As I shovelled this year’s precious harvest of compost from the bin to mulch the raised beds, I pondered the allotment year that’s ending and what I have learned:
>> The no-dig method has completely won me over, supported by what I learned way back in March at Charles Dowding’s veg growing course at his inspiring garden ‘Homeacres’ near Shepton Mallet. My experience of that day and Charles’s various books as well as his website and that of his partner Stephanie Hafferty have all provided a wealth of practical guidance and good sense that have convinced me to follow the no-dig method which I started this year. It’s less work, there are already considerably fewer weeds and the ground is much less claggy when wet. Productivity seemed about the same so I look forward to next year and seeing the quality of what is grown in this way when the soil structure has had longer to establish.
>>Romantic notions of ‘heritage’ and ‘open source’ seeds led me to spend a disproportionate amount of time and money chasing down seeds and tubers from various arcane sources. Despite almost obsessive nurturing (or perhaps that’s the problem??), the results have been generally disappointing – specifically with red sweetcorn, oca, crosnes and mashua. I don’t really have enough space for such fancies and will instead grow (though I’m sure I will be seduced occasionally) what I know will work. AGM status is not given for no reason.
>>The morello cherry tree established well but the entire crop disappeared overnight and I don’t feel like making little net sleeves for the branches to protect future bounty so I have decided to cut my losses and ordered a pear tree to replace it. The cherry tree will go into the wild part of the site for the birds to enjoy.
>>I must net seedling pea plants immediately or the pigeons will get them!
>>Magpies can evidently find their way into spaces that even a micro carrot root fly cannot, so I must bring a darning needle & thread to sew up the micromesh rather than relying on string ties. (Why magpies would want to go into a cloched carrot patch is beyond speculation.)
>>Strawberries, wild and cultivated, spread everywhere given half a chance, and slugs just love them, so I must be much more ruthless in weeding them out and abandon all idyllic notions of sweetly jewelled & orderly clumps bordering my beds. Though I do intend to keep the high-rise shelf in the fruit cage with Mara des Bois strawberries in Moorland Gold ‘grow bigs’ which were really successful.
>>Golden beetroot are delicious and don’t get woody when big. Grow more of them!
>>Salvia ‘Amistad’ becomes thuggishly large towards the end of summer. I will leave them in situ in the flower bed for now in the hope that the roses can do their thing in early summer before the salvias get too big, but may have to transplant them back to the garden.
>>Flower sprouts are easy to grow and delicious – as well as looking great.
If you were with Charles Dowding, you were virtually just ‘up the road’ from me. He used to be even closer, in the same village! Pity I could have treated you to a coffee and more. You are so ‘rooted’, and I am green ( well perhaps pale green) with envy. I just live in my head and can hardly find my feet. Lovely review of watchfulness.
Thank you Philippa – I’m just sorry I hadn’t realised your proximity; it was a foul day and the journey through horizontal sleet was rather taxing (especially as I kept being distracted by the worrysome sight of new born lambs in their freezing fields!) I would have loved to reconnect with you, heads and all :0)
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Such a pleasure this annual review, how civilised, proud to be a member of family.
I”m in awe of your passion and skills. Like Philippa, I retreat into my imagination, which lifts me off the ground, During summer, after extensive, and no doubt healthy efforts of clipping overgrowth, I enjoy sitting a garden that is reasonably trimmed to provide aesthetic pleasure. I gave up on planting vegetables, not having found a solution to the unrelenting snail traffic, for which my garden seems to be a highway.