Now I wouldn’t consider myself a novice veg grower: I’ve been growing in my back garden for over 5 years. In that time I certainly picked up the basic idea and grew some good veg.
This year I’m realising there is a lot more to learn. It’s not that I don’t know how to grow the various types of veg, or that I haven’t had the time. It is the lack of a system to cope with the logistics of it all. Having a large allotment and juggling /prioritising all the things that need to done has been a challenge to say the least.
Now I’m not making excuses for letting it go or giving it up because I’m certainly not doing that. All in all I’m really pleased with how it’s gone this year and have really enjoyed it so I will definitely be throwing myself in for another year. The reason for the article is essentially to pass on what I’ve learnt (read ‘done wrong’) this year in terms of managing the complexity and share my ideas to improve next year.
So here are my 8 things I’ve learnt and plan to do next year to make for a more organised plot:
- Budget a small amount each month for spend on the allotment say £10. A few extra pennies set as side each month would have allowed me to buy tools earlier on (wheel barrow and spade etc). These would have saved a lot of time. They would have also allowed me buy and transport compost and muck (manure) to the plot which would have increased yields.
- Plan beyond March, April and May. In June my plans stopped and with all the weeding any further planting of the late summer, autumn and winter crops got forgotten.
- Plan more than the bed and planting layout. The things I failed to plan were the associated activities. From, buying manure in time to let it rot down, preparing the beds ready for sowing or planting out, and making time for watering (another yield increaser).
- Prioritise sowing and planting – Because I’d taken on an ‘Overgrown Plot’ my main goal was to keep the weeks back. So my first tasks on the plot were always mowing the grass and weeding / hoeing the beds, at the expense of planting out and sowing. This meant that I often ran out of time for the main reason I took on the plot (to grow stuff). Sounds silly, but when time is limited it’s easy to miss the most important bits.
- Make more compost. By this I mean have something large, that you can carry down the plot (a large bucket etc preferably with a lid) that you keep away from the house / kitchen. A shed or garage for instance, where it’s not going to offend other halves / family member noses. Empty your smaller kitchen compost bin into this as needed. Then you can take the larger bucket to the plot less frequently. This means more material makes it to the plot compost bins. The reason I say this is our kitchen compost bin is small and soon filled up to the point where its contents were thrown out before I could take it down the plot.
- Have an organised shed. My shed has no system! The spade, fork, hoe and rake lean against the wall and everything else is on the floor. This is not conducive to an efficient allotment operation. A lot of my time is wasted pulling everything out to find the one thing I need. (a place for everything and everything in it’s place!).
- Set up kits. My plot is fairly large and it takes some time to walk from one end of the plot to the other, and I’m always forgetting that one tool, string, label, seed packet. The list goes on and on. There have been times when I’ve gone back and forth 4-5 times before I’ve got everything I need for the task at hand which is frustrating and wastes time. My solution to this has been to set up kits that I can simply grab and contain the main things I need for a particular activity. For example, my sowing/planting kit is a bag with: labels, pen, sting line, hand fork and trowel and dibber. I can simply grab this, along with my rake when planting or sowing. I also have a kit for weeding and another for digging. Just having these kits (even if they are simply a mental checklist like the digging kit) has saved me no end of time on the plot.
- Label everything, seed trays pots and drills in beds. I don’t think I need to explain this one. Although, I do need to find a good way of labelling the rows in the beds that won’t get knocked, moved, pulled up, or destroyed by the mower. Let me know if you’ve come up with a good way of labelling your beds.
Well that’s my list of ideas. I’d love to know if you have any others that you feel make for a more organised allotment?