Friday 26th Feb
A late start again on plot 33 the jobs today was to finish covering the 3rd bed with cardboard, levelling the edge and removing any couch grass roots left behind from the old wooden posts removed on Monday. A very satisfying job especially when you pull a long root out from under the path. While I pottered way Anne got stuck into digging over the 4th bed
Anne digging bed 4 bed 3 ready for more compost
We’ve met a few new faces too today, soon we will need a chart to keep names faces and plots in order. Everyone says we’re making good progress and can see a big difference which is encouraging as it’s easy to forget what the plot looked like back in January when we got the keys.
Sitting in the sunshine eating our lunch and admiring the view over Stoke Anne spotted a train pulling in the usually busy Stoke station. While closer to I spotted the first signs of life in the greenhouse.
Radishes have started to germinate in the greenhouse
Looks like spring is round the corner!
What a beautiful sunny day Monday was! With the sun on your back it certainly didn't feel like February. The ground was really wet so we couldn't really dig, hopefully that's for Friday, but we did do lots of bits and pieces. We are wheedling out compost, soil, rotted material etc. from various weed filled containers (a barrel, couple of wheel barrows etc.) we've found around the plot. We used this to start covering the cardboard on our 'no dig' bed experiment. It just looks so much better. This freed the barrel up to put over the rhubarb - to force it (make it grow quicker in my language) and the wheel barrows to use as planters at some point.
We removed all the rotting logs that were edging some of the beds. A load to go to the dump, but could we create a bug hotel with some of them? Our next big task is to clear and single dig one of the beds......a bit of an experiment to see how it compares to the 'no dig' ...time will tell.
We basked in the sun with our cup of tea. We planted more seeds to propagate in the greenhouse: broad beans and sweet peas. We also sprinkled the flower bed that Rachel has beautifully dug over in last few sessions with a wild flower combination...fingers crossed!
Oh and here is our resident robin!
Friday 19 Feb
I set off for Plot 33 today determined to finish digging over the flower boarder after weeks of not been able to work on this task due recent cold snap. I’m happy to say I got there and the whole bed has had some form of cultivation applied.
the finished flower bed 19/2/21
After about 7 big pots of couch, willow herb, buttercup, dandelion, dock and countless other weeds have been removed I am under no illusion that I’ve got it all out but I have made a big dent in it and it feels like a task completed. Next for this bed will be to sow some wildflower and pollinator seed mix to hopefully create a riot of colour to welcome people to the plot.
the first weed dug 15/1/21 6 weeks later
While I was digging away under the apple Anne continued to clear the pathways around the last bed including emptying the barrel of soil we seem to have. We decided that we should use this soil (sifted 3 times for weed roots) to cover the cardboard we had put down as part of the no-dig experiment and the result is looking good.
After our break time brew we decided to treat ourselves, since getting the plot all the work has had a destructive or taking away feel to it. This time it constructive as we filled up 3 big pots reclaimed from outside the greenhouse to set our first seeds of the year. Radish, carrots and spring onions set and watered in using the only watering can with a rose (the tiny child size on which we found out leaks) then covered over with what looks like a cold frame door for extra warmth
Anne watering in seeds with a baby watering can
Fingers crossed in April we will be eating our first salad grown on site
.Monday 15th February
It's so much warmer this morning, We came out with all our winter layers on and have had to remove a few! And then the sun came out.
The ground is still pretty solid after the cold snap so no digging today, but we set about clearing the third bed and the path around it ready for digging out all that couch grass on Friday.....oh joy!! We have decided to keep one of the many brambles, a very strong, healthy looking specimen, in the hope it is a good fruiter. It is now pruned back and trained (tied with string) against the dodgy fence. Time will tell.
Clearing bed 3 involved cutting back the couch grass etc. , digging out disintegrating plastic sheeting - saving the vital red worms in the process, scraping the paths and digging out the other brambles....good warm work. In the process Rachel dug up our first caterpillar....she reckons could be a moth.
Welcome interruptions came in the form of two fellow allotment holder's curious as to what we were planning as the community allotment holders. Interesting chats with both of them and then the pièce de résistance one of them gave us two lovely cabbages....we feel part of something.
Friday 12th February
Down at Plot 33 we have a lot of ground to clear and this month the weather has been against us. With the ground still frozen there’s little point in trying to dig out the never-ending couch grass. There is a theory call no dig so we thought we might give it a try on a couple of the beds. The theory is that by excluding the light with a mulch, you stop weeds growing, and using composted materials (garden compost, well-rotted manure, leaf mould etc.) placed on top, allow the important micro-organisms and worms to pull the nutrients down to where they are needed. This leaves the undisturbed fungi to help feed plant roots and limits the weeding to the top few inches of soil.
For a fuller explanation try https://charlesdowding.co.uk/start-here/
Having acquired a large quantity of cardboard we thought, “what’s the worst that could happen”, and set about laying down the cardboard weighing it down with bits and pieces from the plot. We don’t have any compost at the moment so the card will just have to do. Slowing down (fingers crossed) any regrowth of the weeds we have cut down while we get our plot sorted.
Another theory we have decided to try, is that of creating a ‘hot bed’ in the greenhouse. Rather than the melons and pineapples of the grand Victorian estates our humble hotbed will hopefully keep any seedlings nice and warm in the coming months. The ‘Hot bed’ will then be ready to be moved outside to grow pumpkins or courgettes in. We made our hotbed using a slatted frame, we found behind the shed, and one of the giant cardboard boxes we had acquired. We filled it with the free horse muck (no longer steaming and a little frozen on top).
For a fuller explanation try https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/faqs/hot-beds-early-sowing-vegetables
Way too cold to do anything productive on Plot 33 today. So we resorted to a Zoom chat to do some planning and to look at the blog. It's the first time either of us have done a blog. We have been writing it and taking photos as we go along but is taking a bit of time and effort to get to grips with the technology, however, with the help of our colleague Marg we have just about got it up to date and will be seasoned bloggers in no time at all!!??
Amazingly no cats in this screenshot!
Friday 5th Feb
It’s been a hard week this week, I think I did too much early on and have been feeling aches and pains of over used mussels. To be honest I didn’t really feel like going to a neglected plot to try and battle more couch grass into submission. It was one of those damp grey mornings where it’s easy to stay inside with a cup of tea and bemoan a never-ending winter but I had a commitment to go and so I went.
I am so glad I did. When I reached the plot, I found Anne busily cutting back long grass and uncovering more pathways around the beds, and our allotment neighbour Mike working away on his plot. I slowly started to clear the weeds from under the big buddleia and found a few aquilegias that I transplanted to the cleaner ground I’d dug previously under the watchful eye of a bold robin. I also spent some time digging up and cleaning the roots of some chives, picking the garlicky smelling bulbs out of tangled couch roots and re planting them as I went. We should have a nice boarder of edible purple flowers to sprinkle into salads in a few months’ time.
I left the plot feeling much better than when I started today. I know the benefits of being outdoors and gardening have been well documented but I am always amazed when I have a day like this and how a few hours pottering around can completely change my outlook for the better. Its starting to feel like we are part of a community. Everyone we’ve met so far has been really encouraging. Offering hints and tips, telling us a little about our new plot, how they tackled a problem we are facing, where is a good place to find things we might need or just giving us a wave and a smile while we work away on the other side of the fence.
Monday 1st February 2021
Beautiful crisp sunny morning. I staggered with all the equipment I needed down to the allotment!
I finished the task of cleaning the greenhouse windows….it looks so much better especially with the sun shining.
Rachel continued to dig out the first bed….it’s going to be a lot of hard work, but we are trying to mix up hard laborious tasks ( that can’t be avoided) with the easier, instantly gratifying.
One of our plot neighbours told us there had been a delivery of manure that we could help ourselves to, so we took it in turns to load the steaming, smelly goodness into the wheelbarrow and drag it to create another steaming pile of smelly goodness on our plot.
Note to self…bring a pump to pump up wheelbarrow tyre!
Lovely steaming goodness!
We then worked in our socially distanced way to clear the very overgrown paths around the greenhouse ….among the weeds and brambles etc. finding the essential bit of piping to enable the rain water to actually run into the second water butt from the Greenhouse guttering. By clearing the paths and emptying old pots and generally tidying it up the area around the Greenhouse looks much better but more importantly you can move easily around it.
We thought we might stay until 12ish…it was getting on for 2pm when we left.
A very productive session on Plot 33.
Greening Stoke is a project run in partnership between Festival Stoke and Letting in the Light. We are based in Stoke-on-Trent.
We are started this adventure in January 2021 in the middle of a national lockdown. Gradually, as things begin to open up, close down and then open up again, Rachel and Anne abided by all the Covid-19 Government guidance, worked in a socially distanced way, to prepare and maintain Plot 33 so that they were eventually able to invite the community to work with them.
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