Monday, April 9, 2007

Overwhelmed in the allotment

We just finished watching some episodes of Beyond River Cottage where Hugh leaves his smallholding of 3 - 4 acres to take over a proper farm of about 40 acres. It's a wonderful series, just like River Cottage was, and the kids even sat still and watched for a couple of hours with us.

Sebastian was engrossed in the part where the cows were having their gynae exams to see if they were in calf or not, and Joe was particularly interested in the mortality of various of the beasts which were slaughtered and then eaten.

We have big mortality issues with him at the moment, ever since we visited the old age home for Palmpasen. He's been waking up at night crying and has become extremely concerned that we might age and die overnight. Poor baby. There's no real remedy except to be matter-of-fact and wait for him to come to terms with it.

I guess part of the reason it was such a shock for him is that he has never really seen a very elderly or elderly and infirm person up close. One of the disadvantages to having no family locally.

Moving on swiftly from imaginary scenes of alzheimers, dementia and invalidity ...

In the series that we're watching now Hugh says that when he moved from River Cottage to the new farm the idea of having so much extra space and responsibility was daunting. I can understand.

We recently got the allotment next to ours so we have a full sized, 110 m2 garden now instead of the 50 m2 we had before. I had everything planned out perfectly for the first half and we had laid out our beds and pathways and planned what we intended to grow.

Now that the second half is added in, I feel all at sea. I have all this space and nothing to plant in it. If I had known I had it I would have started more vegetables for longer term growth, like broccoli, a lot earlier. As it is, I concentrated on short, quick growing crops that would utilise the space that I had to the maximum. Suddenly there is so much more potential.

Here's a very rough plan (not to scale) of the allotment. Some of the plants are already in situ, others are waiting patiently on the windowsill until after Ijsheiligen. In the meantime they get shifted outdoors in the daytime and back inside at night.

Garden Plan

Some of these crops will be in the ground through winter, like the parsnips.

Areas that currently house peas, lettuce, onions and garlic wll be planted with winter crops like broccoli, winter spinach, carrots and chinese greens.

Amazing when you look at the plan and realise that the parsnips will only be eaten in nine months time!

The sweetcorn (maize) and sweet peas will hopefully provide some kind of windbreak for the beans, which seem to be very tender to strong winds. Being on the polder we get a lot of those and they blow in both directions across our allotment.

The raised bed system that we're trying to use requires a lot of investment at first in the form of the wood that we need to use for the borders. As a result we're doing it gradually. I'd prefer to spend money on plants rather than on wooden borders, but the system has so many advantages, not least the lack of muddy feet! I didn't realise quite how comfortable the pathways were until I had to kneel in the dirt to plant the cauliflowers and leeks as our bedding system hasn't been implemented on that side yet.

The pathways between the beds are currently woodchips, because that was what we had at the allotment when we were laying out the paths. I'm going to search out some straw to use for the remainder. The advantage of both woodchips and straw is that it can just be cultivated into the ground or swept up and added to the compost heap when it's time for a refresh.

Our table and chairs are at the site now, and we've discovered that the paving stones are far from level! A plan will have to be made with sand and a spirit level to try and get them flat. Otherwise all those meals we intend to eat there will have to be eaten with one hand holding the table steady!

So, who's coming to our first bbq at the allotment? We can pick our salad fresh from the garden!


Vertine said...

succes with leveling your path. Maybe you can ask around for advice with the "elders" at the volkstuin.... Be careful with using woodsnips. A professional gardener once told me that most woodsnips come from trees that have been cut because they were sick. Don't know if that is harmful for the garden, but it does make sense.

Lydia said...

Hi! I just found your blog through reading 'Pocket Farm'.
Your garden plan sounds lovely. If you are using woodchips on your paths a 5 sheet layer of old newspapers prevents any weeds from finding their way up, as it blocks the sunlight. You can use less chips that way.
The story of your child confronting old age and infirmity and then worrying about his parents aging reminded me of my children at that age. They all seemed to have that huge realization at around 5 or 6 years old. It helps to point out healthy people they know who are ten or twenty years older than you, even actors they are familiar with so they can understand ten and twenty years is a very long time and you'll still feel wonderful. And then show them photos of how old they will be in ten and twenty years! Boys love the idea they will be driving!
Good luck with the garden. Here in Connecticut in the United States we are expecting a big nor'easter storm with as much as six inches of rain. It is unusual for this time of year for us to get high winds or that much rain. I will be happily indoors planning our vegetable garden!

Ashleigh said...

Vertine: I think I'm going to get straw (stro) for the pathways, biodegradable and I can change the layout of the paths whenever I want to. I just need to find a place to get lots of bales of straw from!

Lydia: Thanks so much for the suggestions for my baby - they sound wonderful! I used that black plastic sheeting under my paths and the weeds are still coming through (just around the edges instead of upwards!) I'll try the newspapers :)

Vertine said...


do you have a manege nearby? they usually have lots of bales. Or ask around in the allotment. Those people seem to know everyone and everything, and where to get it at the best price.....