February is the shortest month in terms of days. Let us hope that the bitter winds, ice and snow of mid February 2021 stay short in the memory having been replaced by the sunshine and warmth of the Spring.
Spring. Our beloved season. Two thoughts on the season that I am minded of are by musicians. Bob Copper, the Sussex folk singer characterises the season as arriving when the air is "soft". I think we all know that feeling. And Lenard Cohen, not in a song but in his novel "Beautiful Losers" has "Spring comes into Québec from the west. It is the warm Japan Current that brings the change of season to the West coast of Canada, and then the West Wind picks it up. It comes across the prairies in the breath of the Chinook, waking up the grain and caves of bears ...
No bears on either the Home Garden nor plot 106, I have to say! But evidence of creatures of the land and air needing to sustain themselves at this time. The leaves of the purple sprouting broccoli, the sprouts and the January King cabbage that are uncovered are stripped by flocks of pigeons. Any uncovered sowings of early broad beans, peas, sweet peas would make a welcome fix for the voles and mice!
I have begun large numbers of sowings for perennial flowers. They will be used in my 2019/24 renovation for the Home Garden. I am working towards that whole plot being enticing and rewarding to Mother Nature when she calls. More about that over time but a little taster
Dru is very, very keen on butterflies and their conservation. With that in mind here is something that you might try. Honesty is the best policy they say. I agree. This plant has a tendency to sometimes be seen as weed like but we will not pursue that. It is quite a large plant producing purple flowers and excitingly transparent paper like discs that contain its seeds. It easily self sows. It is a member of the brassica family and there is the the clue to the butterfly connection. A somewhat rare visitor to the Home Garden is the Orange Tip butterfly one of the earliest types to emerge after Winter. They lay their eggs on Honesty
The coming weather week will be good here on the Sussex coast with high pressure nearby making it settled and sunny. I hope that you are able to enjoy that. And, if you are in Canada, that the bears are waking to welcome in this very special time .... .
" Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. Henry David Thoreau
As in gardens, allotments have differing types of paths. Often, I am sure a newcomer keeps to what is in place. When I took over the plot was very overgrown, so much so that paths were not apparent. Meaning that there were no concrete, grass, paving slab types seen. So I could create my own paths. Given that there are regular loads of wood chippings left by local tree surgeons it was perhaps not rocket science to use those, and, I did that in year one to a depth of about two inches on one long and two smaller paths to divide the areas up
Wood chips have their champions and detractors on the matter of how they benefit, or do not benefit the soil. I was very clear in my mind that after the initial tidy up that included the use of a rotovator for about a third of the area and double digging the rest, no more digging would take place in my tenure. The alternative I chose was " no dig". That is to put manures and composts on there and along with green manuring build up the soil fertility, humus and bulk. Having done some research online, from books and speaking with gardeners, wood chips need a bit of thought before use in no dig projects. As they decompose initially, their interaction with the soil " robs " the latter of its nitrogen content, very much impacting future crops that need that essential component for growth. Over time and as full decomposition takes place the wood chips compost down and eventually boost soil fertility and replenish the nitrogen. Comments from you on this one, most welcome please !
What I did see in the year following making the paths was fairly rapid decomposition and many, many earthworms. In addition clear signs of fungal activity too. These two really pleasing
So this year using old bits of wood from the plot, home and anywhere it was offered, I have made some Mark 1 paths. Using the wood a bit like shuttering around concrete to help it set, in my case it is around fresh wood chippings to a depth of about six inches. Really the paths are linear compost heaps. I anticipate using them for three years and then changing the configuration of paths. We shall see
To say that the weather has been wet would be an understatement and cold. January here has been the coldest here since 2011. The days are lengthening and if it has been possible to make the preparations by cover certain areas then the planting season can go ahead
On January 5th I planted out Shallot "Golden Gourmet" and Onion "Autumn Red"
A great success last year were broad bean "Aquadulce Claudia" so I am returning to them. Sown on Christmas Eve in pots in my cold greenhouse and planted out on February 3rd
I planted quite a good variety of top fruit on the plot - Morello Cherry, William Bon Cretien Pear, Discovery Apple, Spartan Apple, Czar Plum and Bramley Seedless Apple. But little soft fruit so I bought some Raspberry canes "Autumn Bliss". Reason for this variety being they are a late cropper and the canes can all be cut back hard after fruiting, unlike the summer varieties, they are self supporting and were on sale at a good price!
As I type this up on my allotment seat it has been a lovely day, Spring like at 11 celsius. On Sunday heavy snow and bitter east winds are forecasted. But to use that quote of Henry David the path to true Spring is narrow but, yes we do walk on it in love and reverence .....
"There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep" Homer
January. The garden is sleeping. The turn of the year has been a much colder one than we have become accustomed to on the Sussex coast over recent years. Daytime temperatures are just above freezing, and the often-dark days exacerbate the chill. Thankfully the torrents of rain and winds ended in December temporarily, but the saturation and pool made the wake. On these days the sun rises at 8.05am and is gone by 1605pm. Eight hours of light out of the twenty-four. And what can we report? Brief minutes "checking" for broken panes on the greenhouse, fencing panels that might be loose; you get my drift, checking not gardening. I still have many large pots outside that are just empty or some with pelargoniums within their own pots, lifted inside. There have been gallons of rain tipped out of them. The irony cannot be lost of those hot days of August last year, " six consecutive days in the south with temperatures over 34 Celsius" when the water butts were dry, and the earth parched.
If gardens are sleeping, do they dream? Many are the theories about what dreams represent, indeed, Sigmund Freud set up a whole practice and movement to do just that. One theory on the purpose of dreaming is that it consolidates memories, strengthens them even and makes them easier to recall. Those are comforting thoughts. As are the sight of butterflies on the flowers, the sound of birdsong, the deep breath of fresh air, the emergence of plants from the ground and the door being open to hours of relaxation and enjoyment. Perhaps the garden dreams of these too.
By the end of January, the sun is rising by 7.37am and setting at 16.50pm. That is 70 minutes longer than at the beginning of the month. That is a positive thought. Winter will not be over, but we are moving towards the light, sustained by those thoughts and dreams ....
A rare break in the December days of wind, rain and darkness comes on Christmas Eve. Sunshine lighting up, like a stage, the crops on 106. Fennel, Globe Artichokes and the Italian Kale are really the crops of mid to late summer but grow and glow they do. A reality check comes from the Brussels Sprouts, Leeks, Spinach and emerging garlic hinting of the cold to come. The green manures are growing well and I will be digging some in during late January.
I heard a few days ago that Henry the Pig had to be put to sleep. How very sad for Jack, Colin and Maggie. The manure of Henry has produced great crops this year for me and I am very grateful. There will be a tree planting in the New Year in memory of my helper ....
"Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be" Jose Ortega y Gasset
Not long until year end. A year that has seen suffering, worry and isolation for many. How we yearn for normal! Gardeners are privileged, having space. Literal and metaphorical. Spaces become sanctuaries. Behind the house, on the allotment or on the balcony, normal grows there. Our lives have been put on hold, stopped and started, yet the sun has shone, who can forget the glorious light and warmth of April and May?
The sheer energy of all the work carried out in those spaces. The accomplishment of the first time tomato grower. The fluttering of a Painted Lady butterfly. The ache of the back. The appearance of mildew. An overwhelming sense of achievement and relaxation. A normal or perhaps a new normal for some
Time is a very precious commodity. Did you ever see the late 60s movie " Easy Rider "? Remember early in the film just as Wyatt and Billy set off on their odyssey through a troubled America that Wyatt takes off and throws away his Rolex watch? Literally freeing himself from the constraints of time. We have been able to do that
On plot 106 this year has been a great one for produce, friendships and health. The last two as important as the first. But all three in response to COVID. It took a little while for actual confirmation to come through that we were allowed down there. Some had adopted a carry on attitude anyway. But I did wear gloves and had a sanitiser with me. Distances were kept, not between the rows of vegetables but the allotmenteers. It was serious. We got to speak more, about the impacts. Lots of stretching, carrying, lifting and tool work. I am not heavy but lost a stone. Marvellous meals with the produce, items in the freezer and preserves on the shelf.
Produce, friendships and health create wellbeing. Boosted by that, we explore what we yearn to be ...
k here to edit.
A very good crop of runner beans Lancing Longpod ". And now saving seed for the 2021 season. You will not find that variety in any of the seed catalogues or garden centres. When I took on Plot 106 so many buddies encouraged me in different ways. Maureen Ross gave me a tray of runner bean plants, variety not really known but grown from kept seed. And boy did they grow. Runner beans are an essential for the allotment, the vegetable garden or the flower border. They produce beautiful food and flowers. Surprisingly tough to cold winds and with a bit of luck producing pods into November from a March sowing indoors. Lovely .....
Autumn has get a pretty good reputation. The wonderful colours of the last leaves before they fall. Brown, orange, red and a lot more in between. Temperatures still good enough to really enjoy being out just to sit. And it is the latter that I was able to do recently, but for a short time. I have been in the land of workers for a few weeks.
Not my normal internet stuff but something very different and enjoyable that I do a few times a year. Anyway coming away from that I faced the bad reputation of Autumn, rain, wind and cold. But I did manage a few minutes on 106 on the way home. Looking around the various plots shows the transition from the crops that have hung on from summer, produced a bounty in Autumn but welcoming in winter. The end of the runners, the squashes and the peppers to the sprouts, kale, leeks and parsnips. I noticed the gaunt outline of the gone over sweet peas with skeleton like fingers of seed pods. Sweet Peas. Something to focus on for here and the garden at home. If you were to "invent" a flower then Sweet Peas would take some beating. Bearing gloriously scented and coloured blooms and thriving under " if you pick the flowers then you will get more regime "
A divergence. Many vegetables and flowers are easy to grow but if you are able to be in the happy position of having more time, some experience and listening to others, then you have much better and visible results
I am now well into my apprenticeship as an allotmenteer and if there were one, an action out of my annual appraisal would, amongst other matters say " needs to grow more flowers here "
Thoughtful gardening often comes as result of experiences in the past. Inspirations flows from that. In this instance I go back almost half a century to a large walled garden in West Kent. It was attached to a project in community home for young people placed there because the system of families, schools and their local communities could not manage them. I was struck by the kindness provided at this difficult time for them by the staff there, who were highly qualified and motivated. A therapeutic environment. But I was struck most by Ted who had expanded the walled garden away from being the food resource for the home into a haven of calmness, beauty and encouragement. He was the perfect compliment to the therapies, treatments, medication and sheer hard work of staff in the house. In his early 60s, I suspect that he knew about many of the demons that plagued the youngsters; though I never asked. Some, not all thrived in that garden in more ways than one. And the Sweet Peas there, oh the Sweet Peas. Grown as a part of the crop rotation plan there was a fifty foot row growing up " hazel tops ". Trenched, fed and watered did they produce. Many on thick twelve inch stems. The masses of flowers adorned the main house, the local church and the homes of local villagers - a classic example of community outreach. I was just getting to know Ted better when the memo came in to move me onto another project. I remember tips he game me for growing Sweet Peas delivered in his lovely Man of Kent burr, " Sow 'em in November, cutting a nick in each seed, three at a time into deep pots, pinch 'em out when six leaves 'ave developed, plant in April and water 'em like hell throughout " I was about to say that sounded straightforward enough but Ted finished with, " pray for 'em too boy and always give 'em a smile ! "
I intend to " nick " all that advice ..... And the varieties that I will be growing are below, I bought the seed last week from Gardener and Scardifield in Lancing, West Sussex UK https://www.gardnerandscardifield.co.uk/branch/garden-centre-lancing/
Scarlet Tunic https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Scarlet-Tunic-Seeds.html#.X7kMpuvfWrU
Capel Manor https://blog.mr-fothergills.co.uk/mr-fothergills-names-new-sweet-pea-capel-manor-after-well-known-college-and-partner/
Lady Salisbury https://blog.mr-fothergills.co.uk/new-sweet-pea-lady-salisbury-celebrates-link-between-horticultural-establishments/
Painted Lady https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Annual-Seeds/Sweet-Pea-Painted-Lady-Seeds.html#.X7kOKOvfWrU here to edit.
Do you grow tomatoes? If you do not, then I advise you to have a go. Some Googling gives the credit to Aztecs as the original growers of tomatoes and on their arrival in Europe, a 16th century Italian herbalist called Pietro Andrae Matthioli made reference to pomi d'oro," apples of gold ", a note that as we know today there are yellow tomatoes as well as the traditional luscious red ones. Pietro then went off at a tangent by weaving in the pomi d'oro into the same classification, plant wise as the mandrake, revered at that time as an aphrodisiac. Hence the pomi d'oro became a " love plant ", more specifically " a love apple ". Then the French, who might be said to enjoy a certain, shall we say je ne sais quoi around aphrodisiacs, renamed the plant to the pomme d'amour or love apple. But I am not advising you to have a go at growing the love apple as a boost to anything other than your taste buds!
And I am steering clear of the merits on the fruit v. vegetable definition on tomatoes.
Here is my 2020 tomato growing report
In 2020, I grew the following tomato varieties either on Plot 106 or in the greenhouse at home. I sowed the seeds in February 2020
The star of the tomato crop this time. A huge crop, 15kg from 6 plants. Roma is a bush variety that is very fleshy. Best used for cooking and preserving, the crop was used for chutney MORE
A salad tomato of the classic type that slices well and is a very attractive dark red colour on the plate. Two plants in the greenhouse produced about 4kg from eight trusses MORE
Could almost be described as sweeties or candy as they can be eaten at any time, with or without a meal. Small, deliciously flavoured and very prolific MORE
Bit of a trial here, grew a couple of plants on 106 to see how they would go. A success. Large beefsteak type with super flavour. Best sliced. One to concentrate on next time by growing more plants MORE
Report completed. November is knocking at the door, but the time will pass quickly until it is time to sow the love apples again. There may well be storms, wind and ice but then too, a new beginning ...
Another extraordinary week of weather. Seven days ago temperatures were nudging towards the mid-Twenties, by the weekend an almost northerly gale made it low teens and in between some considerably heavy showers.
One of the characteristics of gardeners, I think, is their ability to live in the moment. Live in the moment, is that not just a trendy modernism? Perhaps. But that characterisation means that whatever the weather has thrown at the gardener, heat, freeze, drought or flood is gone. It is the " right now " that matters. It is the right now that directs was has to be or what can be done. And today to start with it has been picking and storage.
I planted half a dozen bush tomato plants around the runner bean wigwam, variety Roma VF https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/tomato-roma-vf/259TM Not really a salad tomato, they are the basis for pasta sauces and soups where their fleshiness comes into its own. There has been a huge crop, today I have picked another 4kg. They are designed to be used in another first for us, home made tomato chutney. New jars are ready for them.
I have been the tenant of Plot 106 at Lancing Manor Allotments for eighteen months now. Wow! I have grown considerable weights and types of produce and am very conscious that you must give as well as take. Manures, compost have been the staple food so far but this Autumn I am branching out into greening by growing green manures as the soil becomes vacant. Thus far I have not become too hung up about the strict rotation schemes that feature in al, the good vegetable growing and allotment books. This is not as a result of a wilful streak in me. Clearly, I am not going to be planting potatoes after potatoes or onions after onions because that would invite trouble. The sort of trouble brought by a build up of pests to and diseases that end up with no crop. My general conception is to grow the produce in blocks of about a metre or two squared each apart from the permanent or semi permanent crops like globe artichokes and potentially asparagus. I will not be having three blocks of say different types of beans or root veg but one of say beans next to one of say parsnips next to one of say sweetcorn. We will see. But what I am doing is immediately a crop is cleared, sowing a green manure. That becomes a new crop that instead of feeding my family will feed the soil. I have started this Autumn with Phacelia Tanacetifolia https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds/Green-Manure-Seed/Green-Manure-Phacelia-Tanacetifolia.html#.X3Tt7Ot4WK0 Crimson Clover https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds/Green-Manure-Seed/Green-Manure-Crimson-Clover.html#.X3TuUOt4WK0 and Autumn/Winte Mix https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds/Green-Manure-Autumn-Winter-Mix.html#.X3Tujet4WK0 They have all germinated in a week and I will allow them to grow until they begin to show flowers when I will thresh them and leave them to decompose down to feed the soil. The roots I will leave in as they fix ( place ) nitrogen in the soil. I am following a no dig regime but if you try green manure and are all for digging the simply dig them/turn them into your soil
October is the month when we get our annual bill for renting our allotments from Adur and Worthing Councils https://www.adur-worthing.gov.uk/parks/allotments/ Plot 106 is 5 rods ( 10 rod allotments are available too ) and the annual rent is £58.00. My age means that I get the OAP discount of 30%, my annual cost is £40.60. OAP is a type of profiling I suppose, but if I am to be profiled then OAP is infinitely better to me that what I get in texts from the NHS, that I am in a " vulnerable " or on one occasion an " extremely vulnerable group " - spoiler alert, do not worry about me, these come because I am aged over 55.
And tangentially, I am going to link, not for the first time, the considerable benefits to having an allotment. That is about a sense of achievement, particularly if inheriting a wilderness, fresh air, exercise and friendships .... Oh, and some produce as well.
Next time, I will be musing on my plans for a mini vineyard on 106 ...
Plot 106. Quinoa, squashes and the greening. It does look like today is going to be the last of the true summery days, albeit that we are now into Autumn. The warm air and hot sunshine of the last few weeks is travelling south, just like those birds. But we will still be left with good days to look forward to but must also welcome rain, wind and increasing darkness. The plot still looks good to me and September has been a great month of picking crops. The potatoes are all lifted and stored. Runner beans and French beans, sweetcorn, Spring and cooking onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes and marrows continue to delight. And squashes. Actually this is the first year that I have ever grown them and am well suited. I am not after massive pumpkins for Halloween or pies or to take part in a competition. I am growing a variety called " Autumn Crown " https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/squash-autumn-crown-winter/4899TM and am impressed. Not monstrous but chunky, dense and company beauties. The blurb says you can detect the aroma of the melon in them, and I agree. I share some of the cooking roles at home and these have been included. In soups but especially roasted with some olive oil and herbs. Mmm ! But, excepting the latter, most of the crops I have mentioned we are picking are on the wane, like the sun that boasted them. They are being overtaken with brassicas. Autumn really is their season when they grow to maturity and keep well on the plot until they are picked. I have " January King " cabbage https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/cabbage-january-king-3/327TM " Purple Sprouting Broccoli " https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/broccoli-early-purple-sprouting-purple-sprouting/360TM Brussels Sprout " Attwood " https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/brussels-sprout-attwood/TKA2668TM and Kale " Nero Di Toscana " https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/kale-nero-di-toscana/40TM A little later I will be planting up Spring Cabbages. The quinoa has Ben a great joy and interest. This South American food plant has thrived and next week I will have the enviable task of storage for the dried husks / seeds. You might of thought that all the cropping means big spaces on the plot. But no, I am sowing a variety of green manures to close all the gaps, more on that next time ....
September weather has been really good here on the West Sussex coast. Settled, warm and having mostly sunny mornings that give way to cloudier afternoons. The coming week is going to get warmer still. The great advantage to me that this time is the dryness at the peak of harvesting on Plot 106. This is my first full cLender year on the plot, so whilst I have nothing to base comparisons on, I am pleased with events. That dryness is a great boost to lifting the maincrop potatoes. They are variety " Picasso " ( https://www.europotato.org/varieties/view/Picasso-E
) that were planted out on Good Friday after being chitted from late February. I planted the tubers at about 6 inches depth, 15 inches apart and although not adopting the true " banking up " favoured by many did draw over a further covering. The growing area had been covered in horse manure since the previous October. The crop is very pleasing. I lifted each row early in the morning and exposed the tubers to the sun and air for the day and then brought them home to be stored in hessian sacks given to me by #keithdollemore ( thanks mate ) that are kept in the garden shed at home. Total crop weight is around 90lbs; an excellent return on 5lbs of tubers. They are overwhelmingly of good jacket / baking size. Taste is excellent. Now they are out I am going to rake the growing area this morning and sow a crop of Phacelia Tanacetifolia as green manure ( https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/…/Green-Manure-Phacelia-Ta…
) .... I have taken from the earth and so I must in turn put back
This article is a blog from my new project, thoughtful gardening with andy. It might interest you. I have set up a website
and a Facebook Page at #thoughtfulgardeningwithandy
and a Twitter feed at #GardeningAndy
Clic"And summer’s lease hath all too short a date" Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare. When does Summer end and Autumn begin? Meteorologists say Autumn begins on 1st September. Traditionalists who go by astronomical periods say it is the date of the equinox; this year September 22nd. Shakespeare beautifully sums up a common feeling we might share of the ebbing away of the sun and warmth of summer into the clouds and the cool of Autumn. This year is no different I suppose and the recent weather certainly is "Autumn like". We have lost the blazing heat of mid August and replaced it with cloud, rain and wind. I was mulling this over on Plot 106 (where else? 😄) this morning as I was picking produce for the table. Very autumn like produce, not the runner beans, courgettes, salads and cherry tomatoes of high summer but their cousins, of the Autumn. Anyone who grows or has grown potatoes will know that excited feeling, perhaps tinged with a bit of trepidation when the time comes to see "how they have done". Whether the spuds are in the ground, a bed, a pot or growing bag that feeling is real. I had it as I lifted the first root of my maincrop potatoes. The variety is "Picasso" that were chitted from late February and planted out on that traditional day, Good Friday, April 12th. As you can see, I had a good result. About 2.5kg from the root and big enough to be jacket baked, always a bonus. Then some mange-tout peas, variety "Oregon". And sweetcorn " Damaun". Then finally, that luscious tomato "Marmande". Very lovely. Enjoy Autumn ....
k here to edit.
National Allotment Week 2020. Day six. Saturday 15th August
Happy with the current season on Plot 106. It started very well with bumper crops of broad beans and rhubarb in April and May and has continued with good crops of shallots, courgettes, runner beans, mange tout peas, early potatoes and globe artichokes. Right now coming in are cabbages, squashes, marrows, sweet corn, french beans. Fingers crossed for cooking onions, salad onions, sweet peppers, cooking tomatoes and maincrop potatoes next month. Growing well for the Autumn and winter are cabbages, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and sprouting broccoli. Here are some pics taken today. Tomorrow is my last post for National Allotment Week 2020 and I will be discussing health and wellbeing and gazing into the crystal ball for the next stages of this fascinating project ....
National Allotment Week 2020. day five. Friday 14th August
In an ideal world, every allotmenteer would take over in the Autumn or the Spring which are best suited to kick start work. May is not the best time but nonetheless, it worked for me. Having been let loose on such a large area is exciting but also a challenge. Most have grown some veg at home but more likely on a small scale. What I did resist the temptation to do was to blitz 106 and try to create something that takes months, in a fortnight. I did that by setting myself target area to get ready on each visit and stick to that. By September the whole plot was tamed. As the main idea on an allotment is to grow food ( there are other important ones too, that I will explore in a later post ) by the end of June, I had planted runner beans ( a social media buddy gave me a tray of plants ), a couple of courgettes, some late potatoes ( somebody, Unknown left a bag of chitterlings tubers on my doormat ) and some sweetcorn. Over the first year, they were joined by swedes, turnips, pak choi, broad beans, celery, tomatoes and peas.
My principles for the crop management are
1. Not to grow for bulk but for seasonal eating with any gluts frozen or preserved
2. To grow all plants from seed and tubers that have not been been hybridised, with a focus on " heritage " varieties used for their flavour
3. No use of any chemical weed killers, or " pest controls "
4. Whilst having a modicum of rotation, not to get hung up about that but rather to grow blocks of plants together, rather than rows
5. To explore companion planting; planting flowers and non edible plants for that effect, and their beauty
6. Feed, feed and feed the soil with manures, compost and green manure cultivation
7. To have a mini vineyard with a target of ten bottles for Christmas gifts 2025 ( I am T Total )
8. To greatly enjoy the physical and emotional benefits provided by 106
Tomorrow, I will give a snapshot on the allotment as it is right now, on Saturday some notes of what others are up to on their plots and we will end National Allotment Week on Sunday with wellbeing and health ....
National Allotment Week 2020. day four Thursday 13th August
Key in hand, head buzzing with ideas and warm sun on my back I began my tenancy of Plot 106 Lancing Manor allotments in May 2019. And tenancy it is. I am now well on in years and whilst enjoying good physical and emotional health do temper those grand plans of youth with a heavy dose of practicality. As a mate cheerfully reminded me at the time " Andy, your next decade ends at 80 ". Thanks ! There is a general conception about the profile of allotmenteers. Old, retired and people with time on their hands spring to mind. On my way the grammar school in Yorkshire many years ago I would walk past one of the local mills and next to it were the allotments for presumably, primarily, their retired workers. Anyway, even at that early hour the tenants were there. So that was my first sighting of an allotment. At least an organised growing area other than a veg plot in the garden. I jest not that flat caps, pipes or even a whippet were in evidence. Mr Bolland lived two doors away from us and had an allotment there. He rode his bike around and you could see evidence of his labours on the panniers and bag. He did smoke a pipe. He did have a whippet ( called Nell ) but my memory fades as to whether he wore a flat cap. Plot 106 was by any standards overgrown. But as I try to do, spinning that to my best advantage meant that if it grew all those elderberry bushes, field bindweed, fat fen, blackberry briars and the like, then it would certainly grow beans, potatoes and carrots. The state of the plot meant that I had to make a very early compromise. The plan was to have it all as " no dig " by growing green manures mulching with manures and compost to build up the fertility level and humus that are the essential of no dig. Some of the briars had stems and roots literally as thick as your arm and not wishing to go into the blackberry business they would have to be dug out. Another very important point about renting an allotment is that unless you are lucky, you are initially going to have to involve yourself or others in some pretty demanding physical work. I had some help from mates in these early days that I will name check in a later posting. And via our combined efforts a great clearance occurred and about a quarter of the plot was rotovated. Rotovating on allotments or anywhere else for that matter has its proponents and champions if the land afterwards is to be used productively. It is said that perennial weed roots get shredded and regrow with a vengeance. I have not noticed that on 106. I took the following four months to double dig the rest of the plot to get out what was needed. And I started to do some planting and sowing, these photos give a flavour. Tomorrow I will give my 12 month summary on what happened up to May 2020 ....
Having been invited to look at Lancing Manor allotments, I met with the " overseer " John on a bright morning in May 2019. These allotments ticked important boxes for me. They are a couple of minutes walk from my home, are well protected by modern fencing and security and are beautifully situated on the edge the South Downs National Park. Distant sea views are on offer. The land is an area behind the Manor House that was pulled down in the 1970s. Two blocks of allotments, opened several decades apart. All are on south facing, gently sloping land and are surrounded by trees around the perimeter and the wider area known locally as " Mcintyre's Field ". John told me that there were four allotments that he would like to show me, three in the top area and one in the lower. John opened the gate, took us about 20 metres and said that this was the first one. I straight away decided that this was it. Number 106. A number that had become important to me in my role 2006 / 2017 as Chairman of the local community association, being the route of the Compass bus that comes through our part of the village and onwards to either Worthing or Henfield. I had promoted its use for years and even organised shopping trips and walks for members to join in. So 106 it was. I did take a look at the other three plots but really my mind was set. I said " yes please " to John, who gave some kind word of encouragement and of realism about having a plot. I like people who share knowledge and John had forty two years of it. A considerable privilege to have John looking after us all. I took some photos and walked home planning away. Next day I had a key and made a start. These photos reflect that. All the while the clearance was going on thoughts appeared. Deep beds or borders ? Fruit cages ? Grow plants from seed or buy them in ? Big questions. More tomorrow
I rent Plot 106 at Lancing Manor allotments in West Sussex, UK. I rent from Adur District Council and in 2020 / 2021 the cost for the year for a 5 rod allotment is £58. Depending on availability, they offer 5 or 10 rod plots. The 10 rod is £110 for the year. Anyone over 65 years of age gets a 30% discount. Incidentally, the fact that allotments are still measured and charge by their " rod " size is a throwback to the history that we spoke about yesterday, and, just to confuse the matter a rod is also know as a " perch " and a " pole ". Anyway, we will accept that the rod / pole / perch is about sixteen feet long and wide. Around all the plots are pathways, some of which are well maintained and some that are very overgrown. The pathways are important as that is your means of getting to your plot , to barrow in manures and composts or wheeling out your prize pumpkin to weight it and see if you need to contact The Guinness Book of Records. A very important point about Lancing Manor allotments is that there is water. Both stored in tanks that top up as they are used and taps to which we can attach a hosepipe. Important generally but essential at the time of our current heatwave. I decided to try to get an allotment at the Manor in Spring 2019. My thoughts were that there would be a long waiting list and it might take a few years. Wrong ! Having completed the online form, I got a call back and appointment to view the next day. Very exciting. I will tell you tomorrow how the viewing went. The photos above give an idea of what I saw when I first looked at plot 106 ....
Starting today, Monday 10th August it is National Allotment Week. And the overall theme for this year is " Growing Food for Health and Wellbeing ". But how much do we actually know about allotments and their history ? In my case, not a lot, so I have been doing some online reading that I would like to share. Turn away if you know already ! There are references for allotments going back to Saxon and Norman times, the former as a result of gaining " common land " by forest clearance but there were no rights as to who should have one. Until the 18th century it was lip service to the idea with land being " enclosed " at a ferocious rate by landowners and the church to the detriment of others. The General Enclosure Act of 1845 came in not with the altruistic view to share resources but more to attempt to defuse revolutionary thoughts and belatedly, starvation. It was hardly a big change though as it resulted in 2,200 acres of the enclosed 650,000 being given over to allotments. However, it was a law of the land and a start. The Smallholding and Allotment Act 1907 imposed responsibilities on parish, urban district and borough councils to provide allotments. Two seismic events in the 20th century, the World Wars, completely changed the attitude to allotments and growing food. There were genuine fears of the nation not having enough food in wartime. During the First War, land close to railway lines was freed by the rail companies to provide plots for their workers and then for the public. That answers the question as to why when on a rail journey you see allotments. In the Second War, the government were so concerned about lack of food that a national " Dig for Victory " campaign was launched, turning parks and open spaces into allotments. In 1950, Parliament passed a new law that meant that 4 acres of allotment space had to be provided per 1,000 in the local population.
Tomorrow, I will begin to tell the story of my allotment at Lancing Manor ...
I launched this website on 16th August 2020 to bring together my thoughts on gardening,, its importance for health and wellbeing and two projects running concurrently, a renovation of my own garden on the West Sussex coast at Lancing and a nearby allotment. But also to learn from other gardeners about the inspirations for their plots, about their gardening projects and enjoyment of beautiful plants and gardens