So here we are hello 2018 and goodbye to 2017(sorry I’m a little late to the party). Saying goodbye to 2017 is a little bit bittersweet, for anyone that has read my first blog, they will know I am extremely happy to see the back of 2017, but how can I be so happy about it disappearing when this was the year I got the keys to my allotment, about the only thing in my life keeping me sane? All I know is that 2018 is an exciting year for me I am going into it as a more self-aware, stronger and determined person ready to tackle whatever 2018 throws at me.
I had a little sit down the other day to do a bit of blog planning for the coming year. I have more ideas and things to write about than I first thought so I have been a bit stuck for where to get started. So as it is the start of a new year I wanted to share with you the 5 things I hope to complete/achieve on my allotment and the top 10 crops and flowers I am super excited to grow.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible.
Since taking on an allotment I have found that I have been a lot more sub conscious of the environment and the effect we have on it. I have found myself naturally being more careful when it comes to recycling and have been thinking about what we put in our rubbish bin at home and if there is a way we can reuse that stuff on my allotment. I have started small by saving the girls yoghurt pots so they can use them for planting their own seeds. I have also saved all of my glass jars over the past couple of months so when I harvest next year’s crops I can use the jars to store sauces, jams and chutneys. I have also saved all of the clear plastic punnets that fruit comes in from the supermarket. I aim to use these to help protect my seedling when they are young and I am hoping they might possibly act as a sort of cloche helping the plant grow better. I think reduce, reuse and recycle is a lifestyle change for me, I know I am only starting small but we all have to start somewhere. I hope that over time I will be able to dramatically reduce the amount of rubbish that I send to landfill.
- Complete my no dig raised bed area on my allotment.
Last year just before I got my keys to the allotment in April I had set up a small veg patch at home using no dig raised beds. I have five beds at home and had a really successful season with them. They were massively low maintenance to the point where I planted my seeds, watered them, pulled out the odd weed and basically watched them grow. This is why I have decided to make a large part of my allotment space into a no dig raised bed area. The key word for me is ‘time’ and how to possibly find enough of it to keep onto of a rather big allotment all on my own. My allotment is 292 meters squared and this is just a half sized plot. After being on the plot for nearly a year I know that once I finish getting the last area of allotment cleared I would not have enough time to keep on top of it all. Making a no dig raised bed area was the way to go for me. In total I will have 8 beds that will grow a variety of vegetables and flowers, the area surround the beds will be covered in weed membrane and woodchips to keep it as low maintenance as possible. Changing this area will hopefully free up time for me to concentrate on the rest of the allotment and all the jobs I will have to do. I still need to fill the raised beds, paint the beds and the fence surrounding the area and lay the woodchip, so it’s far from complete. I need this area to be ready by spring as I have already planned what I am growing there, so fingers crossed that I can get the motivation to go to the allotment in the cold so I get it ready in time.
- Grow more flowers
Initially when I took on my allotment my plans were full of beautiful fruits and vegetables, I hadn’t really thought about anything else on the allotment. When I took on my plot I decided to use a small area to grow some gladioli and dahlia. When I planted them I did it just to add some colour I really never expected this to become something that l completely fell in love with. So this year I decided I needed more flowers on the plot so I have extended the flower bed and tripled its size. I will continue to grow gladioli and dahlias but I am branching out a little by growing, zinnias, cornflowers, daffodils, tulips, crocus and hollyhocks. I want to make the flower area bloom from spring-autumn, I would love to also give this area some colour over the winter too so this is something I hope to look into ready for winter. I have added the extra challenge of growing some dahlias from seed as well as making a hefty order of dahlia tubers from the spectacular range on Sarah Ravens website *drooling *. Alongside this I have moved the location of my flowers patch into the bed in front of my shed, who wouldn’t want to sit in their shed with a cup of tea looking at the beautiful flowers.
4. Use up all of my harvest.
So after spending nearly a year on my plot I can safely say having an allotment isn’t just about growing amazing vegetable, its learning how to store and preserve your harvest too. This year I managed to store my onions, pumpkins and squash and freeze my berries. The problem I found is that I totally was unprepared for the amount of food I had grown and there were not enough of us to eat it in time so I gave a lot of it away. I will still be looking at giving some of it away next year but I want my family to make the most of the organic fruits & vegetables I grow. So this year I am already a little more prepared, I have space in the freezer, glass jars have been saved for sauces, chutneys and jams. There is also now space and shelving in the garage ready to store potatoes, squash, onions, garlic and pumpkins. I feel like with this preparation I will be able to use my harvest to its full potential, I am even hoping that by the time harvest comes I will have purchased a food dehydrator so the possibilities will be endless.
- Create a child friendly growing space.
Setting up a child friendly growing space on the allotment is one of the most important tasks for me with have 2 young daughters, Callie who is nearly 4 and Mila who is nearly 18 months. Going to the allotment can be quite the challenge with two small children but I am hoping to create an area to keep them entertained. I initially want to create space on the plot to suit them, somewhere safe so that they can they can grow their own plants, play, sit, and look at nature. In this area I will be putting two smaller no dig raised beds for them to plant their own seeds, I also want to add a little arch structures to the beds so they can grow flowers up some vertical structures adding something a little extra to the area. I am thinking of building a bug tower, seating area and maybe some bird boxes to attract the birds. There will also be lots of lavender plants and flowers around attracting the bees and butterflies for them to look at too. If all of this fails, I have an emergency stash of colouring books, crayons and biscuits in the shed!
After joining Instagram this year and sharing my pictures with the gardening community I have loved looking at others people’s posts and pictures for inspiration of what I could grow on the allotment this year. Here are the top 10 things that I am excited to grow on the plot:
Spring onions (red blood)
Baby boo pumpkins
Sarah raven dahlia tubers
Everything that I grew on my allotment last year I grew for the first time ever, and this year it will be the same I have a lot of firsts to grow, but there are seriously too many to tell you about. My overall aim for this year is to grow a wider variety of crops over a longer growing season, and of course enjoy every minute of it.
I am really excited to be at the start of a brand new year, ready and raring to go and grow my own food again, but I have to be honest and I am finding these winter months rather tough as there has been limited time available/weather permitting access to my magical medicine of my little allotment! It has been a bit of a battle and I still have a couple of months before spring firmly arrives, so I am currently in the process of writing my next blog, how to deal with mental health and the January blues. I hope this blog will provide little ideas to keep on top of your own mental health when the skies are grey, the days are short and the weather is cold.
Thank you for reading