Posts Tagged ‘no-dig’

Really perfectly lovely potatoes

At the Gardening Club that followed potato day, we unpacked our goody bag of potatoes, luckily not too many, so we should have room for some other veg on the plot after all. We decided to chit them as we had done before, that is,  all of us taking some potatoes home in a seed tray or egg box, and hopefully returning them to get planted once they had started to sprout. After a bit of time rummaging around in the shed, which needs tidying up (again), I remembered that I had just recently given all the egg boxes to a gardener who keeps chickens, to tidy the shed up a bit (which had not worked). Flummoxed by this, we broke for tea, and then had to retreat to the polytunnel to dodge a sudden rain shower, where I realised that we had a brilliant potato chitting spot right there, in the shape of an old apple store rescued from the tip and now sitting, unassumingly, in the corner of the polytunnel.

After our potato day education, we realised that we needed to know the name and the type (first early, main etc) of the potatoes, and that it was important that we didn’t muddle the potatoes up this time, as has happened every time in previous years. The apple store was an elegant solution; each variety of potato in its own drawer, neatly labelled in chalk. Just lovely. When all the potatoes were in their drawers, The whole group stood round the apple store and admired it for the deeply satisfying piece of work that is was. We have high hopes of our spuds this year.

For the rest of the session on the allotment this week, we were preparing our ‘no dig’ plot . . . by digging out the last of the couch grass. Seems rather contrary, but the stuff does just keep coming back, so I thought it was worth the effort. The no dig plot is a response to the difficulties some of the group members have with heavy work, plus the fact that the soil was so very dry in the spring and early summer last year, plus it was the result of a very inspirational trip to Charles Dowding’s Somerset market garden: check it out here

More on our adventure into no dig next time!


Making a hot bed

Hilda checking the tomatoes in the hot bed

In midsummer we had some bags of farmyard manure delivered to the allotment. We had planned to dig it straight in to empty ground before planting up some hungry crops, but on inspection some of the compost was a little too fresh to use this way, and needed to be matured.

After a week or two of looking at the manure, stacked in an unlovely pile of blue plastic bags, I decided to take a Permaculture approach, and turn a problem into a solution. On our new plot we had inherited a home-made cold frame, sturdily-built of window frames, but currently unused.  We emptied all the manure into the cold frame, topped it with a layer of soil, and then made soil-filled planting pockets into which we planted our young plants – two courgettes and two tomatoes. The manure and soil had filled the cold-frame about 2/3 full, so as well as enjoying warm feet courtesy of the still-maturing manure, the young plants also had some protection from the elements from the glass sides, which was an ideal growing environment for these plants.

the biggest truss of tomatoes ever!

So, how did they grow?  The courgettes have produced several glossy dark-green fruits, and have more yet to come, but the tomatoes have performed most spectacularly. These plants, one a mini ‘tumbler’ variety, and the other a large fruiting beefsteak type, didn’t have the best start in life. Leftovers from planting up the polytunnel and an outside bed, they were left in a pot too long before planting out, but soon made up for lost time.

The mini tomato has the biggest truss of fruits any of us have seen, currently still green, and resembling a  huge bunch of grapes, and the other has a large truss of good-sized fruits, both on very compact plants that seem to have put all their energy into producing the crop rather than growing leaves.

I think we’ll use this method again next year, probably to grow another hungry crop, like squash. These are good value on the allotment, with our favoured ones giving lots of small squashes, which are good to share out at Gardening Club, but they need a rich, moist bed to grow well.

Finally, once the crops have finished we’ll empty the hot-bed and spread the compost, still with a lot of nutrients in it,   onto a nearby bed. Then we’ll cover it all in cardboard and soil (see ‘Mulch’) and leave it to the worms to dig it into the soil. Easy!