Phase 1 – Preparing the back

First of all, we were lucky enough to have been offered an unused greenhouse.

Considering that the beginning of March was cold, we anticipated that there will be no spring at all, or it will be very, very late. Sowing anything would be early anyway. So re-building the greenhouse could be a good start.

 

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Greenhouse in its original condition and location

 

After careful planning, the following steps took place.

We repositioned the apple tree. From the left side of the allotment, we moved it to the right side of the allotment. It sits in line with the damson tree now. The idea is that on the right side (sunny south side) will be a line of fruit trees and bushes. The tree itself was 6-7′ tall. One of us held it in place, the other one was filling the hole with soil. A few days later we put some wood chips around the tree. Moving can shock the tree, so we do not expect any fruit this year, but we hope the tree will survive the move.

 

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Apple tree in the top right corner of the plot

 

We were sawing off all the branches of the ash tree and the majority of its trunk.

 

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Ash tree remains by the edge of the patio

 

One of the previous plot owners tried to cut back the ash tree. As long as the root is intact, most of the trees will regrow from the base of the trunk.  Ash tree also produces suckers. To be able to remove it permanently, we applied a tree killer onto the trunk. You can see the hole on the top left of the picture where the apple tree was sitting before.

 

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Ash tree trunk

 

We dug up the area where we wanted to place the greenhouse, removed all the grassroots and pebbles. Apparently, there was a pebble walkway under the grass. The digging lasted two days.

 

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The groundwork for the greenhouse

 

Removed all the glass panels from the frame and carried them over to our plot.

 

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Some of the glass panels under the apple tree

Then carried over the paving slabs and started to lay it down straight onto the soil. We skipped the sand base. The soil level is slightly higher next to the walkway, so we placed a U-shaped steel joist along the paving slabs on the north side, and pegged it into its position with wood pegs.

 

 

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Base construction

 

We also moved the frame, the rest of the paving slabs, some netting, some wire/plastic mesh, a few bricks to put them to good use.

 

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under construction

 

The frame apparently should have had a base which we didn’t possess, so we put some wood under it. We drilled a few holes and secured the frame to the paving slabs with bolts. ( Easyfix Concrete Bolts from Screwfix ) Why secure it? Well, because the wind could either lift the structure or push it at an angle, which would deform the frame in a way that the glass plains could break.

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Then we cleaned the frame and each of the glass plains, placing the glass and plastic boards in position. Before even finishing the build, we had our first tenant.

 

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Probably a cabbage moth larvae

 

 

By the time we finished the greenhouse construction it was already mid April.

 

 

 

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The location and condition of my new plot – part 2

What is it in the front?

A trapezoid-shaped section has leftovers from last year: strawberries, mint, chard, onion; and some sorts of flowers and weed.

A trapezoid-shaped walkway has two raised beds. The walkway is unusable around the raised beds as it is too narrow to walk around. The raised beds are full of weed. Two bags of green waste lie by sadly.

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What is it at the back?

A few trees. A damson tree, which is not pruned, but badly butchered on one side. An apple tree, which is on a tilt, held upright by a rope and a metal rod. An ash tree, which looks like someone tried to kill it without success, now sprouting, sucking the nutrition away from the apple tree.

A composting area. Two compost bins are filled up with last year’s produce of potatoes, squashes, and pumpkins. The third bin is half filled with soil. There are a few bags of some sort of green waste, probably cut grass or weed.

Random rubbish. Apparently, the site is open to the elements soo much that some items can fly from one end of the allotment to the other end (for example bins, green netting, greenhouse, plastic panels, etc).

 

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And finally, the blueprint to get your bearings right:

 

plot blueprint March 2018

plot blueprint March 2018

 

The main vegetable patch is covered with black plastic sheets. From the drawing, you can see that its area is 7 metre by 16 metre, which is  112 square metre. There are pathways on both sides, so I am not going to plant anything close up to the path, leaving around a  foot gap next to the path. This will reduce to available planting area to around a 100 square metre.

The shed is small (6′ by 6′) but sufficient enough to store some pots, manure and escape somewhere when it is raining. It is leaning to one side, the side panels have plenty of holes, but hey, some plots don’t even have a shed.

This plot is slightly bigger than we wanted to be, but this could be a good challenge for the coming year. We can see how we can balance the effort we put into it with all the yield we gain from it.

The location and condition of my new plot – part 1

When you start gardening, you can start with the obvious, the climate. Plants you can grow are the traditional ones you were taught to grow, or you can look around the world and see what other plants you might want to grow, which depend on the overall climate or the microclimate you can create.

The climate where I live now is an oceanic climate (or maritime climate) based on the Köppen−Geiger Climate Classification. In details, it is a cfb climate zone: c-temperate, f-fully humid, b-warm summers.

Temperate climates are defined as having an average temperature above 0 °C (26.6 F) in their coldest month but below 18 °C (64.4 F). The second letter indicates the precipitation pattern, f means significant precipitation in all seasons. The third letter indicates the degree of summer heat, b indicates warmest month averaging below 22 °C.

Within this climate there are different hardiness zones, depending on exact location. If your garden is sheltered from the wind and is on a sunny side, then you might be able to grow a plant suitable a zone higher on the scale.

The area I live has a hardiness zone 8. However the site is exposed to the wind, so I have to take into consideration the effect of the wind chill factor on the plants.

 

The soil texture seems to be ‘loamy sand’ where I took the sample from.

 

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Old jar test

 

However, on the other side of the plot, there is a bit of a water logging problem which would indicate clay soil or very high water table/eroded topsoil. From the picture, it is quite visible how many pebbles we have which is a bit of a problem for root vegetables.

 

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Water logging and pebbles

 

 

I found a few web references on soil structure:

The blog ‘the growing season’ has two informative videos on how to do the jar test and an alternative soil testing. (https://thegrowingseason.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/soils-management-the-old-jar-test/)

The ‘Plant & Soil Sciences eLibraryPRO‘ is an educational portal and has a lot of articles on horticulture, crop technology, soil and weed science and so on. (http://croptechnology.unl.edu/pages/informationmodule.php?idinformationmodule=1130447123&topicorder=2&maxto=13&minto=1)

The Master Gardener Foundation of Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties website has a clear picture of the soil structure triangle, as the clay-silt-sand triangle, and lots of gardening related information and courses. (http://pnwmg.org/garden-info/soils/)

References to climate:

 

New plot

I decided to rent a plot again on an allotment. There is a site close by and there were a few plots available. Some of them haven’t been cultivated for years it seems. This one had some work done on it, has a shed, a patio area, some sort of raised beds at the front and it is covered on the main vegetable area with black plastic sheets. I paid the rent in January and then waited for the winter to pass…

 

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