allotment diaries: layout!

When I first got my allotment in February 2017 it was just a big patch of grass/couch grass (and some sneaky dormant weeds not yet visible to me!). I had gardened before but only in small beds at my parents and grandads, I'd never had such a huge space to work with and to be honest I had no idea what to do! All I had in mind was that I wanted to do it myself and try to avoid the weed-killer approach. I was also keen to try and start growing stuff asap! So with that in mind I took two approaches! I decided to dig out a few 'beds' of varying sizes in the front half and try a 'no dig' approach on the back half. Around a month after I started it looked like it was going well... 

...and for quite some time it was! I started planting in the front half of the plot and was successful growing potatoes, beans, radish, onions, beetroot, chard, kale, swede, sprouts, pumpkins, lettuce, a few herbs, some carrots, that lists makes it sound very impressive hey? Well here's what also happened, which will ruin that 'good life' image you might have of me harvesting away on my plot! 

Yep that's my plot, and yep that was after I'd done the above clearing. We had a really hot June and the combination of that with me being away in Greece for a bit, followed swiftly by moving house meant I spent around 3/4 weeks away from the plot and this is what greeted me on my return. It is definitely true what they say about weeds! Thankfully I still had a good lot of veg underneath it all. I learnt two things from my first year; that you can't just leave weeding to another day and that my 'no dig' approach had failed, it required much more layering than I had attempted. I was also starting to realise that the layout I had wasn't really suiting me and that grass paths are hard to maintain when you don't have a lawnmower, anywhere to store one or a car big enough to burrow one! As I'd already planted and it was summer there was not a lot I could do other than clear and carry on. 

Once I'd harvested the last of my lot for the season I decided to have a think about what I wanted from the allotment. I actually did most of this thinking whilst leaving the whole plot covered over for the winter. I left the front bed 'active' as I still had chard, sprouts and kale on the go and were happy right through till January this year. The two things I'd found most challenging were keeping on top of the weeding (especially as the beds I'd made were quite big) and having grass paths. So in January this year I took to making smaller beds and completely taking out the grass paths. 

The beds are starting to take shape and paths are forming between each of the beds. I'm trying to be more thorough with clearing the beds - making sure I lift out any left over clumps of grass/couch grass and trying to remove any weeds and roots I come across. Only time will tell but at least now I think I'll be able to tackle the weeds more constantly, a bed at a time! My aim is to get the first half of the plot sorted, 8 beds, and then move on and tackle the back. It's funny looking back on the last year! If I'd known what I was doing and what I wanted I probably could have done this straight away, but I guess I had to learn for myself what I wanted and although at times it really tested me I enjoyed my first year! 

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