The following allotment and gardening tips are in no particular order. They cover little things that I have discovered along the way that help save time, money, effort and heartbreak on my allotment.
- Utilising damp areas – Build a well
If you have an area on your allotment garden that, after rain, takes a long time to dry out, why not try this…Take a plastic barrel. Drill holes in the sides of the (about 1 every 2 ins square). Dig a deep hole (3ft x 3ft and 4ft deep) and place the barrel in it. Fill the remaining gaps around the outside of the barrel with pea gravel. Cover the barrel will a paving slab. The well will draw dampness from surrounding site.
- Keeping the slugs away
Make a visit to your local coffee shop and ask for the spent coffee grounds. Many cafés such as Starbucks have bins full of the stuff, ready for your garden. Sprinkle the coffee grounds in a 1-3cm thick layer around the bases of a vulnerable plant. Both the scent of the coffee and the texture as it dries puts slugs and snails from crossing onto your plant. The grounds will also slightly raise the acid level in the soil and increase fertility.
- Raise your soil levels
Instead of planting and sowing your crops into large open beds, makes lots of smaller raised beds. Excavated paths and put surplus soil onto the bed. Use wood, bricks or logs to shore in the raised soil. Although you lose a little more ground with walkways, because the beds are smaller (ie 3ft by 6ft, 8inch high) it is far easier to access all parts without treading on the well cultured soil. You can also get away with planting a lot of plants a little closer together than you would with a larger none- raised bed. Generally, raised beds offer greater productivity despite the loss of growing area.
- Free compost
To increase the quality of your soil, it’s a good idea to try to include as plenty of organic materials. Although making your own compost is an excellent way of utilising unwanted kitchen waste, it is a slow process and very little compost is produced. Contact your local council and ask them if they offer free ‘green waste’ delivery. Many will dump lorry loads of steaming, rich, dark composted organic matter on your allotment for free.
- Keep your seeds fresh
If you haven’t used all of the many packets of seeds that you bought for your allotment this year, it’s a good idea to put them in a box and store them in the fridge for next year. This should slow down the natural degradation of the seed, resulting in a better chance of high germination for next year.
- Keep of the soil!
Never walk on soil that you wish to grow your crops in. Doing so damages the natural structuring of the soil and compresses it, making it difficult to dig and weed. Good soil should be teaming with bacteria and worms. Trampling on it will reduce the diversity of life in it, affect fertility levels. If you need to cross a patch, use a good plank of wood to distribute your body weight. The soil will compress slightly, but not enough to cause any real harm to your soil.
- The keyhole composter method
An excellent way to both increase soil quality and raise good strong growth is to build a keyhole. Out of chicken mesh, form a tube (1-2ft wide, 2-3ft high). Bank up soil around it until the soil reaches the top of the tube. Place bricks around the mound to keep the soil in. Put all of your organic waste into the tube and plant your crops in the mound. As the organic material rots, liquids will leech out into the mound feeding your plants. As a by-product of this method, you also will be producing good, well-drained compost. It is a good idea, when constructing the mound to leave a wedge out (like a slice out of a cake), to allow for easy access, causing the structure to look like a ‘keyhole’.
- Natural insecticide and weed killer!
Many of us grow rhubarb and are aware that the leaf part of the plant is very poisonous to humans. You can use the toxic qualities of this garden favourite to produce your own eco-insecticides. Boil up the leaves in water, add some soap flakes, allow to cool and spray to kill most leaf eating insects. You can also use the fresh leaves to suppress and kill weeds. Cut and lay them on paths – the poisons will leech out and kill weeds, whilst starving them of light. More facts about rhubarb –http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/rhubarb-uses.html
Right! That will keep you going for the time being. Visit again for the next instalment.