Go To Homepage

Plough Field Allotments.


Wellington Field Allotments Hixon

Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM


Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit


Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Books By
Alan J Hartley



These articles were initially written to send in to the local charity for the blind and partially sighted called, "The Stafford And Stone talking Newspaper," along with my mothers monthly gardening articles that she has done for some years.

The New Allotment.

Like many other people around the country I have recently taken possession of a new allotment to grow a bit of our own fruit and vegetables. When I say “NEW” allotment it is a brand new allotment as it has been made from a disused caravan park behind an old pub that is being converted back into housing. The ground is very hard packed naturally, but it does seem to be good, rich growing soil and moist underneath, even though we have just had the driest march for 50 years. Unfortunately, the soil is also very stony, so as I am working my way down the plot I am removing the bigger stones and using them to make a rough path down the centre of my plot.

There is no permanent water supply at the moment, so a builder on the site is filling a big water butt every day until a large cattle trough type of supply is installed.

In the meantime we have bought a 5 gallon plastic water container, that is meant for use in collecting the waste water from caravans. We are only going to use it in emergency and the can would not be hygienic to use for drinking water, but will be o.k. for watering the plants.

The allotments have been roughly ploughed and run either side of a central grassed path that is wide enough for two cars to go down the centre giving easy access to each plot. The plough has only turned the turfs over on the top, so most people would normally be advised to plant potatoes to break up the soil, but there is twitch in it and I have seen its pointed roots go clean though potatoes. I am going to try Jerusalem Artichokes instead that do the same job and grow in a similar way, but have very heavy top growth which I am hoping will suppress the grass and weeds. They have an unusual flavour and are not normally sold in vegetable shops, but they are supposed to be a healthy food that also has medicinal properties which improve kidney function.

Apart from everything else the site has an additional problem of rabbits. I am secretly hoping that the farmer will poison the warren and have also suggested to a friend that he brings his ferrets down for some exercise. However, as he has just emigrated to Scotland, it would be rather a long way to come for a few rabbits! With nature in mind I am trying a few other natural and less harmful deterrents.

Mulching with manure was my first thought. The local farmer had dumped a couple of loads of manure at either vend of the site, so, as I was going to use some anyway, I simply liberally scattered some between my young Angelica plants as they went into the ground. This seemed to work for a few days until the manure started to dry out and then the rabbits started on the leaves. Consequently I am going to put home made rabbit guards round each plant until they are tall enough that the rabbits can’t reach the leaves. Hopefully they will only be interested in the leaves and will leave the thickening stems alone as the plants mature. The guards can then be moved from these early plantings to newer plantings of  smaller vegetables as the different plants become ready and the weather warms up with no more risk of night frosts. This way I can save on the numbers of guards that I make and need at any one time. Of course they will be usable for years to come so although the idea seems expensive in the first year they should pay for themselves over time.

Another idea that I had for a natural deterrent was to scatter chopped up laurel stems, (without the leaves) between plants. I have recently cut an old Laurel bush back very hard at home and initially filled a wheely bin. The leaves don’t compost well as they are so tough and I knew that they were poisonous, so thought that chopping up the stem would reduce the weight of our bin and might work as a deterrent on our allotment. They seem to have prevented any rabbit damage on the part where I have used them, but I did use them between the Garlic. Who knows, maybe rabbits don’t like Garlic. Not all people do.

I think that the Rhubarb plants will be OK as their leaves are poisonous, but I thought that Chrysanthemums contained permethrin which is also a natural poison. However, the rabbits didn’t seem to know that and nibbled all the leaves off, so I have put guards on them as well until they get taller.

As far as digging and weeding the plot, I have decided that I am not young enough or fit enough to do a proper job. Instead I am simply digging planting holes in the upturned turf and am going to mulch to suppress the grass and weeds. Obviously where I have applied copious amounts of fresh manure the grass will not re-grow for some time, but I am also going to mulch with chopped up shrub and tree cuttings.

Like many other people I have had many tender bushes and even some not so tender ones severely damaged by the cold winter, so this has provided a lot of dead stalky and woody plant material with which I can make my own “forest bark” type chippings to use as a mulch.

The late Raspberries should be able to fend for themselves as it is quite common to grass between bushes anyway. In the coming Winter, when they are all hard pruned, all the dried old stems can be chopped and spread between the bushes to act as a natural weed suppressant for the following year. At the moment the fruit bushes are too small to be planted and are in pots, but when they are planted they will be treated in a similar way, first with grassing between and later mulching with shreddings.

Most allotments do not allow fruit trees, but the people running the site have said that if I limit the size of the trees by growing them like a fan or espalier they will be permitted. The other week we bought some cheap ones for just over a fiver each that were root wrapped and on sale in one of these bargain shops. They were coming into leaf and as we are having a dry spell I decided it was too late to plant them so I am starting them off in pots to form proper roots before planting out later in the year. Normally I think fruit trees are banned because the allotment organisations are worried about trees taking light from other plots.
Article 2