2013 Allotment Year in Review

Now that we have just turned over into 2014, I wanted to write a review of our first eventful year on the allotment.

The weather this summer was unusually cold to start, then quite mild and dry for much of July and August. It was reputed to be one of the nicest summers in recent history for Ireland.

Overall observations from the growing season:

  • I had healthy crops of sugar peas, green beans, white onions, lettuce, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, sunflowers and potatoes (Sarpo Mira and Rooster).
  • Crops which failed to meet expectations: cabbage, carrots, sweetcorn, red onions, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash, courgettes. Cabbage was severely insect eaten (even with very good mesh netting), carrots failed to sprout, red onions were anemic, and the rest are hot weather plants that didn’t get enough love apparently either due to late planting or not enough heat.
  • Flowers did OK but most suffered from poor watering, as I was out of the country for 6 weeks during July and August. Marigolds were a small French variety, next year I will do something larger. Nasturtium grew well amidst the strawberries and blueberries. Sweet pea vines failed to do much.
  • Some of the crops need spacing out more, e.g. my lettuce and peas all cropped at the same time and would benefit from multiple plantings spaced out over the summer.
  • Having a conservatory (greenhouse) at home was hugely helpful. This allowed me to start many seeds and even grow some crops at home (tomatoes). We moved house over the summer so I am looking for a new space to replace this function.
  • I love sunflowers but I’m not sure what to do with the seeds (we did not harvest any).

Thoughts on my allotment design:

  • The raised box beds worked perfectly. They focused my attention, kept the weeds of the path out of the beds, and hopefully kept the soil warmer and drier than it would have been otherwise. They also facilitated using netting covers which were very beneficial. The areas without boxes did not do as well mostly due to weed incursion and impaction from walking in the bed.
  • Keeping the paths weed-free was difficult. My original plan was to rototill the paths regularly, but I only did this perhaps 3 times.
  • I badly missed not having a shed or dry storage area.

I did enjoy socialising with the other gardeners throughout the year. Paul and Grace the allotment owners have been great, hosting several parties through the summer and winter and creating a good environment where I’m comfortable bringing the kids.

Some photos from the year since I last wrote in March:

Potato harvest

Potato harvest

Sunflowers enjoying the fine summer.

Sunflowers enjoying the fine summer.

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Raspberries on the right, strawberries and blueberries on the left.

Raspberries on the right, strawberries and blueberries on the left.

The garden in full bloom

The garden in full bloom

Strawberries flowering

Strawberries flowering

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Broccoli and cabbage netting in place (against insects).

Broccoli and cabbage netting in place (against insects).

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Cold frames provided by the allotment owners.

Cold frames provided by the allotment owners.

Boxes now being filled with topsoil and compost.

Boxes now being filled with topsoil and compost.

The paths were a quagmire when it rained.

The paths were a quagmire when it rained.

A cheap row cover for the lettuce, not sure how much this actually helped!

A cheap row cover for the lettuce, not sure how much this actually helped!

Bird netting over the sugar peas

Bird netting over the sugar peas

The rototiller and an early version of my compost bin. These pallets were taken away to underlay a wood pile later in the season.

The rototiller and an early version of my compost bin. These pallets were taken away to underlay a wood pile later in the season.

Completed brick box

Completed brick box

Salvaged brick becoming a planting box for the boys

Salvaged brick becoming a planting box for the boys

 

 

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