A journal of successes and failures on our allotment in Birmingham which we took over stewardship of in October 2022.
My husband and I grow fruit, vegetables and cut flowers on our plot. As we don’t have a garden of our own at home, our allotment doubles as outdoor space so we like things to be pretty. A traditional allotment is a functional space, but for us our allotment is also a pleasure garden, and needs to be beautiful.
The plan is to keep things organic and cause as little soil disturbance as possible by layering homemade compost on our beds each year for the worms to work into the soil rather than digging them over and manually incorporating compost in the traditional way. We did initially dig it all over with forks, because it was a burial ground of bricks, plastic and all sorts of other junk, as well as lots of deeply rooted perennial weeds.
The first of the dahlias have flowered. These are orange fubuki dahlias, they’re a soft peach / coral / pink colour rather than a true orange, and they’re just as pretty as I was hoping they’d be. I have had such a struggle to get my dahlias to bloom this year. It’s been a very wet spring and summer overall other than a 5 week period in May and June where we had no rain at all. At first my dahlia tubers got dug up by wild animals, it was either squirrels, foxes or badgers. They’d dig them up and leave them to dry out on the soil surface, covered in teeth marks. This stressed the tubers, and set them back in starting into growth. In the end I laid down holly branches across the entire dahlia bed and this stopped the animals from digging.
July has been a very wet month, and the temperature has hovered around 18C. Ed and I fell behind on weeding at the start of the month as it was too wet to spend much time at the allotment, but by the end of the month I feel like we’re on top of it again, for the time being. This first year is very weedy because we dug over the whole plot between October and February to clear the rubble, remove bushes, and generally clear up years worth of neglect. Every year out from the big dig the weed pressure should reduce as we won’t be disturbing the soil and exposing the seed bank to light in the same way.
I thought that I would keep a journal of what we accomplish during each trip to the allotment whilst we work on clearing the plot this coming week. There’s so much organic waste, nettles, brambles, rotten pallets, bricks, black plastic, and other shit buried at the back of the plot. “Out of sight, out of mind” is what I imagine the previous tenant(s) thought. They planted a huge clump of miscanthus and did their best to ignore the mess, and I suspect this week is the first time in a long time that anyone has tried to tackle the heap. The miscanthus itself is a pain in the arse and I’m dreading having to dig the roots out.