Planting Plan 2018 – What’s Going Where

The layout for this year’s planting plan. We run a 5-year rotation, but with the new smaller allotment having seven different 10′ x 10′ beds, it’s changed to a 7-year rotation!

The Allotment

Briefly, the rotation works like this. The top-right bed – this year the nitrogen fixing beans and peas – will drop down a bed next year, so will end up where the current potatoes are. The potatoes will in turn drop down to where the roots are (they’re last in line as they don’t like fresh manure, so the manure will have depleted by the time they get planted). The roots will move to the top of the middle column and the middle column beds will all shuffle one down too. The last middle column  bed (sweetcorn and corgettes) will move sideways into the estranged middle bed of the left had column where there are currently brassicas. The artichokes and asparagus are permanent beds so will not move. The brassicas will then move to where the current potatoes are, and the whole thing will cycle once more. This gives us almost enough of what we need, although we’ll be short of potatoes.

The Currant Patch

The six currant bushes are permanent, but in front of them we’ll be planting a row of nectar producing flowers, to help with pollinating insects and predatory insects, such as lacewings.

Behind the current bushes we’ll have a section for sunflowers, predominantly for the bees but once flowered the birds can make use of the seeds. Then we’ll also have a bed of carrots, as this is new soil and less prone to carrot fly. We will also establish a new strawberry bed – at last!

The Raised Bed

At the bottom of the path, this is the first planted bed to pass, so we add the pick and come again produce – spinach, mixed leaves lettuce and rocket. Then we’ll also have some full lettuce and carrots, with radish making use of the little pockets of space.

The Rhubarb & Gooseberry Patch

This one is a bit of a struggle as it’s becoming blighted by twitch – couch grass. We can’t remove it without spraying, which we won’t do, or by digging the patch up. My thought is to struggle on as best we can for the time being, but think about creating a new rhubarb and gooseberry patch somewhere clean. We can self-root the gooseberries so we know what we’re getting, and don’t have to buy any more. The rhubarb we could risk digging up, halving and replanting, but we’d have to make sure no twitch carried through to the new patch.

Greenhouse No.1

This will be the tomato greenhouse – one variety of eating and one variety of cooking. Heaven knows we could probably triple this number and still get through them all!

The San Marzano we’ve grown a few times, and are horrible eaten raw. However, when cooked into a ragu, they are absolutely gorgeous, and remind me of childhood smells from Naples.

Greenhouse No.2

Our more humid greenhouse, we’ll water the ground in here to help the cucumbers grow – they like it humid.

We’ll also grow on the potting bench – the peppers don’t seem to mind the same treatment, and the basil and coriander will only start in the greenhouse. Once they’re established and the risk of frost has passed, we’ll move them outside, leaving the potting bench free once more to start more seedlings – possibly lettuce.

Greenhouse No.3

This is the vegetable we struggle with growing more than any other. One year in four it’s been successful, the rest fell fowl to not enough water (last time we go away on holiday mid-growing season!), ants, and cold. However, we will persevere, and this year we’ll start earlier with them so they have a fighting chance. This is also the greenhouse that needs a good clean before the season starts!

And that’s it! The varieties are all labelled in the planting plan images, and all are either from Stormy Hall seeds, now part of the Seed Co-Operative, or from seeds we’ve saved ourselves.

Snow at Merrybower

It feels like an age since we’ve had some proper snow and cold weather. Thanks to the wind blowing from Russia, we’ve had some great days of frosty weather, hopefully nobbling some insects in the process! This is just a random selection of photographs taken during the cold days where, as you can see from two of the photographs, chicken cleaning was a challenge (no hoses working) and pruning came to a standstill!

2018 Allotment Plan (or the Patch Plan as we call it)

It’s that time of year again! It just fair whizzes past these days, but after last year’s house work putting the kibosh on a lot of the allotment work, it is with renewed vigour that we turned to the planning of the year’s veggie and fruity goodness, and the 2018 allotment plan

The Big Guys

We have our favourites of course, but where you get your seed from is a massive question these days. I had two catalogues land on the doormat this week – a rather glossy catalogue from Mr Fothergill and a more rustic looking DT Brown. Needless to say, the DT Brown catalogue looked more ‘niche’, a bit edgy – if you will, but it raised questions about why they should happen to appear on the same day? A quick bit of research on the old interweb showed that these seed companies are so intertwined it’s a bit of a nightmare if you like to support the smaller seed companies – Mr Fothergills and DT Browns are one and the same, but the same can be said for many of the well-known brands these days.

Our Seed Suppliers

So what to do? Dobies were one of the first as they don’t list any seed varieties that are the result of genetic modification. Then there is also Franchi – Seeds of Italy – who are the oldest family-run seed company in the world and were found to be the most ethical major packet seed brand by Ethical Consumer Magazine in 2016. Their range of Italian varieties is wonderful, with the Tonda Padana being our favourite winter squash, and I haven’t seen a packet of their seeds yet that are a hybrid. One year we bought from Stormy Hall Seeds, based in North Yorkshire and part of the Botton Village Camphill Community and the quality was fantastic, but the range wasn’t huge. However, their ethos is incredible, and they’re also Demeter certified, so this year we’ve bought as much as we can from their collection which, I need to add, has grown considerably. We’ve also bought some flower seeds from them, to help provide nectar for the bees and food for the lacewing, to help combat the unwanted pests. As long as we plant within 7 metres (20 feet) of the vegetables which need help, we should see a benefit. We have the old strawberry bed that has been resting for a couple of years, so we’ll sow them there – a good 30ft x 2ft strip adjacent to the current bushes, and the Borage we’re including in the mix will provide a good ground cover that we can also dig in at the end of the season, as a green fertiliser.

Onion Sets & Seed Potatoes

When it came to onion sets and potatoes, we have once again turned to Bridgend Garden Centre. They’re a way away, but they measure out the sets and spuds in convenient amounts. Whilst their onions and shallots aren’t organic, they have a small range of organic potatoes, so we’ve bought our varieties from there. They’re also ridiculously helpful, which is a pleasant attribute to find these days.

Local Brassicas

When it comes to brassicas, we’re planting so little of our own this year that it really doesn’t make sense to buy seed packets! Besides, Jacksons at Swarkestone are one of the oldest growing families in our area and we can buy plugs from them, which makes far more sense.

Fruit

Lastly, we have the fruit – we’ve bought from Pomona Fruits and they’ve supplied quality produce, so when it came to deciding where to buy the new strawberry patch from, they were the obvious choice.

There we have it – where we’re buying 2018’s seeds from. The next post will show what’s going where!