Monday, 10 January 2011

1st morning at the allotment

On Saturday we finally got to our plot, which was as good a January day as any to begin. The site is huge and exposed; and most of the plots have obviously been ravaged by the frost, snow and rain of the last month. Our plot is thick with bits of degraded plastic, rusting metal, discarded contraceptives and low growing weeds, though luckily only a few perennials have taken root.

Now we have seen the plot, I realise we are lucky to have taken over the lease at a quiet time of year. The plot boundaries need to be marked and paths cut. The ground needs to be cleared and bed and pot positions decided upon (and a debate is still raging about whether we need beds or not). We need to buy and erect a small shed. The compost bin needs to be installed ASAP. Seeds need to be started indoors (the bit I am most looking forward to after all these months of dormancy). In short, a lot of hard work.

So we began to double dig; and getting nowhere particularly fast, changed tack. Now we plan to double dig only half of the plot. On this we will direct-sow root vegetables and legumes and add a few transplanted vegetables. The other half of the plot will be hoed and any perennial roots dug out, then a layer of compost spread on the top followed by overlapping layers of cardboard (liberated from the skips where I work). Through this mulch we plan to grow potatoes, oca (a South American root vegetable resembling a small waxy lemony potato) and transplanted module grown plants like squashes and beans. The mulch will be built up as required.

This will leave us in a year or so with a weed free productive allotment (here's hoping, anyway) and I am interested to see how the dig/no-dig approach pays off in future years. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, but mulch is winning out at the moment on the grounds that I am unlikely to do myself an injury. Although, I am a klutz - so watch this space for mulch related A&E visits.

So does anyone have any thoughts on no-dig gardening? Should we build raised beds? Is there anything else we should be considering as we start out?


  1. I have double dug and I have mulched deep. My first no work gardening method came from a good old gal named Ruth Stout, a master at mulching and no digging. I can see the advantage of double dug gardening and I can see the less work of deep mulching. I have adopted a combination of both to fit my own needs. Which is better? What ever works for you. They both are equally good in my opinion. When I double dug I added peat moss and compost while ground was open so my double dub beds don't get double dug every year.

    I love the raised bed concept. I have wood to contain the bed and they are 4X8X12 and have about a 1/2 a cubic yard of compost in each bed. It makes for great growing medium and will regulate the moisture which as you know could be too much or too little in any given season.

    Have a great garden growing season.

  2. wahey you've got a flat allotment!

  3. Thank you for the advice David. We might add a raised bed at a time to the dug side of the plot, I suppose we can always move them/add more/remove them as required.

    Marianne, that we do, although the ground is quite uneven and the paths precarious. Part of the site is a very old landfill (remediated thankfully!) and the topsoil did not settle evenly. I have seen a few steep hillside allotments that seem to produce well - with a lot of hard work I imagine.