, 2011


Well done, Balcony.

You and Gerry work so very hard on the allotments, and great to see the successes you've had :o)

27 Dec, 2011


I am very impressed Balcony.....I have been in Christmas cooking mode for weeks......looking forward to garden mode soon. :o))))

27 Dec, 2011


You are going to hate me for this - it's 24°c out in the garden, and gorgeously sunny, and I'm off out to dig over the parsnip bed, move more raspberry canes and prune some fruit trees! I tell you, Balcony, I could use some of yours and Gerry's energy here! We still have tubs of flowers - ok, they're looking a bit ragged now, but they are still going, despite the snow.
I need to ask you - what exactly IS soil improver, and where do you get it from?

27 Dec, 2011


You really have taken advantage of the calm weather, Balcony, you have done a fantastic job so far, however that couch grass is going to be a curse! Maybe it'll be easier to dig when the ground has dried up a little bit!

27 Dec, 2011


Thanks a lot to all for contributing with your comments, it's always encouraging to get people's views! :-))

@ Joanella: Yes, lots of HARD work gone into licking those beds into shape! Nevertheless, as you rightly say, it will be worth it in the long run! :-))

@ Gattina: Sorry to disappoint you but I don't know what variety the Strawberries are. Gerry had them growing for a couple of years in his GH at home before bringing them down to the allotment.

Some of the plants are Alpine Strawberries that a member of GoY sent me last spring. Some are also from a windowsill starter kit I bought from the 99p shop in town.

Regards your equisetum I did a search & one of the pages I came across was this one:

I saw them in the Cambridge Botanical Gardens a couple of years ago. The page above also mentions that they can be seen there!

@ Dianebulley: Thanks for that piece of advice on how to deal with the couch grass roots. We do have a smaller fork & I'll see about using it as you suggest in the spring.

@ TT: thanks for reading my blog: :-))

@ Linda: Today for the first time in many months my wife has done the cooking & I've been able to have a rest from the kitchen! She made a Spanish Paella. Though truth be told it tasted very little of anything as you can't use the same ingredients like in Spain. :-(( Not my wife's fault as in Spain she made some lovely Paellas which everybody enjoyed!

@ Gattina: "... what exactly IS soil improver, and where do you get it from?" Soil conditioner is what the local council call the composted remains of the garden rubbish they collect all around town & probably from many of the small villages around. The compost all the contents of the green wheelie bins from peoples gardens. This is then composted on an industrial scale. When the process is complete the composted material is supposed to reach temps high enough to kill off all bacteria & insects in the soil as well as all weed seeds. What is left is supposed to be a sterile black compost that has no food value & so is just used to improve your garden soil. Thus the name "Soil Improver". It is mainly used as a mulch I suppose. This is the first time we have used it hence my use of "supposed" used so frequently. I can't tell you for the time being if it is as sterile as they say or if there are weed seeds & harmful organisms in it. I imagine it's as they say or they could find themselves in a lot of trouble. It is provided free of charge & without any set limits - at least for the moment. I'll keep everybody informed of our experience of it in my blogs next year.

@ Libet: I expect it will be very, very difficult to eliminate both the Couch grass & the Bindweed! Believe me when I say I'm under no illusion that I've dug it all out! I fully expect to have to battle with them both for years to come. :-((

27 Dec, 2011


Wow what a difference you've made already. Sounds like you've been working very hard. I really don't envy you digging out all the raspberry roots and couch grass. Not an easy task.

Your council provide it free of charge. Our council provide compost rather than a soil improver. Similar system to your council, they compost the collected garden waste on an industrial scale. But rather than providing it free they charge £2 a bag, think they are 25litres. So much cheaper than anything else you can get though.

I'll look forward to the next installment in the 'saga' :))

27 Dec, 2011


Oh Bother! That council initiative sounds like a pretty good idea to me - even paying £2 a bag isn't outrageous. I just don't think Ryanair would be happy if I put it in my luggage.......

27 Dec, 2011


@ Samjp: As you say it was VERY HARD work digging out the Raspberry & Couch grass roots & I had to take it slowly to avoid hurting my back any further.

It would seem we are fortunate then that our council doesn't charge for the soil improver! :-)) But as you say £2 isn't an excessive amount - for a garden where a few sacks go a long way, but on an allotment you soon realize that a DOZEN sacks don't go all that far!

@ Gattina: I don't think Ryanair would be very happy either! It has one good feature in that it doesn't smell much! On the other hand with the prices that Ryanair is now charging for luggage is skyhigh so perhaps it wouldn't work out very economical for YOU! LOL! :-D)

28 Dec, 2011


I'm going back to my first love:- BA. They are stars as far as I'm concerned. I still don't think I'd get very far with the soil improver, though.

28 Dec, 2011


Any good strong backs you can draft to help with the heavy work?

£2 is a pretty good buy really, for the garden that is. I don't even want to imagine how many bags you'd need for the allotment lol.

Lol Gattina I would love to see the look on the airline staffs faces if you tried taking bags of compost. Could be pretty entertaining, not very economical though with the luggage charges.

28 Dec, 2011


We have a friend (the turkey provider) who commutes every week to and from London to Bologna and back, so the BA staff know him really well. You should see the things he brings through with his luggage! Bare-rooted fruit trees; a set of spare wheels for the SmartCar, fertilised poultry eggs for rearing; live ammunition for his shotgun (this last with full permission from BA, which surprised us, but it had to travel in the hold luggage), my new breadmaker; whole stalks of brussel sprouts, joints of British lamb; etc., etc.,.Maybe soil improver might not be the problem it would seem. (!)

29 Dec, 2011


Certainly worth all the hard work Balcony the beds look so full of promise, and not a blade of Couch Grass to be seen, look forward to seeing your rewards as they start to appear;0)

29 Dec, 2011


@Gattina: Live ammunition - that did surprise me!!!

@PP: Or you forgot to put your specs on or you haven't looked at the very first photo, or the 2nd or indeed the third - there're plenty of grass blades there for you! LOL! :-D)

29 Dec, 2011


It's a lot of back-acheing work digging out bindweed and couch grass ..... and you've got such an area to do. It will be worth the effort next year when you harvest your crops. I wonderif you've kept any of the raspberies ...

30 Dec, 2011


You are quite right, Hywel, it was a lot of back breaking work! Still, the great majority is now done & much earlier than I expected, thanks to such a mild November. :-))

I certainly hope it will be worth the effort next year as each bed has been dug over twice, once to get rid of the Raspberries & Couch grass, than a 2nd time to dig in the horse & chicken manure. Then I've covered the beds with the soil conditioner to try to stop any weeds from coming through before I plant anything in them & to keep the soil a little warmer so as to speed up the rotting process of the manures.

No, I haven't kept any of the Raspberries, I dug them all up & as much of their roots as I possibly could in the hope I won't have to do any more in the future. They were really old plants & very overgrown. They looked as if they hadn't had any attention for some years. Nevertheless there are a few plants that I haven't dug up - yet! These are plants that I cut back with the how when I first started trying to clean up a portion of the plot around the bean stand. The plants started to make some growth again but I haven't touched them any more. They are sitting in a "sea" of Couch grass so I'm afraid they will have to come up at some time, when I don't know, but I can't allow the grass to continue or it will overrun what I've already put a lot of effort into cleaning.

There are lots on Gerry's plots & last year I ate so many my face began to look like a raspberry I'm sure! LOL!

I spent a few hours on my new plot yesterday & today. I haven't got any more horse manure at present although there's lots of chicken manure still. I spent a fair bit of time digging out the compost heap. When I took over the plot in September from the previous tenant the heap was very badly overgrown with Bindweed, as you will have seen from the photo above, it also had a wasps' nest in it! I decided that I was in hurry to clean out the heap now that I had plenty of manure so I left it until I was sure the wasps had died with the cold of winter before starting to dig it out.

As I dig out every spadeful I put it in the small wheelbarrow & then do my best to remove even the very smallest piece of bindweed root before dumping the compost on an old carpet Gerry brought down a few weeks ago to my allotment. He said perhaps I could cut it up into strips to use as paths between the beds. As I hadn't got around to doing that I thought it would be a good idea to use the carpet to keep the compost off the soil till I decide where I'm going to use it. I've discovered that by dumping it there I find pieces of root that I didn't see in the WB. I have cleared out about 1/3rd of the heap & will have to continue during the next week or two or three, depending on the weather.

31 Dec, 2011


Wow Gattina, I'm amazed how much your friend has taken on BA, live amunition as well!! After everything else I doubt they would even blink at a bag of compost lol.

Balcony, you have been busy, good on you. Really don't envy you the bindweed or the wasps nest (had a nest in the garage this year, nasty little things). Good luck with getting the rest clear.

2 Jan, 2012


Thanks, Sam, the Bindweed is a "bind"! I have to do my best to make sure every last scrap is removed to avoid infecting the beds where I will be putting in veg later in the year. Even so for all my efforts I don't think I will be totally clear of the stuff but if I see the stuff coming up again where I use the compost I will dig it out as soon as possible.

I've also found Couch grass roots in the compost heap & I have to make sure none of it gets into the plot either. There's enough already. I've tried to remove what I could while digging it out in the first place & then again when I went over the beds again digging in the horse manure.

The wasp's nest was no problem as I left digging out the compost heap until we had had a few frosts. Wasps die during the winter & only the queen survives to form a new colony in the spring so I wasn't afraid to tackle it at this time. I was surprised to see just how far into the heap it had been built. There was a piece of wood covering one end of the heap which had fallen onto the heap & was rotting. I noticed when I took on the plot in September there were wasps entering & leaving through a gap in the wood panels & right from the start decided to leave them till the winter killed them off.

I spent a couple of hours today on the plot digging out more of the compost. I've been able to clear away about half of the heap so far but now I'm running out of space where to dump it until I'm ready to use it!

2 Jan, 2012


Wasps really scare me, Balcony. We had a minor invasion of HUGE wasps (Hornets? they were over an inch long) in the evenings in the bedrooms during the summer, and we couldn't work out where they had come from. The mystery was solved when we brought the Christmas decoration and wrapping paper boxes down from the loft a few weeks ago: on a rather pretty green and gold ribbon were glued about a dozen beautifully crafted big, dried mud wasp cells. We didn't find a queen though, so let's hope she isn't still lurking. We have no idea how they got in there in the first place. Given that you say in winter they should all be dead, perhaps I ought to conduct a more thorough search up there.

2 Jan, 2012


You've certainly got your work cut out there with that bindweed and grass. Once they get a hold, it's a job to get rid of them. You'll probably still find small bits regrowing, so you'll have to take them out as they appear. But it sounds as if you've done most of the work by being very thorough in the beginning.

3 Jan, 2012


@Gattina: What a horrible experience to have such big wasps flying around your kitchen! They do die off in winter, at least the normal, garden wasps over here do that's why I was waiting for the cold to arrive, only the autumn was much milder than we expected.

5 Jan, 2012


Kitchen I could have coped with, Balcony - the wasps appeared round about midnight in all the bedrooms, during warm weather when we were bare-footed and with hardly any bedclothes on. Luckily they always seemed to be very sluggish and dozy, so we managed to see them off before they hurt anyone, but there was always the fear that either we would tread on one, or that one of the cats would catch one and get stung - it would have killed them, I gather. "Ah yes! - those would kill a cow" said our neighbours. We eventually resorted to using sprays, we were that nervous.

5 Jan, 2012


Very distressing for you then. I know from experience that it's not very nice being stung by a wasp!

I was rather worried at first as you hear stories about people going into shock & even dying from a sting but when I realized nothing was going to happen to me I stopped worrying! I do my best to avoid getting stung but I'd never kill them just to avoid being stung. It is after all a defensive weapon for them which they only use when they feel in danger. Though it's not a last resort as much as in a bee which if it uses its sting will mean its death.

They are also a gardener's friend, even though many think the opposite, as they eat many aphids that would otherwise suck the life out of many of our plants.

I did wait until the natural cycle of cold killed them without me having to touch a single one of them. For their part I never felt they were a danger to me either. I left them alone to get on with their lives & they left me alone as well.

5 Jan, 2012


I would be very happy to leave them alone, Balcony, and it would help a lot if they didn't build their nests in places like our post box; our solar-powered garden lights; all over the inside walls of our summerhouse; on the surface of our mosquito screens: in the hollow uprights of our swing-seat and trellises; in loads of places up in our loft, in clumps of lavender: in the grass box of the mower: In boxes of granular plant-food: etc., etc.. You never know when you are going to happen on one of the by chance, and BOY do their stings pack a punch - especially the tiny ones, who don't seem to need any provocation at all. One flew into my eye a couple of years ago - luckily I had just parked the car and wasn't still driving - and stung the eyeball itself. Ended up in hospital. (Me, not the wasp) Not a happy time.

6 Jan, 2012


That must have been incredibly painful! Simply a dust mote irritates the eye & can become painful or a child, may stick its finger in your eye & that is also very painful so having your eyeball stung by a wasp ...! What happened to your eye? Did it swell up? Did you receive any permanent damage to it? Did it affect your vision later?

Must be terrible living in a place like you do with sooo many wasps! How do you resist it? Is it only your garden or is it a widespread phenomenon? If it is widespread, how do the village people cope with them?

Lots of questions I know! Sorry!

6 Jan, 2012


You learn to live with it, Balcony. You have to learn to live with a lot of things here that the locals take for granted, and eventually it becomes second nature. I am a great deal more careful around wasps these days, and only ever tackle them (if at all) after sunset, when they are not so active. The eye thing was really unpleasant, but the people at the hospital were really good, and had obviously dealt with things like that before - irrigated it with an anti-allergen and painkiller solution, then icepacks, and gave me an injection (a long way away from my eye and rather suddenly and unexpectedly, which took my mind off the pain in my eye very effectively for a moment) of painkiller, and another of antihistamine. It didn't seem to have affected the eye permanently, and it was a couple of years ago now, but recently, I have been getting a lot of pain and distorted vision in that eye, so it may have something to do with it. No-one knows.
I admit it, and I'm not happy about it, but if wasps start building anywhere in the house (they're OK in the loft as long as I know about them) I kill them using a spray. It's just not safe otherwise. My father build up a VERY bad reaction to wasp-stings (anaphylactic shock), and I just can't take the same risk.

7 Jan, 2012


Quite understandable in your circumstances!

I'm certainly glad you didn't seem to have suffered from after effects in the eye that was stung, I hope you present problems with that eye are not related to the sting. If it isn't perhaps something can be done about it. I hope so anyway.

Thanks also for the explanations of what happened to you! :-)) I'd never heard of anything like that have happened before.

8 Jan, 2012


Well, thank goodness!

8 Jan, 2012


Yikes Gattina, how horrible. I really don't envy you those little so and so's. I hate wasps and bee's and tend to be a little nervous around them (can be entertaining gardening in summer when they are all buzzing round lol). I would seriously freak if they were in my room at night like that. Glad that there was no permanent damage from the sting on the eye.

Good look with the couch grass and bindweed Balcony. I've got mares tail to deal with in my OHs garden, really not looking forward to that I can tell you.

15 Jan, 2012


Samjp, if you find a foolproof way of getting rid of the dreaded equisetum, I NEED TO KNOW, please! It put in an appearance last summer, and already the tell-tale spikes are pushing their way through the soil again. Weedkillers don't seem to touch it, and there's no way you can successfully dig it out.

15 Jan, 2012


Sorry so far no foolproof way. We used to have marestail in my parents garden years ago. We just kept yanking it out whenever we saw it. Eventually it just gave up and died lol. I've found a few new bits growing up in the last few months though :S. I'm really not looking forward to my OHs garden. I'm thinking about getting some big pieces of plastic sheeting and just covering the whole garden, in the hopes it will kill most of it off (its pretty much just weeds out there lol).

16 Jan, 2012


Thanks, Samjp, I suppose my weeds are somewhat easier to deal with compared to what you have to deal with!

17 Jan, 2012


lol I don't know whether to say I hope so (for your sake) or I hope not (for my sake) :)

17 Jan, 2012


I just had to add a comment about the bindweed. We use to have it everywhere around our house and being a organic farm we do not use chemicals. I was visiting a retirement home helping the ladies plant their garden, and I was taking about my bindweed problem. One of the ladies looked at me and said that it was an easy fix. She told me to pull the weed and every day go out to my garden and when it started to regrow and had no more than two leaves on it, spray it with pure white vinegar. She told me it would kill roots and all just be carefull I don't spray my flowers. For two years I did as she told me and have been bindweed free for ten years now. I did find that the hotter it was the quicker they would die after spraying them.

1 May, 2012


Thanks for that bit of advice, Tmh. It's still rather early to assess what the situation will be like yet this year. I've noticed a few sprouts where the compost heap was before we cleared it out so there are obviously still some roots there that I will need to dig out. Due to all the rain we've had for the last few weeks that is impossible for the present. It is also impossible as Gerry & I dumped a ton (well almost) of soil improver on top of them a couple of days ago! That will stay where it is for a few weeks at least.

3 May, 2012

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