Category Archives: Allotment

No Dig Allotment – Raspberries


We love raspberries in our house, and we have a couple of plants in the garden that we snack on every evening during the summer.

There are never enough, so it was a no brainier to grow plant at the allotment. My fellow plot holders have great raspberry plants, so they obviously grow well there.

I bought a load of bare root plants in November when I got the plot, and decided to keep them in pots at home until I knew where I wanted to plant them. I was really inspired by the gorgeous raspberry bushes at River Cottage when I was there for their festival in August.

This was my delicious breakfast – yoghurt, muesli, grated River Cottage apple, and River Cottage raspberries.

And this is me getting into the glittery festival spirit!

I bought a mix of autumn fruiting ones from Thompson & Morgan – Polka, Autumn Bliss, Autumn Gold (yellow), plus some summer fruiting ones from Sutton’s – Valentina, (orange) and some long cane Glen Ample – I wanted to actually have some fruit this year, so I cheated and bought the long cane Glen Amples from Sutton’s that come with one cane.

I also love tayberries & loganberries – they make the best jam. So I also bought 3 loganberry and 3 tayberry plants from J.Parker’s.

They all overwintered in pots in my garden, and I took them up to the allotment at the end of March

to plant them out. They were the very first things I planted!

I wanted to keep the summer and autumn fruiting ones separate, so I’ve planted them on opposite sides of the plot.

I dug a four trenches and hammered in stakes at either end of them all. I got my stakes from Green Tech, they were the cheapest I could find, and were recommended by a fellow gardener on Twitter (but I can’t remember who!).

My trenches are 2-3m long. I made longer ones for the summer/tay & loganberries and shorter ones for the autumn fruiting as I have less of those.

I then popped a bit of compost at the bottom of each and placed the raspberries in the trench. Approx 30-40cm apart. Because the soil is heavy clay, I backfilled with fresh compost, topped with some manure (which had been composting for about 5 months, so not fully composted) and then watered and covered with a heavy mulch of bark chippings.

I have put wires across the Glen Ample area as they needed tying in straight away. I will do the rest when needed. I used Gripple wire and tensioners from Gardening Naturally. Easy to do, should last well, and they don’t rust.

Around the edges I have put cardboard and woodchip.

In mid May I also planted some flowers at the ends of some of the rows. A cosmos, 2 dahlias and some sweet peas so far.

I have given them a heard start by planting them in fresh compost rather than the ground. I cut off the bottom of the pot so the roots can go deeper when they are ready.

And this is how everything is looking in mid-May:

The Polkas (looking good)

Autumn Gold and Autumn Bliss (bit patchy, they haven’t all leafed up) – I’ve let Thompson Morgan know, and they are replacing the autumn bliss, but don’t have any autumn gold left – they have given a refund for those, which is good, but means I only have 1 plant.

Tayberry/Loganberry and Valentina (bit patchy)

Glen Ample (looking good, with some flowers beginning to show)

There have been a few weeds peeping through, but nothing like the weeds around the site, so very pleased with the approach so far. I try and pull them when they are small, and I’m working on the idea of exhausting the roots by constantly taking off the greenery.

Related posts: New No Dig Allotment – A Year In Pictures, No Dig Allotment – Strawberries, New Allotment – Levelling The Plot, New Allotment- getting started

New No Dig Allotment – A Year In Pictures

New No Dig Allotment – A Year In Pictures

I thought it would be fun to take a photo of my plot from roughly the same place each month, right from the start. So here goes..

October 2017 (first viewing)

November 2017 (its mine! – taken from the back of the plot) The council had kindly cut the grass.

December 2017 (all covered up)

January 2018 (first mound flattened)

February 2018 (shed built)

March 2018 (first planting)

April 2018 (some raised beds built)

May 2018 – some raised beds planted – from right to left: 1) strawberries, 2) asparagus, calendula and sweetpeas, 3) carrot and beetroot

June 2018 -Four raised beds built. Beans, peas and courgettes in the 4th bed. Netting protecting the strawberries and carrots/beetroot

July 2018 – five raised beds built. The fifth one has sweet corn and squash. Sweetpeas doing really well!

August 2018 – a sea of green, despite an incredibly hot summer. Notice the new school extension that has appeared at the back of my plot!

September 2018 – still going strong. Sweetpeas have given up the ghost, but everything else is doing great.

October 2018 – sweetcorn, beetroot and carrots giving generously. Beans were so heavy they’ve toppled over. Squash beginning to romp across the plot.

November 2018 – beginning to put it to bed for the winter. Bean/pea/courgette bed emptied and manured. Asparagus bed weeded and manures. Trying fresh manure as it will have time to rot down over the winter.

December 2018 – beginning to get chilly. All beds and most of the paths covered to keep off the weeds. I have plans for another bed and a polytunnel to be built, and some more planting of fruit trees/bushes over the winter, so watch this space.

The first full year shown below – December 2017 – December 2018. I’m really pleased with my first year. From a bare piece of grass to five fully functioning raised beds, multiple fruit trees and bushes all in my own is pretty good going. Learned loads, and lots more to learn. Looking forward to many happy years to come.

Related posts: New No Dig Allotment – A Year In Pictures, No Dig Allotment – Strawberries, New Allotment – Levelling The Plot, New Allotment- getting started

No Dig Allotment – Strawberries

No Dig Allotment – Strawberries

The very first no dig bed to be planted up is the strawberry bed.

We grow strawberries very successfully at home in four grow bags on top of a rickety old table that was here when we moved in. However, we never have enough, so I knew I needed to plant some more at the allotment.

I bought the bare root plants from J Parker’s back in November, and planted them into a couple of plastic troughs. It is an ‘all season’ collection, with Honeoye (Early Season), Cambridge Favourite (Mid Season) and Florence (Late Season). They have been sitting in the greenhouse all winter, and I took them out a few weeks ago to harden them off. The recent hot weather has meant they have put on some good growth, and getting them last year and planting them into troughs means they are way ahead of where they would be if I had bought them in spring. There are already some flowers on them.

Firstly I prepared the bed with cardboard, manure and compost.

I decided to use weed suppressant fabric on top of the compost. This is to prevent any perennial weeds coming up from under the bed, and to stop annual weed seeds landing on the bed and taking hold. It also prevents the strawberries lying on wet ground and going mouldy. I think it will work well, as it’s similar to growing them in grow bags.

I cut a piece of fabric slightly longer and wider than the bed (which is 3m x 1m) and tucked it in all round the edges. I have loads because the whole plot was covered all winter, so it’s nice to be able to re-use it.

I then dug the strawberries out of the troughs and laid them on the bed to get an idea of spacing. They are 4 across and 9 along the length, so 36 in total. Honeoye is on the right, Cambridge Favourite in the middle and Florence on the left.

I then cut a cross in the fabric for each plant, and put them in the holes.

We couldn’t find the watering can, so mini-me helped me water each plant individually. We filled the bottles from the tap, we didn’t use bottled water on them!!

We gave them a good soaking as it is forecast to be hot over the weekend.

This is the finished bed. I put stones in each corner to help hold the fabric down, and one in the middle (after I took the photo). Once the plants grow, I don’t think the fabric will be in danger of blowing away.

These were planted on the 3rd May. It’s the 13th today, and already we have some berries forming. I’ve also added two cornflower plants (one at either end of the bed for some added height and colour).

As the fruit began to form and change colour, I found the local pigeons took too much of a liking to them, so I covered it in handy pop up netting from Wilko , which works really well – I didn’t even bother pegging it down – I just used the bricks I was already using to hold down the weed suppressant fabric.

And here they are – the first strawberries from our plot!🍓 They arrived early June, and they are absolutely delicious. I particularly recommend the honeoye variety. I also recommend the no dig approach – particularly with the weed suppressant fabric – barely any weeds – just a little bindweed making its presence felt at the beginning of July.

Update – Now that it’s July and it’s their first year, the harvest is over, and the plants are now bulking up and putting out runners. I’ve been cutting new holes and pegging the runners down with U shaped pegs. I expect to have double the amount of plants next year. Yum yum!

Related posts: No Dig Allotment – Raspberries, New No Dig Allotment – A Year In Pictures, New Allotment – Levelling The Plot, New Allotment- getting started

New Allotment – Levelling The Plot

New Allotment – Levelling The Plot

As mentioned previously, When I chose it, I thought the plot was flat (well at least it wasn’t on a hill!), but it actually had lots of small hillocks and dips in it. It looked like an ancient burial site! From chatting to the other plot holders I think the previous tenant piled up the turf in random places when they created their beds.

I decided I want it flat so that I can put what I want where I want, rather than following the existing design. It would also be good to be able to walk across the plot without falling down random holes and spraining my ankle.

I checked with the ‘no dig’ guru Charles Dowding (he answered my tweet!) about digging to level the ground, and he said to go for it.

I also googled best ways to level allotments, and came across a recommendation to get an azada. It a sharp hoe like tool that you use in a chopping motion (see pictures below). I got mine from Get Digging – I got the medium one, and it has been completely amazing. I cannot recommend it highly enough. There is no way a spade would have dealt with the two long hillocks as quickly and easily as the azada did.

I have a dodgy back, and didn’t get a single twinge; I did get a few small blisters on my hands. But that’s because I’m a namby pamby office worker!

The other disadvantage is that because the hillocks were quite high I was swinging the azada above my head, which meant my hair was covered in soil!

Taking advantage of some sunny days in January and February, I put on my warmest clothes and decided to tackle two of the big piles of soil.

The first section was at the front of the plot, and was about 5 meters long, 1 metre wide and about 50cm tall. It was full of quite woody roots, but the azada made short work of it, and I just used the spade to re-distribute the soil. As you can see there was a trench around the mound, so I just used the soil to fill the trench. It took about 45 minutes from start to finish, including a few rest breaks in between digging.

The second task was to tackle the much taller mound on the right of the plot. It was only about 3 metres long x 1 metre wide, but it was quite tall – maybe 3/4 metre tall.

Again I employed the services of my trusty azada. There was a lot more soil in this one, so once I had filled in the trench round the outside I had to barrow it over to join the big pile of soil in the back left hand corner of the plot (under the pallets in the second photo below). It was about 6 barrow loads, and is really nice quality soil. I will use it to fill the raised beds when I construct them. Currently it’s sitting under some weed suppressant fabric to keep it weed free.

I’m really happy with how much flatter the plot is looking. After 3 months of being covered, the grass has died back, and I can see where the potholes and trenches are, which will make them much easier to fill – and there is plenty of soil in the mound at the back to give me a nice level plot. Next job is to build a shed. Happy days!

New Allotment- getting started


I love growing fruit and veg so much that I decided it was time to take the plunge and get an allotment.

I’ve been successfully growing all manner of things in my garden – in pots and a couple of raised beds, but thought it would be nice to take on something bigger. Particularly because we can never grow enough strawberries or raspberries!

The idea is to make it fairly low maintenance, and somewhere mini-me and I can hang out, and hopefully meet some like-minded gardening folk.

I’m really lucky because there are quite a few allotment sites near me, and as soon as I contacted the council they told me there were a number of plots at Colesmead allotments, which is a 5 minute drive away.

I had the choice of 4 plots, all roughly half plot size. I chose the flattest one, or so I thought! I also realise it is the same number as our house, so maybe it’s karma!

This is it the day I went to see it.

And the day I got the keys – the council had cut the grass. It’s roughly 8m x 14m, and despite the fact I thought it was flat, it’s covered in lots of little hills and dales, no doubt down to the previous owners beds.

There is a small pallet compost area (which I will make into multiple bays) and a hillock at the back, which is where I guess they dumped the soil they dug up. I’m going to use that to flatten it all out again.

I got the plot in November, and I want I be as much ‘no dig’ as possible, so I’ve covered it in black heavy duty weed suppressant fabric for the winter. I bought the fabric in a massive roll from Amazon, and whilst it’s not the cheapest way of doing things, I know I will be able to reuse the fabric for a few years at least.

I pegged it down with the plastic pegs that came free with the fabric, and I’ve since been back to put bricks/stones and pallets on top to help hold it down.

However, it’s been really windy this December/January, and I’ve already had to fix it down again twice. The first time it was flapping about. The second time (today – 6th January) it looked like this. Only the hillock with all the pallets on it was ok, and it had all blown onto my neighbours plot.

It’s good to see that it’s working in that the grass and weeds are dying off. And it’s interesting to get a better view of the previous beds. But it’s a pain in the arse to keep spending an hour to fasten it all back down.

So now it looks like this..

the wood is from some raised beds that I’m moving from my garden to the allotment.

And tomorrow I’m off up there again to put some more of the raised bed wood on top. I’ve also ordered some more pegs to peg down the edges a lot more. It’s when the wind gets underneath that it’s a disaster, so I need to try and stop that happening!

I know this year is going to be a lot of hard work, and then hopefully subsequent years will be easier. Wish me luck!

Update: I went to the plot the very next day after I first wrote this post, and it had all blown off again!!

So we added a lot more planks of wood, and I moved one of the pallets to the middle. I can happily report that I visited this morning, and all is looking well!

I uncovered the middle third of the plot to plant up some raspberries (see raspberry post for more detail), and this is what the ground looks like in mid March.

Lots of dead grass, but surprisingly, some very persistent grass that is green, and I assume is couch grass. The dark patches are where I’ve filled in some of the random trenches on the plot, with soil from the burial mounds or where I’ve been digging a trench for the raspberries.

I’ve covered it back up again, but it shows how long it’s going to take to get rid of the couch grass.

Here is a update from April/May – before I started planting the raspberries and building the raised beds.

If you get your plot on autumn/winter, I would definitely recommend this as a way of getting rid of grass and weeds.

I have now removed most of the fabric and covered the paths and most of the bits I’m not going to cultivate this year with cardboard and wood chippings (free from a tree surgeon). Hard work to lay (lots of barrowloads from the top of the site to the plot), but really lovely underfoot, no grass to mow, and will hopefully over time help improve the heavy clay soil.

it’s July, and I thought I would add an update…

This area has been covered in weed suppressant fabric since November. Mostly clear, but still some persistent bindweed and couch grass. And there were loads of slugs in the damp clay soil!

Still recommend the fabric for areas that you’re not going to cultivate straight away. Imagine what it would look like if I’d left it uncovered. I was able to cover this in cardboard and build a raised bed straight away.

Productive Small Fruit and Vegetable Garden

Productive Small Fruit and Vegetable Garden

You really don’t need an allotment or a large garden to have a lovely supply of fruit and veg throughout the year.

My garden isn’t large, but I have shoehorned in fruit and veg plants all over the place. Usually in containers.

Here are some examples:

Cherry tree in a container gave me loads of lovely fruit this year. This picture below is just some of it. It’s a Stella cherry in case you were interested, and will not get massive.

Rhubarb in containers. Had them for a couple of years, and got a good crop this year. Behind them is asparagus. I have three crowns in this tub. It’s past asparagus season so I’ve let them grow out.

Raspberries in containers. Two summer fruiting, one Autumn (on the right) and one black raspberry which I planted in the middle tub just this year. Will see how I get on with two plants in one tub.

Apple tree in a 3/4 barrel. Not a good year for apples this year. This is a ‘family tree’ and has 3 types of Apple grafted onto one rootstock.

Potatoes in sacks. Just about ready to be harvested.

Plum/damson tree. Again a family tree with two types grafted onto the same rootstock. Going to be a good crop this year, after having none last year! One of the few trees I have planted in the ground.

Strawberries in grow bags on an old table. They grow brilliantly this way.

Difficult to spot them, but the pots at the front and back of the picture are blueberry plants. Really easy to look after and heavy cropping. This tub is mostly full of blueberries from my first picking this year. And there are loads left on.

Tomatoes in grow bags. Do you like my tripod frame?!

And of course a raised bed. I have two, but one is for cut flowers. I have beetroot, courgettes (2 plants) and beans (cobra, purple, roquencourt and borlotti) in here. I get loads of beans and courgettes.

None of this is much hassle, and I get to go foraging every summer evening when I come home.

Great gifts from the garden today (30th July 2016)

Lovely collection of goodies after my 2 week holiday at the end of August.