Martin’s meanaderings

Martins meanderings1I am writing a series of articles for new plot holders on the society website to help them get started and hopefully help them to successfully cultivate their plot.

When starting it is difficult to know what tools are needed, you can start with a few basics and expand as you go along. Here is a list of the most basic tools.
  1. Spade and or Fork get the best that you afford. They last a long time and you will always be using them.
  2. A bucket or trug to collect weeds and move things around the plot
  3. A rake for levelling the ground after digging and to form a tilth for sowing
  4. A hoe to keep on top of the weeds
  5. A trowel to plant out seedling and plants
  6. A string line to keep your plants in straight rows, it also helps to keep paths straight.
  7. Canes to mark where you have planted seeds
  8. Labels to remind you what you planted where.

When to sow seeds?

All seed packets have a sowing time printed in the instructions on the packet, what you must remember is that the packets are printed for the whole of the country and sowing times vary as to where you live.

The sowing times are mainly for the southeast and the weather is more advanced than here. February in the S.E. is the approximate equivalent of March here, late February equates to third week in March here. March equates to the beginning of April and by the time the sowing date on the packet is May then we have just about caught up.

I have found that sowing two or three weeks later than the earliest times quoted seedling have caught up with the earlier sown seeds within a month, and sometimes produce better crops.

Water seeds when sowing and transplanting then leave them to grow, unless it is very dry, and then again when the crop is coming. It is better with a watering can as the water round the roots goes where it is needed and not all over the soil.

I will be available on both Saturdays and Sundays to answer any questions and give guidance to new and old plot holders. You can find me just past the apiary at the first right turn after the toilet and car park. 

Starting your new plot, part 1

Here we are stood in front of your new allotment plot, you have been on the waiting list and eventually the phone call or email arrived and invited you to come to the site and look at the available plots and pick your dream.

This is where reality hits, the ready dug plot all raked into a fine tilth and ready for sowing disappears in a flash. What you have is a huge area of long grass, weeds and piles of rubbish- HELP!  Where do I start?

First off have a walk round the plot and see exactly what you have. Collect all the rubbish and stack it somewhere, the front or the back of the plot whichever you fancy,  some of it might be useful later so don’t throw it away to start with. You are now an allotmenteer and we were GREEN when it was just a colour.

The next piece of advice is to work little and often, I have seen many people take on a plot, arrive one day and work like mad, pull every muscle they didn’t know they had, go home  and come back in three weeks time and wondered what they had done. Weeds grow very fast between March and October.

Now we have an area of land covered with vegetation of one sort or another, where to now? There are two ways to go, either you can chop all the vegetation down and cover it or you can cover the area with a light excluding material.

There are many types of covers you can use but all of them will need weighing down to stop them blowing away. This is where the rubbish comes in. Bricks, timber, branches all help hold down the covering. What can you use as cover? Cardboard, plastic(black,not clear),old carpets or landscaping fabric. Be careful of old carpets as many of the chemicals used for cleaning can be poisonous, if using carpets please put them pattern side down, they look much better.

Having got this far it is now time to start the work, cultivating the plot. The best way is to uncover a part of the plot and start clearing the weeds and roots. I feel the best place to start is about 6 foot(2 metres) in from the front of the plot because most people stack rubbish, compost and anything else at the front of the plot making it difficult to get started.

Before we start we need some tools, not many at this time, a good digging spade or fork ,the best you can afford. They last a long time and are much used, and a bucket or a trug tub, a rake is handy but not necessary at this time. I always use a spade as I don’t think a fork does as good a job.

How big an area shall we start with, the best is probably about 4 to 6 foot wide(1.2 to 2 metres) and either the plot width or half the plot width. This is where the work starts, you need to dig this area and remove all the surface vegetation and ALL the roots from the area. When I started my plots on this site I worked strips about 4ft with across the width of the plot and I removed one to two full wheelie bins of roots from one strip.

I think that is enough to get you started on your dream, it will come and you will probably get hooked on this new drug.