Pete's mantra is: composting is the most important activity on any plot. Right from Tim's first plot, portable pallet wood bins had been set up and the plastic bin Tim already had was being used effectively.
As vegetables grow, so do weeds, and that means composting starts again in earnest. So the pallet bins were refurbished and an area cleared in the top corner of the plot for them, next to the pond area (more about that later).
Composting begins again, ready for 2021...
At last. After several months of steady work by Tim and Pete, things were starting to come together - a working plot, with potato beds dug and planted, some beans and beetroot planted, tomato plants in the dome and a second raised bed about to be constructed.
Yet keen observers will note that there's a still a lot to do. There's lush greenery about - not just the second half of the plot to clear in 2021... but hedges wild and overgrown - all 200 odd feet of them! The front hedge was was desperately in need of cutting, as it was stopping a lot of light getting onto the planting beds, so Pete was going to have to break out the platform and chainsaw to get that in to some order during the summer. The rest was on the schedule for Winter 2020 into Spring 2021...
On his own plot, Pete created what he terms a 'polydome' as a cost effective alternative to a small polytunnel (see his own journal for more info). During the winter of 2019/20 Pete made a new dome for himself and donated his original (first successful) dome to Tim for 2020.
The area for the dome had to be prepared by clearing the ground and levelling it as much as possible, which involved further digging and barrowing.
Erection of the dome was relatively quick, accomplished in about half a day and all single handed (remembering we were in Covid lockdown by then).
On his return from New Zealand, Pete set about the biggest landscaping task so far, a new path onto the plot, combined with a hardstanding area between the fruit cage and the lean to.
It involved levelling the aforementioned area, building up the slope from the gate to form a shallower, safer path and putting in a retaining wall for this, constructed from short lengths of timber set vertically in the ground.
Once this was done, the new area was covered with weed suppressing fabric and then about half a ton of purple shale which had been 'recycled' from one of Pete's associates gardens that they were remodelling themselves. The bike trolley in the pictures came in handy moving bags of shale from car to plot - a 250 yard trip.
Yes, everything has to be manually carted on to this plot!
Once the area had been constructed, a raised bed (recycling railway sleeper lengths from Pete's garden) was constructed at the lean to end to form another retainer. Almost ready for veg growing...
The weather was relatively kind to us during the autumn and winter of 2019, with no snow and plenty of dry days, allowing us to start clearing; discovering buried tree branches and old net frames as we went and by February 2020, we had started the process of landscaping parts of the plot to improve access and a plan to provide some hard standing around the entrance and fruit cage, next to which would be a reconstructed lean to.
One of the advantages of using metal cladding for the sides of the lean to meant that we could slavage them after the fire (as well as the post spikes). All we had to do was get some fresh wood and plastic roofing.
A lean to is a useful cheap alternative to a shed and can either be open on one side or partically closed off. They provide a rudimentary shelter in poor weather and somewhere dry to store tools.
Discussion with the Renewal Trust, who administer the allotments site, resulted in their kind offer to find a suitable replacement plot, hopefully more secure.
By mid October Tim had secured a new plot, in the same part of the site but further up the hill and crucially further in from the perimeter of the site and with mature hedges surrounding it - altogether much more secure.
So began a new odyssey - and we had plenty to do. The whole plot was massively overgrown with brambles head high and quite a few self seeded hawthorns.
The first thing to do was transfer what was salvageable from the old plot and then set about the brambles. Pete invested in two new heavy duty hoes, we donned our heavy gloves and got started...
One of the reservations about Tim's first plot was security. The plot was right at the edge of the site, next to the track bordering the site and separated from Coppice Park only by a metal fence. The plot's own fences were damaged and due to the presence of many large trees, the hawthorn hedges had not grown well.
My fears were founded when in September 2019, Tim alerted me to the fact that the plot had been vandalised and the lean-to set on fire.
This was somewhat disheartening but even a potentially disastrous event sometimes presents an opportunity...for a rethink.
The whole allotments site is a fascinating place. It's the largest single allotments Pete has ever seen, comprising of over 700 plots, originally dating from Victorian times. The site is now Grade II listed, as an early example of community allotments, still containing some of the original brick Victorian outhouses. The site was originally set up as 'communal gardens' , more like a park than allotments.
In recent years, there have been efforts to revive it, after a decline in allotments generally in the 1960's and 70's. The site is now administered by a charity: the Renewal Trust and succeeds in gaining such things as lottery funding to improve the facilities generally as well as public initiatives to encourage gardening.
The allotments hold open days twice a year but if you know a plot holder, ask them to take you on a tour. You won't regret it.
Tim's first plot at St. Anne's Allotments was a beautiful, sylvan glade, tucked away at the farthest edge of the site, nest to Coppice Park.
Once I retired, I had given some advice and assistance on the plot and built a small lean-to shelter in the Spring of 2019. We set to trying to clear some ground but quickly found that most of the area was inhabited by tree roots!
As a temporary measure to grow some crops, I let Tim have a few pots and spare courgette, tomato and bean seedlings but all through the summer they struggled for light and constantly 'reached for the sky'! The picture illustrates this.
IAll in all it was true to say that I had some increasing reservations about the plot...