My first allotment; in search of fresh produce

Serious clearing required

A quick background on us; I am in my early 50s and was brought up in East Sussex, as a teenager I worked on a market garden growing vegetables and flowers and hated it. Later I worked in a number of ‘white collar’ jobs in the UK and all over the world. I have had an increasing interest in artisan food and its production. When I lived in New Zealand I had a reasonable vegetable patch, however my passion was livestock. I raised some cattle and chickens and bred and raised Berkshire and Devon Black pigs. Julie was raised on a market garden and is a natural gardener. She enjoys growing food but also has a passion for flowers, for plants that provide beauty to the garden and attract wildlife. I suspect that we will not be just growing food.

We have taken on a small allotment on the outskirts of the village of Ringmer in Sussex. It is next to a large electricity substation, within ‘the shadow’ of part of the Sussex Downs and is within the boundaries of the South Down National Park; otherwise surrounded by fields with a main road approximately 100 m away. According to an old farmer from the area the soil is “Glyndebourne Clay” which I understand is ‘gault clay’. This is very heavy soil that sticks and retains the water. When we walked on the nearby field the ‘dirt’ stuck to our boots in thick lumps that was difficult to shift.

As you can see the plot requires tidying and digging and we have an agreement that the Parish Council will arrange for it to be rotavated by the local contractor initially, after that it is down to us. This will give us an opportunity to see the state of the soil on the plot and whether the previous tenants have worked on changing it properties with compost, manure, grit etc.

I have a list of plants that I want to grow and this includes vegetables and fruits, I don’t think that there is enough space to plant everything so we have now applied for a second vacant plot nearby that has some fruit trees and bushes already established, however this is also in a state of neglect and will require work too — wish us luck.

So what do we want to grow? — a priority for me was Asparagus, however I do not expect this to happen this year. Asparagus needs good quality well drained soil with a lot of bio-matter and the soil is not up to this at the moment. I suspect I will need to start preparing the beds now with a view to planting next year and harvesting in a few years’ time. Somebody did suggest that I could dig out a trench and fill with different soil, but that needs careful consideration! I suspect we will be planting simple things this year as we also lack a greenhouse at the moment. Lots to do and think about, and we will also be considering some interesting alternative ways of gardening. Always appreciate advice so feel free to send me your thoughts and — Stay tuned.

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