Monday, 23 June 2014

My New No-Dig Organic Allotment

I'm now the proud tenant of an organic allotment at Riverford Farm in Devon. At the time of writing it's merely a portion of the field. I'm sitting under the umbrella considering my next move.

My intention with this allotment is to create five square 'rooms' with paths moving into and through, connecting them all together. Initially I was going to take on one full sized plot plus a half one but at the point of signing the contract opted for an extra plot. This means that the compost bin is now in the middle of the plot and will have to move to the far right bottom corner. 
I've bought a little Mountfield mower and I've mown and mown and mown the grass which had been previously rough cut by a ride on mower by the farmer. All the grass had been left so my little machine chopped it up and collected it. This is wonderful as I now have loads of grass clippings for adding to my no-dig lasagne style beds. However, the task was really far too much and there was still lots of lovely long, soft dried grass still to be raked together - again a perfect ingredient for the beds as it was basically hay.
The next stage on room number one was to measure and to peg out and divide the square plot into four and establish the centre. 
The centre may be a lawn or a pond - yet to be decided but it will be circular. I shall modify this plan slightly and I am considering adding trellises. Along the dividing fence between my neighbour and myself I have created a grass path. It looks a bit like this and as time goes by with raking and mowing should begin to resemble a nice, soft, green, grassy path. I may also add seed.
I shall be putting a rabbit proof wire netting fence around the plot, initially the main expense but well worth it as other tenants have been extolling their woes regarding the voracious appetites of young rabbits and of their breaking and entering skills. This allotment will not resemble a traditional allotment, even though I've always thought they were the best way to garden an allotment. This is because I want to create a very inspiring and beautiful retreat as I as yet have no garden of my own. I love the French Potager style of gardening and this will provide lots of inspiration but I think my allotment is going to be some sort of hybrid of my own. if you would like to explore the ultimate Potager Garden then click here for Villandry. There are lots of elements that I want my plot to contain and I have started to collect some on my pinterest board of ideas.
This slight incline/slope of the field makes me think of terracing. No-dig terracing?
Layering up the bed with layers of wet cardboard, (be aware of using cardboard that may have formaldehyde in it) then cow manure, grass cuttings, beech leaves, more manure, hay etc, etc. The idea is to keep the layers wet but we are in a heat wave and the allotment has no running water. This time next year and I will have my irrigation/rainwater collection system in place but for now I will cover up and rely on condensation. I have a penchant for recycling but also for making the garden beautiful. Somewhere in between I will make use of the discarded plastic banners that are used for advertising - the make perfect covers and can even be tied to stakes as they have brass eyelets.
Mmm, I need to remember that although my enthusiasm belongs to a 21 year old, my physical age is meant to be retired. I have been pulling out lots of wood from an enormous pile (that resembles a giant's Pick a Stick game) with my left arm and projecting them javelin like towards the boot of my car for a few days, collecting enough wood to start building my recycled shed. I have finally learnt my lesson after damaged my left shoulder rather badly. Enough to stop play for some weeks in fact. I have promised my family that I will limit myself to swimming, walking and yoga from now on and ask someone to do the extremely physical work. I am not at all pleased as I love challenges. So whilst I am recovery mode all the beds are composting down and I am looking through shed catalogues. I suppose I will have to pay someone to put in the rabbit proof fence as well. Damn.
Meanwhile I have been working on new ideas for autumn and winter jewellery back in the studio.

May and June 2014

No time to blog! I have been taking advantage of early mornings and long evenings and for once, perfect weather, blue skies and scudding clouds. So much to catch up on.
This is the time of year when gardens are open via the National Garden Scheme - the N.G.S, so with the yellow book at hand I set off for Spitchwick Manor, nestled on the undulating edge of Dartmoor in wooded valleys. One of my ideas of heaven is a walled garden with greenhouses - Victorian greenhouses. I would happily live in a walled garden.
And at Spitchwick Manor the walled garden is tucked down into the landscape for protection from the elements of winter weather - strong prevailing tree bending winds and slashing, lashing icy cold rain. Consequently you will find the orchard is also tucked behind the granite walls - perfectly pruned old apple trees geometrically spaced within their own neat round islands of earth set in lawns of roughly mown, daisy strewn grass.
The walled garden in also a sunken garden on the side where the entrance is. From the outside you find the usual magical wooden door set within the wall and as you push it open are quite surprised to discover that stone steps descend. It makes perfect sense as it embeds itself into the ancient landscape once and for all time. As walled gardens go, this is on a miniature scale. Initially you look over the tops of the apple trees across the top of the walls towards the sea. And then you enter another world.
 I love old gardens and all the things that go into the making of them. I don't know if this knife sharpener is still in use as most shears and spades are now stainless steel and as far as I know are not sharpened. I may be wrong. This is for sharpening plain steel tools, the kind that go rusty when left in the damp night air. All tools ought to be washed, dried, oiled and put in their own place, that is if you have a place to put them.
Storage - essential and also a place for returning swallows to nest. 
More storage - the potting shed - another essential for a well run garden and a place to wile away the hours. Robins also nest here.
I will make a bench like this for 'potting-on' on sunny days. I am planning my next garden, where-ever it may be, composing lists of reminders of details and aspects of things that I love to create once again a little heaven on earth.
 And Azaleas for perfect beauty and drifting evening fragrance.
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