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Planting Plan 2018 – What’s Going Where

The layout for this year’s planting plan. We run a 5-year rotation, but with the new smaller allotment having seven different 10′ x 10′ beds, it’s changed to a 7-year rotation!

The Allotment

Briefly, the rotation works like this. The top-right bed – this year the nitrogen fixing beans and peas – will drop down a bed next year, so will end up where the current potatoes are. The potatoes will in turn drop down to where the roots are (they’re last in line as they don’t like fresh manure, so the manure will have depleted by the time they get planted). The roots will move to the top of the middle column and the middle column beds will all shuffle one down too. The last middle column  bed (sweetcorn and corgettes) will move sideways into the estranged middle bed of the left had column where there are currently brassicas. The artichokes and asparagus are permanent beds so will not move. The brassicas will then move to where the current potatoes are, and the whole thing will cycle once more. This gives us almost enough of what we need, although we’ll be short of potatoes.

The Currant Patch

The six currant bushes are permanent, but in front of them we’ll be planting a row of nectar producing flowers, to help with pollinating insects and predatory insects, such as lacewings.

Behind the current bushes we’ll have a section for sunflowers, predominantly for the bees but once flowered the birds can make use of the seeds. Then we’ll also have a bed of carrots, as this is new soil and less prone to carrot fly. We will also establish a new strawberry bed – at last!

The Raised Bed

At the bottom of the path, this is the first planted bed to pass, so we add the pick and come again produce – spinach, mixed leaves lettuce and rocket. Then we’ll also have some full lettuce and carrots, with radish making use of the little pockets of space.

The Rhubarb & Gooseberry Patch

This one is a bit of a struggle as it’s becoming blighted by twitch – couch grass. We can’t remove it without spraying, which we won’t do, or by digging the patch up. My thought is to struggle on as best we can for the time being, but think about creating a new rhubarb and gooseberry patch somewhere clean. We can self-root the gooseberries so we know what we’re getting, and don’t have to buy any more. The rhubarb we could risk digging up, halving and replanting, but we’d have to make sure no twitch carried through to the new patch.

Greenhouse No.1

This will be the tomato greenhouse – one variety of eating and one variety of cooking. Heaven knows we could probably triple this number and still get through them all!

The San Marzano we’ve grown a few times, and are horrible eaten raw. However, when cooked into a ragu, they are absolutely gorgeous, and remind me of childhood smells from Naples.

Greenhouse No.2

Our more humid greenhouse, we’ll water the ground in here to help the cucumbers grow – they like it humid.

We’ll also grow on the potting bench – the peppers don’t seem to mind the same treatment, and the basil and coriander will only start in the greenhouse. Once they’re established and the risk of frost has passed, we’ll move them outside, leaving the potting bench free once more to start more seedlings – possibly lettuce.

Greenhouse No.3

This is the vegetable we struggle with growing more than any other. One year in four it’s been successful, the rest fell fowl to not enough water (last time we go away on holiday mid-growing season!), ants, and cold. However, we will persevere, and this year we’ll start earlier with them so they have a fighting chance. This is also the greenhouse that needs a good clean before the season starts!

And that’s it! The varieties are all labelled in the planting plan images, and all are either from Stormy Hall seeds, now part of the Seed Co-Operative, or from seeds we’ve saved ourselves.

Pegging Out & Drilling

Barrow at the ReadyThe wind was calm, the rain nowhere to be seen, the new leather strapMarking Out had arrived for the fiddle drill and the sun was shining – perfect! We filled up the crap barrow from B&Q  (the tyre looks like a pneumatic tyre but deflates to nothing if you so much as look at it) with wooden pegs, tape measure, grass seed, fiddle drill and chunky mallet. The wellies were donned and we skipped into the field. Well, we trudged slowly whilst trying to steer the barrow and it’s road-hedgehog of a tyre.

The first job was to peg out the layout, to see where we needed to sow grass seed and where to leave bare soil for the veggie patch. Suz can be seen here smack bang in the middle clutching a post that will eventually be the walnut tree. We’ve found a variety called ‘Rita’ fromWalnut Wife Keeper’s Nursery, which only grows to 25ft tall. Much more manageable than the 100ft variety and a lot less shadow cast on valuable growing space on the ground.

FiddlingI was amazed at how little seed is needed to sow an acre – as a total novice I had 1 full bag and a 3/4 full bag of seed – enough to sow 1.75 acres in theory. I figured there would be wastage, and sure enough fiddle jams, stumbling and just forgetting to lock off the feed hole on the fiddle meant there were a few piles of seed dotted around the field. All in all it took about an hour to drill the whole field, and I still have half a bag left which is not bad by my reckoning 🙂 Of course, the truth will out if the field ends up patchy 😉 We’re hoping to get some decent growth before Christmas if the next week is as good as it’s promising!

Fiddle Drill for Sowing Seed

Ploughed FieldSo there’s now an acre of beautifully ploughed and prepared land, ready for grass seed. You can just about make out the far South East corner by way of the little pole with a rag attached to it, centre picture. After much advice I’ve decided to put in a permanent paddock in terms of grass seeds as I don’t fancy resowing that often between fruit trees. A local farmer has sold me a couple of acre bags (yes – seed is sold in acre bags!) of a ryegrass mix. Whilst the paddock at the back of our house has white clover in it as a nitrogen fixer, it was suggested by our neighbour farmer that we may want to sow a clover-free mix else it may take over!

The ryegrass mix will make great hay and be good for grazing by both sheep and chickens, but I plan to add some red clover, which I believe is beneficial to chickens, next spring. I also hear this is not as hardy as the white variety so won’t act like a triffid, taking over everything! We’ll have to resow it every spring but I’d rather that than a field full of white clover.

You might have noticed there are a lot of  ‘I believe’s’ and ‘So I’ve been told’s’ – there’s much to learn, much to unlearn, and probably even more to relearn in the future!

My first lesson today was being introduced to this amazing contraption – a Fiddle Drill. Both farmers helping us along in our venture have giggled (in a manly way of course) when seeing our reaction to them miming playing a fiddle whilst dancing a little jig. Essentially you fill the bag with seed, set the slider to how much seed you want to come out and for every pace forward you make one sweep of the bow. In theory this will broadcast seed about 2 yards left and right, on a calm day, and save more time than if broadcast by hand. Sounds a bit like rubbing your stomach whilst patting your head to me, but it’ll be fun trying! This particular fiddle drill is believe to be around 80 years old and still going strong.

I’m hoping tomorrow will be dry enough later to sow the seed, after which it will need harrowing with a light spike harrow (we’ve been offered one where I have to play the part of the ox) and then rolled to tamp it all down (we have been volunteered help with that part 🙂 ).

As far as how much seed to sow goes, when I asked the question I was told if there are 5 seeds under your hand when you lay your palm face down on the ground, then that’s plenty. It’ll give room for each grass root to spread and become stronger in the future. If the weather stays this warm (around 15 degrees at the moment) then we could get some good growth before Christmas!