I’ve been away from the allotment for approximately three weeks and I’ve returned back to the UK just last night.Continue reading “Dealing with an allotment after you’ve been on holiday”
Not so long ago, actually maybe toward the end of last year and the beginning of this year I decided to merge some beds together to get more growing space and add some edging to the borders. It was part of my first plan of trying to rejig things on the plot.
As usual with these sorts of attempts, I think I gained top marks for effort but fell down at the execution stage – although I am my own worst critic. Although I tried to keep everything straight, it just didn’t happen.
I would probably say I fell down at the execution stage because I am notorious for not measuring things out properly or not even using a guide or a measure at all – so it’s no real mystery.
I’ve defended my inadequacies by using lines like “It’s meant to be like that, it’s allotment chic.” or “I’m going for the rustic look.” The truth is, I didn’t use a tape measure.
Don’t be fooled by the following pictures, the beds are actually super wonky, these images were taken earlier on in 2018.
Once I completed a few beds, I never bothered to change them until I decided to start again…again.
The sun has set on one of the hottest summers the UK has seen in quite some time. I for one couldn’t remember the last time the Mercury hit the top end of 36 degrees.
We’re currently in the midst of a heatwave and the lack of rain and increase in temperatures has seen river, groundwater and reservoir levels drop at an alarming rate. As a result, hosepipe bans have been springing up in various parts of the UK.
I’ve done some reading online and chatted to some of the chaps at the allotment to see what they do to help combat water shortages and hosepipe bans. I hope you find the below useful.
10 ways to save water when growing your own
Collecting as much rainwater as possible
Invest in a couple of water butts or a disused water tank to store your water. Be sure to keep a lid on it so that water doesn’t escape through evaporation. Also think about how you’re going to collect the rainwater, whether it’s via the roof of a shed or an adjacent board channelling rainfall into the the tank or water butt.
Homemade bottle feeders
This wine bottle hack is a great way to keep your plants watered during dry spells, and is dead easy to implement. Get a bottle of wine that has a screw top, simply drink all of the wine and make a small hole in the lid of wine. Fill with water and bury the bottle – lid down, to create a drip feeder. I guess it doesn’t have to be wine – any decent sized bottle with a screw top will do. Wine is more fun though 🙂 !
You can stay ahead if you keep the soil moist between watering. Mulch is a layer of material from your compost bin, or even grass cuttings applied to the top of the bed. The mulch will act as a sponge to store moisture and reduce the amount of water leaving the ground during the hot weather. I’ve even seen old carpet being used to keep the ground moist.
Burying newspaper into your bedding
This is similar to the mulching idea above, but I found this article, which explains that burying newspaper in with your bedding is a safe way of storing water within your beds, and closer to the roots. Burying newspaper into the ground also keeps the weeds down too.
The video below shows you how to dissect a nappy – but you can just as easily buy absorbent gels for your garden from any reputable garden center. Absorbent gels are great for containers and raised beds. They’re also great if you’re away from your allotment for long periods of time and you’re relying on water butts and wine bottle feeders being full.
Last year I saw that Self-watering pots were all the rage and I soon learnt that these are a great way to preserve water in one space. Self watering planters store water and when the soil dries out it will automatically draw up more water until it is full – the technology is a simple one.
Establishing a watering routine
Because watering will effectively take longer using a watering can, it’s best to build up or establish a routine that involves watering little and often. An extra trip to the allotment during the week could be the difference between a plant surviving or being subject to the elements. I’d also invest in another watering can so you can carry more water in one go. Be sure to also focus your watering on the roots of the plants to avoid any wasted run off.
Keep beds weeded
Weeds will take up water that should otherwise go to the plants that need it. By keeping on top of the weeds, you’re effectively getting rid of the competition. This is another reason why weeding is so important, so much like the watering – it’s best to keep on top of the weeding little and often to avoid labour intensive bouts.
Drought resistant varieties
Hosepipe bans seem to creep up on us and are announced at the last minute, so if you suspect like I have, that this year might involve a hosepipe ban – give extra thought to the varieties of fruit and vegetables that you would like to grow. There are varieties of plants out there that fair well in hot, dry weather – perfect for a hosepipe ban.
For indoor growing, capillary matting is a wise investment. Capillary Matting will transport water quickly and evenly over a level surface. This means that large number of plants can be watered easily and at the same time. Capillary matting will also help to create humidity in your greenhouse, which will assist with keeping the mat moist and your plants watered.
Hosepipe bans are a necessary evil unfortunately and they come around every so often – my last piece of advice is to keep calm and carry on. What are your water saving tips? I’d love to know!
Instagram and Twitter has been awash this bank holiday weekend with photos of people picking rhubarb and making all kinds of lovely sweet treats with it. Picking rhubarb gives you a real sense that spring has settled in nicely and summer is truly on the way. I tried earlier this to force my rhubarb in a strange looking frame, which got blown away by the wind the rain – so in the end, I just left it to do what it was supposed to do on its own. I can’t say that this has done any harm to my crop as I’ve got a glutton of rhubarb to harvest.
It’s not advised that you cut rhubarb stems, the reason being is that once cut, the base of the stem will die and rot into the plant, which is as good as it sounds. When harvesting rhubarb you want to be sure to pull stems out of the crown of the plant.
Reach as far down along the stem, into the root, as possible and pull a stalk in the same direction in which it’s growing. You’ll know when you’ve done it right because of the sound – you’ll hear a nice, light, suctioned crunch – if you hear a snap, you may have broken it off at the root (this isn’t the end of the world, and you may accidently do this as I have done on occasion, so try not to lose too much sleep over this!)
You should end up with a nice clean stalk like the one below.
I’ve seen people cut rhubarb at differing lengths all over the internet, and I’m sure each variety and each grower has their own personal preference, but personally – I like to cut off the stalk about 2 or 3 inches from the leaf, or when the colour starts to change along the stem.
Can’t wait to make some jam with this and show you the recipe!
At this time of year you can really make use of the debris left as a result of the changing seasons and the drop in temperatures. Leafmould is compost made out of decaying leaves and is a great soil conditioner.
Leafmould is easy to produce – all you have to do is collect the leaves up and store in a plastic bag, wire cage or something that’s going to keep in the moisture.
Once stored – leave it… No pun intended. It takes around one and a half to two years to break down, decompose and eventually be subject to “humification”. Humification is the fancy word given to the process in which green and brown matter is turned into compost.
The benefits of leafmould
- Leafmould can hold the equivalent of 80–90% of its weight in moisture and can increase the soil’s capacity to withstand drought conditions.
- The process that converts raw organic matter into leafmould feeds the soil population of microorganisms and other creatures. This maintains high and healthy levels of soil life. (Soil life consists of all kinds of bacteria, fungus and enzymes which have really long, complicated names, but trust me when I say they’re beneficial for your garden!)
- The dark color of well-rotted leafmould helps to warm up cold soils.
- Leafmould is a substance, which on a microscopic level is made up of insoluble particles, which is dispersed among lots of other materials within the soil. This means that leafmould has a wonderful ability to keep the nutrients in the soil safe from being bleached by the elements. That stored nutrient goes straight back into the plants.
Well-rotted leafmould, which has been left for more than two years can be used as seed-sowing compost. You can also mix it equally with sharp sand, garden compost and a good quality top soil to use as potting compost.
Leftover, composted material that has not quite rotted down fully, or is less than two years old can be used as a mulch or a soil conditioner in the autumn.
In the winter, it can be used to cover bare soil and or used in the winter to cover bare soil and keep weed growth to a minimum.
If you plan on making your own multi-purpose, keep you leaves away from the main compost bin.