Okay so this post is going to give some background on our allotment. We put our names down for an allotment and was told that the waiting list was approximately 3 years at present! That was early in 2008 if I recall correctly(think I'll check with the Alex later). Alex had mentioned to them that we didn't mind hard work and were really keen to expand from growing in our garden to growing on an allotment.
So in March 2008 Alex just thought he'd contact again to show his keenness again and the lovely lady at the council did say there was one plot available by jumping up the queue as it had been turned down by many people already. A bit of background - it was for plot 92A - half a plot that a lady had given up (she still had 92) because she couldn't manage it. It was totally overgrown and had basically been used for years as a garden rather than an allotment. It was full of shrubs and some trees on the outer edges. Unafraid of hard work Alex said we'd take it and the rest is history. Here's one of the first pictures we took - a bit dark as it was taken in the evening in March 2008.
We started clearing it straight away and found some useful plants - there was a Pear tree (I think it's Conference) and several gooseberry bushes. The gooseberry bushes were relocated to pots for replanting. The Pear produced fruit in the Summer which was great.
So the clearing began
And we finally replanted some gooseberry plants and some strawberries given to my by my Dad.
And continued planting when space was ready and dug over throughout the Spring and Summer.
It was hard work for Alex and he had some great help from my Dad when they visited digging the ground over. There was obviously a lot of weeds - couch grass and mares tail (horror!) so has taken a lot to clear these, and I'm sure we still have work to do clearing them. Notice the big black pot in the middle? That's a 350litre pot we used to house a palm tree in, in the garden. It will be home to a grapevine this year so watch this space. It's going to be buried a bit so that Imogen can plant some plants around the edge of it.
I'll probably fill in the gaps as I go along, but jumping ahead we had some good harvests from the plot considering most of the work was clearing ground in 2008 - we had some strawberries, raspberries, a couple of pears, many many beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages, cauliflowers, onions, courgettes, achocha's and a few pumpkins. Oh and lots of blackberries. Here's a picture if Imogen picking beans with Daddy
I went on a Permaculture in 5 days course run by Patrick Whitefield in July 2008 at The Sustainability Centre, East Meon. Having already had a basic knowledge and background to permaculture, I thoroughly enjoyed the course and was eager to put into practice things I had learnt there at our allotment, which involved completely redesigning it. It was perfect timing as until now we had just created space and planted up so to have a design was going to transform it. Our design was going to be based on raised beds for ease and to create proper paths. Here are a couple of pictures of how plot 92A is going with beds in.
Much of the redesign and bed building happened in September and October 2008, oh and a shelter was built at the bottom by the beech hedge in August 2008 (Thanks Alex and Dad).
So moving onto October 2008 we were contacted by the council offering us the top plot 92 as the lady had decided to give that up too. We had heard this from a neighbour on the allotment. and considering there was now a stretch of water (The Solent) between her and the allotment it seemed wise that she gave it up. I couldn't really see that she would get the Isle of Wight ferry over to tend her allotment! Another plot neighbour had said he'd not seen her up there doing anything for a good few years anyway - she used to occasionally turn up and have a cup of tea and a read and then leave.
The top plot was a state - just loads of rubbish dumped in it, loads of different containers, although we have found uses for most things so far (re-use, recycle and all that). We have also found some great stuff that will be put to use. There was a wheelbarrow (although not great condition) that is being put to use, a moulded pond liner - another project for this year, some tools including cultivators and hoes, a shed full of stuff and more pots than I could count. I will never need to buy pots again ... or seed trays. Take a look (and this is not all of them!). There were other useful bits too - netting, hoops for cloches, etc.
It's been hard work over the last few months getting this plot cleared to a state where we can plant anything (as well as redesigning the bottom plot), but it's getting there and there are potatoes planted up now. Many trees have been felled or pruned on this plot, some will remain including a lovely palm tree and a 20ft Eucalyptus which is going nowhere - a bit unfortunate as they are very thirsty.
So here are a couple of pictures to compare before and after clearing work on the top plot.
(top plot looking up from 92A - showing palm and trees in background)
(top plot side view - Eucalyptus on right - Hazel tree in the middle and Pampas grass)
And here is a more recent picture, although some more work has been done since then so I will have to update it soon.
And finally here's a picture from the bottom corner of what is now the combined plot 92
Okay so I think that's enough for now. I will fill in the gaps sometime as to the design, and what's been planted or going to planted now, etc, etc.
It's been a great year doing all this and we spend some time up there most weekends. As the planting and picking increases in the Spring and Summer, Imogen and I will go up during the week too. Luckily it's only a 10-15 minute walk from the house - although it is up a great big hill, as Imogen would tell you!
One final picture on a walk around the allotments last Summer - a view down to Southampton Docks and the QE2 berthed, a couple of months before leaving to be a floating hotel id Dubai - see the red funnel (not that I'm a boat spotter!).
Back soon for more tales from the allotment ...