So many of you have spoken in class about how much you’ve enjoyed looking at these diaries! It’s good because we quite enjoy taking the photos and keeping a record for ourselves too.

February didn’t start off too great. As I write this it’s pouring down outside but I suppose it is Winter. I’d rather be digging (as I’d planned) rather than sat at the computer but it’s going to give us time to get a few Peppers, Aubergines and Leeks germinating on the windowsill at home.

You can catch up on last month's allotment diary here or keep reading below to see what we did throughout February.

Click on images to enlarge.

Digging Baby Sitting Plot

Taking this on will be a bit much in truth, not so much the planting but trying to keep all three weeded and watered in amongst our classes and everything else during the week but then again it might not be too bad, we’ll just have to see, it will be good exercise that’s for sure!!!

As we’d said in the last allotment diary, we’d started digging this over and clearing it at the end of January. It was in really good condition as it had only just been given up by a very experienced gardener. The worst part about the plot is the top section was really compacted as it seems like it hadn’t been grown in that much as it’s a bit shady.

Digging allotment plot
Digging allotment plot
Digging allotment plot

We managed to dig the whole plot over pretty quickly, and we used our new rotavator on it once we’d broke up the soil to break it up even more.

Digging allotment plot
Digging allotment plot

Marking Greenhouse Space

Our cheap greenhouse arrived and I wanted to mark out where it will be going so I knew if we could have a little raised bed between the water tank and the greenhouse. There’s not as much space as I thought but I think there’s enough room for something about eighteen inches wide. Vicky can put what she wants in it, probably Parsley and Coriander as we eat lots of those two. We won’t put this up until March when the weather settles a bit, or will we...

Marking greenhouse space

Buying More Seeds and Potatoes

We’ve pretty much decided what we’re putting in everywhere now but we did need some extra seed potatoes for the plot we’re baby sitting. We’re planting in six rows and going just for second early (Bambino) and main crop (Sarpo Mira).

We also needed to buy quite a few packs of sweetcorn. We’ve gone for a corn that doesn’t grow so high, and gives smaller cobs but four to five per plant - they’re called Mirai Picnic and we’re looking forward to seeing how they do.

Our first lot of potatoes are doing really well on the windowsill at Vicky's dads...

Chitting potatoes

We’ve decided not to do so many Butternut Squash and to put some Runner Beans on this plot instead. We’d been given so many seeds by a few people in class last year that we don’t want to waste them - we just hope we’ve got enough canes to grow them up!!!

Sowing Seeds Indoors

We needed to get our Leeks and Peppers started indoors and also a few things we want to try like Aubergines and Chillis. This isn't the greatest job to do on the living room carpet, especially when you drop a pot in the hallway after hitting your elbow on the doorframe!!! Hopefully the hoover doesn’t start sprouting Chillis in a few months… These are doing really well on the bedroom windowsill.

Seeds on a windowsill

Garlic & Rhubarb Sprouting Already

The garlic we planted last month is sprouting already and looking really healthy. It seems like pretty much all of it has taken too (only two didn't come up), which is a surprise, so over 140 bulbs. The Rhubarb we inherited is growing well too.

Garlic sprouting
Rhubarb growing

Put Up Greenhouse & Moved Grow Zone

I know a few paragraphs ago we said we’d wait but… rather than wait until March to put up the makeshift greenhouse, someone on the plot said that it’s better to see if it gets blown away before it’s full of seedlings and plants than when it is - makes sense if you think about it. So put it up we did around the middle of the month.

It’s only one of those cheap plastic ones that last a couple of years (if you’re lucky) but we need something that gives us a bit of cover in the rain, a place to pot seeds and a place to get stuff germinating and also harden stuff off as they get ready for planting into their final positions.

Outsunny Greenhouse
Outsunny Greenhouse

These things are really simple to put up, just various plastic joints and metal tubes. The ground was level enough for what it’s being used for - certainly doesn't need to be as precise as putting up a glass greenhouse (that will come later hopefully). It only took a few hours to get the frame sorted.

I then hammered a few three foot metal pegs into the lower frame which held it down really well, and had also bought some trampoline screw in pegs just over a foot long to put in each corner and the middle of the greenhouse. I also hammered in some foot long tent pegs for good measure too.

Outsunny Greenhouse
Outsunny Greenhouse

Once that was all finished I had to get the cover over the frame. It was a bit of a fiddle but didn’t take too long before it was all in place. I pegged down the overlapping excess they give you on the cover and then buried it with some earth so hopefully the wind goes over it and not underneath it.

Overall it’s not the sturdiest construction you’ll ever lay eyes on but it’ll do for now. Let’s hope next months diary doesn’t have photos of an empty space where it used to be! I wouldn’t expect it to survive any kind of storm, though it has been weighed down a bit more now with some heavy paving slabs too - fingers crossed.

Outsunny Greenhouse
Outsunny Greenhouse

We also moved last years "Grow Zone" from our original plot over to the new one. We can also get some germinating done in this one. Last year it was a disaster as for some reason the slugs kept getting in and eating our seedlings. I have a feeling this won’t happen on the new plot as we can bury the edges of the cover.

Outsunny Greenhouse
Outsunny Greenhouse

Made Raised Beds From Old Wood

I’d made a couple of raised beds from some of the wood that was left on the plot that we’d cleared away in December. I didn’t go mad, and made use of some plastic sheeting we’d been given to wrap the wood up in. Don’t really want plastic in our soil but made an exception just to get some time out of the wood. Vicky will put herbs in one, and whatever she wants in the one up by the Rhubarb.

Raised beds
Raised beds
Raised beds

Cleared Old Wood

We had loads of left over wood on the new plot from the raised beds we’d dismantled. We took all this over to the original plot and stacked it up where to grow zone used to be. We also had a bit of a “stock take” of all our bamboo and tied it up into bundles. This will be used for our Tomatoes, Runner Beans, Cucumber and Sugar Snap Peas.

Wood and canes stacked against fence

Sowed Seeds In Greenhouse

After putting up the greenhouse, Vicky got to try out potting the seedlings in there on an old table that was left in the shed - it fit in perfectly. She put in four different types of Lettuce, Kohlrabi and more Chillis. Apparently she needs some kind of stool or chair to sit on next time (if any of you have a couple of old wooden stools laying about you don’t need…)! While this was going on I measured and marked out our beds one more time ready for rotavating…

Sowing seeds
Sowing seeds

Tilled Beds On New Plot

I’d started to dig the manure into the beds again in late January, and rake out as much of the straw as I could as it clogs up the rotavator. We threw the raked straw on the compost heap so it can rot down over time. I managed to run the rotavator over everything around the middle of February. It was still a bit wet still but there you go.

Rotavating beds
Rotavating beds

Next year/this year we will be trying cover crops over Autumn/Winter and trying not to dig a bed or two to see how it goes. Cover crops are also known as green manures - the idea being to sow them after the growing season, let them grow until late Winter early Spring and them kill them off before they flower and then leave them to break down into the soil or dig them in. They protect your soil from the weather in Winter, keep the weeds away, and also keep your soil from compacting as much.

Many cover crops also put nitrogen back into the soil, and also some nutrients when they rot back down. We will try a few experiments with different seeds (keeping it simple) on a few different beds next year but hopefully over time this method will really build up the quality of the soil.

A Busy March...

Last year we made it hard for ourselves when we started germinating seeds at home about a month sooner than we should have done. Many of our plants were ready to go outdoors but the weather was still too cold and we ended up having to risk putting our courgettes and tomatoes outside. The Tomatoes all died - we ended up having to buy some from someone on the allotment. Our courgettes did well in the end but almost died to begin with too as they really don’t like the colder weather.

Seed tray
Beetroot seeds

We won’t be jumping the gun this year but middle of March onwards will be the main month we start getting seeds going ready to put out in May. Also, as we have so much space for growing now we’ll also have to stage plant a lot of things so we don’t end up with a glut.

This month will be our main month for really starting to germinate our seeds, hopefully get our potatoes, onions and sugar snap peas all in and to really start to get things ready for May...

"Don’t land a clout ‘till May’s out."

Random Stuff

As it’s been a bit of a hit and miss month it did let us get a few other things done that we wanted to do. We managed to prune the apple and pear trees after a few tries of dodging the weather. We also managed to find a tap on eBay for the big water container left on the plot. It turns out it’s really a rain water collector, and you can buy lots of different attachments for them. They’re called IBC’s (Intermediate Bulk Containers) and they’re used on farms etc, so we’re lucky to have one on the plot already. We can now make use of the water being collected in there and it’s come in really handy for seedlings so we don’t have to walk to the water tank!

Hopefully next months diary will have pictures of lots of seeds going in ready for May and our beds all finished ready for the big plant out, maybe our potatoes will even be in - that’s the idea anyway but you know what they say about best laid plans…

You are free to choose your own way of life, but you are not free to choose the results.

Herbert M. Shelton

Allotment Diary Archives

Allotment Diary #1
Allotment Diary #2