As if I didn't have enough to do, spring has well and truly sprung and the allotment needs seeing to.
I'm shocked to realise that we've had an allotment now for nearly 10 years.
My wife and I had a good laugh the other day as we reminisced about the early years. I had just read a couple of books about permaculture at the time and was therefore an expert on the subject. I devised a system of elaborate circular beds to maximise 'edge area' which proved to be spectacularly difficult to maintain.
I also had my heart set on buying some straw bales for use in mulching and the like. It seems straw bales were what every self respecting permaculturalist should be buying. Unfortunately the farmer was all out of straw but had plenty of hay. Now I didn't want to admit to the farmer that I wasn't exactly sure what the difference was between straw and hay so bought three bales. The whole of our first allotment we took on was 4 foot high in dry grass and weeds at the time. The last thing we needed was three bales more of the bloody stuff!!!
We've come a long way since then and with the enduring help from my father in law manage to coax a hefty stash of spuds most years that will see us going for a couple of months yet and an eclectic collection of beans, pumpkins, onions and other nutritious fodder. I still feel like a complete newbie at gardening though and regularly have grandiose failures. Last year I decided to encourage nasturtiums to self seed everywhere to cover the ground and suppress weeds. Problem was that with the added distraction of a pregnant wife and a house with suddenly one too few rooms in it, the allotment got neglected for long spells. The nasturtiums went berserk and smothered large swathes of our plot. They are rapacious drinkers as well and their fleshy stems slurped all the moisture from the soil they were charged with protecting.
Now March is here already and we stand surveying an undug, unkempt mess of an allotment. There's been a rash of new faces down at the allotments lately as neglected plots were re-let to people on the three year waiting list and old friends passed away. The keen and the eager have been busy for months now getting everything dug and prepared. Ours is conspicuously overgrown with weeds and the remnants of last year's crops. There is some hope though. Claude, one of the old boys, points out that we have the only flowering purple sprouting broccoli on the whole site. I know! And it's delicious!
I'm keen to try out a lot more labour saving techniques this year like straw mulching (hopefully Mr Hay Farmer has forgotten me by now) and trickle irrigation. I don't know how much we are going to realistically archive this year, especially with the new baby but hopefully if I blog some of our progress it will help motivate me and may touch a chord with other time deficient gardeners.