Bernita’s guided tour for members of the Gardens and Gardening Group took place on a sunny Tuesday in late March, with a cold wind but many exciting signs of spring. As a long standing allotment holder, Bernita was able to show us around a number of very different plots, the sheer variety of the uses to which people put their plots to grow flowers, crops and construct sheds and places to sit and relax was amazing. They do have an open session with lunch on the first Sunday, 12 – 2 p.m., so get yourself along to the entrance on Winton Road N10 if you want to find out more.
Some plots were deeply dug over, earthed up in the traditional way for the potato crop, while others had adopted a ‘no dig’ approach in different types of raised bed, ideas which may be helpful for those of us with back troubles. There were wooden sided raised beds filled with well rotted compost which rots down over time. Others used the same principle, but with link boards, a rot-resistant product to frame the beds, while some had used ‘found’ materials from skips or Freecycle, and yet other had piled wood clippings deeply on areas of thick, wet clay.
Another approach was ‘hot beds’ using straw bales as the frame for the bed and filling the space with fresh manure. This isn’t suitable for all crops but pumpkins and courgettes can do well on the heat generated. Bernita was using ‘lasagne beds’, in raised boxes 1mx1mx1.5m starting with 3”/25 cm of woodchip, a 2” layer of green food waste, then a few layers of broken up cardboard, a layer of well rotted compost mixed with broken up rotted wood or bark to create air pockets, then watered well before planting seedlings in pockets of compost. The warmth from the composting process can help accelerate growth.
Bernita keeps bees among other talents, housed in a fenced area with high mesh sides, which means their flightpath is high, and avoids anxious or allergic neighbours. Honey bees don’t usually sting, but this can be more likely if their flightpath is impeded. There’s a pond near the bees, and as we know from previous discussions about encouraging pollinators, access to water is really helpful, but this pond is fed by a small spring and the running water has made for a healthy crop of watercress too!
The young gardeners group had impressively well advanced seedlings in a poly-tunnel. Later in the season it will be really interesting to see the results from all these approaches.
Thanks to Bernita for a delightful and informative visit, among the fruit tree blossom and the sound of blackbird and woodpecker, and to her fellow allotmenteer for the lovely fresh picked lettuce leaves!