The relative excitement of beds and paths

Cold frame minus top glass panels Start of the center path Top end now clear Lucy inside the cold frame Cold frame in its new position

Creeping along On the lookout Drip drip Old sign - Kit-Kat maybe? All the rubbish we've cleared

Central path marked out Our central path in the making Main path & the area that'll be beds Marking the path Freshly dug

My trusty fork A fine collection of cans Old Bob's leftovers Sharing the shed with the spiders Making use of the rusty barrow

Time for a sit down Raised beds or shallow graves... Lucy admiring our work Our first crop! The end of a hard day digging

It was a good weekend down on the allotment. Both Lucy and I went down on Saturday and Sunday so we got quite a lot done.

On Saturday Lucy was working until 1PM so I started off by moving the huge pile of junk we’d collected from around the plot to a spot down near the compost heap so that it was out of the way. After that I got on with marking out a central path with pegs and twine. The plot is near-enough 8.6m wide between the paths running down each edge, so I divided that in two and then set a peg 50cm either side of the mid-point to give us a meter wide path running centrally down the plot. After the path was marked with string I dug out the big weeds from the area, raked it down, then stamped and pounded the entire area down using my feet and the flat end of the rake to compact the ground and suppress the weeds.

Next I got on with semi-dismantling the cold frame to make it easier to move when Lucy arrived. The top panels are made of sections of overlapping glass layered in four rows. They were only secured by friction and dirt so it wasn’t too difficult to remove all the panes. I stacked them in four piles, one for each row of glass, with each pile containing the glass stacked in the order it’d come off the cold frame.

I’d arranged a little test of the 3km walkie-talkies with Lucy earlier on so that I could see if they’d allow some sort of radio communication between the house and the allotment. When Lucy got home she sent me a text message to tell me to turn my walkie-talkie on (so we could conserve battery power by not leaving them on the whole morning). As I’d suspected the little radios could not even span the 1km distance from our house to the plot. It might be possible with modified antennas fitted to each transceiver, but that’d only be a last resort test. Hopefully the eBay modules I ordered will perform better.

When Lucy arrived on the allotment we successfully moved the cold frame without breaking anything. It was surprisingly stable even when hoiked up on its side with a lot of the glass removed. We put it down in a spot just in front of the greenhouse facing roughly south. It slopes slightly down from back to front meaning that it should get evenly warm in its new exposed south facing position.

On Sunday we made an even bigger difference to the plot. After reading numerous books on allotment owning we decided that a sensible bed size was 1.2m deep with a 60cm path separating each one. This means you can kneel down and easily reach any point in a bed without having to compact the soil by standing on it. To make the measuring easy we cut 2 lengths of string to 120cm and 60cm respectively, then starting from a spot just in front of the compost heap we measured out beds and paths by each holding a string and alternating position. Due to the junk piles in front of the compost heaps we measured up until we got to a clear spot, which we marked with wooden stakes to denote the start of the beds.

The edges of each bed and path areas in between were all pegged out and using string, zoned off. These string boundaries provided nice clear guides for digging, which is then what we did for a number of hours until we’d done a couple of beds each giving us a total of 4 so far. Just as we were both finishing up on our last beds the Polish guys who seem to have a farming collective on the neighbouring plots decided it’d be fun to get their Rotavator out for a quick 5 minute spin, clearing yards of ground in a matter of minutes…Not that I’m bitter mind. No really, I’m not. It was actually great fun and exercise doing the digging by hand. I think it would have felt like cheating if we’d gone straight in with machines.

Once the beds were finished we got round to putting in our first crops! Yes, exciting stuff. We had 3 bulbs of Germidour garlic to plant. They have a quite attractive purple colouring on the bulbs and smell quite tasty. They went in 10-15cm deep, spaced a similar distance apart. With a bit of luck they’ll repay us for all the hard work of digging their bed. I’d like to put some more garlic in the same bed as they don’t really take up much room and we eat an awful lot of it. One variety that caught my eye was Elephant Garlic. I’ll get some soon as it needs to be planted about now.

3 Responses to “The relative excitement of beds and paths”

  1. Katherine Says:

    At long last I have found your website!! The plot is looking good, I’m surprised you haven’t roped me in to give you a hand with my expertise in plants - hee hee hee hee.

  2. Mum Says:

    It’s looking good. You have certainly been working hard. We will have to come down and help especially at harvest time !! Keep up the digging we will come and help clear the rubbish away as long as there are no more rats.

  3. Joff Says:

    I thoroughly approve of your adoption of the raised bed technique. I presume that you are planning not to walk on the soil? Good plan, you should get some good crops off those beds. Keep up the good work you two and see you soon!

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