and boy am I more motivated than ever right now! The past few weeks have been fairly busy for me at the allotment, having the time of work due to furlough is really helping, I really wish I was able to retire at 33 haha unfortunately thats not going to happen anytime soon so I'll just have to make the most of the free time I have. In my last post I mentioned starting the third bed, as well as some successes and failures with the sowing of crops, well I'm pleased to say that the third bed is built, hooray! and ~50% of my pumpkins and sunflowers have germinated, as well as 12 out of the 15 sweetcorn that I sowed at the start of the month and are showing promising growth, although all my marigolds have failed. Not only did I get started on the third bed but I completed it, and as luck would have it, it was nowhere near as back breaking or difficult as the last 2 beds, which were all covered with plastic sheeting(shown below) and subsequently had weeds and roots growing through them. Forunately there was far less plastic used in this bed for some reason, however as I can't afford/ don't want to buy anymore manure/compost this meant having to basically de-turf the top layer of soil and then I turned it all over with a fork. Hopefully I'll have created enough of my own by next year to fill this bed.
After a couple of days spending a few hours here and there, I managed to get the bed finished, dug in a little compost I had laying around along with some chicken manure pellets and then began constructing my supports for the peas, runner beans, sweetcorn and sunflowers going in this bed. I have dubbed bed 3, 'Bamboo Alley', and you can probably guess why from the pictures below.
I've created a pair of "wig wams" with string running around them for my peas and runners to climb as they grow and put 4x4 grid of stakes in the middle of the bed for the sunflowers and sweetcorn plants to use for support. Once all the bamboo canes were in place and string tied off, I couldn't help but start planting things out, I was getting worried about my peas being in the tunnel to long and needed to get them out before it was too late, so they went in first, I also direct sowed some runner beans around the base of the wig wam in picture 2 and planted the sunflowers that were growing on the kitchen widowsill. I originally planned to try the 3 sisters method in this bed, where you plant pumpkins for ground cover in between the sweetcorn and have runner beans, peas or both growing up the sweetcorn stems. However I was worried that i'd do something wrong and risk losing all 3/4 crops due to inexperience, maybe i'll give it a try next year, instead I opted to split the bed into thirds, and as my sunflowers are further along than my sweetcorn, and will hopefully grow taller i've decided to put them along the back row of canes.
Much to the wifes delight the kitchen windowsill is slowly starting to look like exactly that and not a mini garden centre, theres only the sweetcorn left on there now which needs a couple more weeks before its ready to plant out. As I wasn't going to use the 3 sisters method, I decided to stick with part of my original plan and plant the 3 pumpkin plants at the bottom of the plot, they'll get plenty of sunshine here, and have plenty of space to spread out, I also intend to use the bottom part of this bed for my leeks which are still sat in a seed tray at home in the cold frame. I also managed to get hold of some MDPE pipe from Toolstation and have created a some hoops on bed 2, which is my brassica/ onion bed and also on my pallet collar bed with the parsnips and carrots in. I got some plastic sheeting and created what is essentially a mini polytunnel to try and keep the soil a bit warmer and help with the germination, as the temperature is still a bit cooler than the plants would like, especially at night.
To secure the pipe in bed 2, I used some metal canes I had in the shed as stakes, pushed them a good foot to 2 feet into the ground and slid the MDPE over the top and as an extra precaution, I got some clips with the piping so I've screwed them to the bed walls and clipped the piping into them. The netting is quite old and brittle, it's been laying around in shed #2 for god knows how long, but it's all I have for now until I can source some scaffolders debris netting to replace it. The good thing about the current netting is the holes are wide enough to allow cable ties through, this is how i've secured it and the added bonus is the ties slide along the pipe quite easily when i need to do anything in this bed, plant out, weed, harvest, etc. After speaking with plot neighbours, Adrian and Una, they very kindly offered me some purple sprouting broccoli, something i've heard of but never seen in stores nor tried, I graciously accepted, and made the decision to rake over the leeks I impatiently planted last month when I thought my first batch of seeds had failed, and planted the broccoli, I plan to put some some regular broccoli(calabrese?) and cauliflowers along with some brussel sprouts I have growing in the cold frame at home and the onion sets, which are coming along nicely, although I fear it may be too late to get the broccoli and cauliflowers started at this time of year, I shall sow and see.
One of the things I'm trying to remeber to do whenever I visit my plot, is to weed each bed before anything unwanted gets to established. This has led to the discovery of some marestail growing mainly in bed 2, which is annoying as it's a newly built and freshly filled raised bed. So either the manure or compost I bought contained it or it was laying dormant under all the weeds and plastic and i've disturbed it when making the bed. Oh well, as long as pull it up as soon as I see it it shouldn't be too much of an issue. I also seem to be getting a lot of mushrooms pop in bed 1, two different varities both of which I'm not sure what they are as I can't stand them to eat and i'm a little concerned as they're popping up all over my spud bed, if any readers of this blog have any clue as to the identity of these fungi and whether they'll have any affect on my potato crop, please do let me know.
The lovely people who keep delivering woodchip have paid a visit to the site again, this time with a BIG delivery and as such I saw an oppurtunity to create another pathway between beds 2 and 3, and if there's any left when I next visit the site I may help myself to a bit more to make a path above bed 3 although I've used all my cardboard up that I had stored in shed #2, so I either need to get some put aside for me at work, or have a walk around some of the local businesses and see if they're throwing any out, although I could use some weed membrane the previous owner left behind.
Ive been thinking about what to do now the mainbeds are completed aside from watch everything grow and keep on top of the weeds. I can't decide between moving the compost bins as previously mentioned, or relocating the polytunnel and shed #2 to the top, and getting rid of shed #1 (the wooden one) giving me basically the whole bottom third for some flowers, a couple of pallet collar (maybe) and an area to sit and enjoy the view/ let the kids play. Either option is quite a big undertaking, however other than weeding and watching stuff grow i'm kind of out of work for the moment. So I need something to keep me occupied for the duration of my furlough, I also need to have a look into replacing the fencing of my plot, particularly down the left side of it, as this is quite rotten in places and has a potentially nice bed in front of it although its a bit weedy now but could be used for flower beds or strawberries, etc in the future. I'll have a think and let you know what I decide or start in the next post, that's it for this one though. I will just mention that I've set up a subreddit for the Amatuer Allotmenteer, if any of my readers are on reddit. The idea of that being a place to post blog updates as well as interact with you guys and gals, and hopefully see what you folks are up to on your own plots. You can find link above or in the footer of the website along with my FB and Instagram, anyways thats all for definite this time. As always feel free to leave a comment, opinion or suggestion on here or any of the socials mentioned. Thanks for taking the time to read, I truly appreciate itf.