Real Men Sow

My Plot Fears for 2013

During January, I talked a lot about the Patch from Scratch Plan, and my veg growing hopes and dreams for 2013. Vertical squashes, greenhouse anticipation and a long overdue second crack at sweetcorn all featured in my New Year excitement.

I called 2013 ‘…a voyage of discovery’, and the closer we get to the growing season, the more I understand this. I’ve also begun to realise I haven’t really faced up to any of my fears, and thought about how they could impact on my growing expectations.

Heavy Soil
The soil is much heavier than my crumbly, well tended allotment soil, and this has concerned me over the winter. Although not clay, the soil is tacky enough to stick to my shoes in wet weather. I know we’ve had a few very wet months, but the earth has really held the water, and only now are there signs of drying out.

I have thrown a whole heap of manure on to the patch this winter, and I’m interested to see what the soil looks like once I’ve run over it with my secret weapon, the petrol tiller…

The shady right hand edge, also known as the Winter Strip, is also a cause of anxiety. Whenever I look out of the nursery window, the strip always appears to be in shade. In fact, since we moved in to the house in May last year, I don’t recall the area ever being in full sunlight.

However, the old redcurrant and loganberry bushes that were fruiting along the Winter Strip when we arrived here are a crumb of comfort. This suggests that the bed does get some sun, possibly at first light when I’m still tucked up in bed (this year will be different on this front, I’m sure Lewis will see to that!).

Initially, my fruit bushes were going in the Winter Strip, but after seeing the shade I decided to plant my winter veg here as leafy stuff can tolerate some shade. Now, I’m fretting that I’ve cocked up there. Only time will tell, but if all fails, I’ll think of the redcurrant and loganberry and consider moving my fruit bushes over to the Winter Strip next year.

Mind you, the rhubarb is doing well in the back corner. I know rhubarb does stomach some shade, but even so, the plants are flying at the moment.

New Pests
A different set of pests is also going to provide a test. At the allotment the veg destruction was typically caused by caterpillars, whitefly and the odd badger. From daily surveillance out of the patio door, I have concluded that fighting the large resident pigeon population and preventing the neighbourhood’s cats from polluting the patch appear to be the chief challenges.
(pigeon photo by Marc Davison on Flickr)

Positive Problems
Strangely, these are positive problems to have. This is the house in which I’m going to bring up my son, so I’m here for the long term. Getting the plot to be successful could take several years of working out how to get the best from the soil, where different veg grows best and combatting the pests and diseases held in the local environment.

The optimist in me says that even if 2013 is a complete disaster, I’ll have learned vital information about the plot for the years to come.

Not that I’ll feel like that when the pigeons have scoffed all fruit, the ground is too wet to grow anything decent and all the winter crops are stuck in a shade induced coma.  :)

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  1. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!March 1, 2013 at 3:42 amReply

    Heavy soil: “easily” fixed with compost.

    Shade: don’t underestimate the effect of the seasons on the sun’s angle.

    Pests: change is fun, right?

    I expect you’ll be fine Jono. Go back and look at your garden plan and get excited again. :)

  2. Jono

    JonoMarch 2, 2013 at 9:55 amReplyAuthor

    Alan, you’ve made everything alright again in the first 24 words of that comment. :)

    Really looking forward to making some crumbly soil.

  3. Anna BMarch 3, 2013 at 7:54 pmReply

    Hiya Jono! I wouldn’t worry about your soil either. Mine can get like that and I’ve been growing in it just fine for years. Compost definitely will help and you might even find your veggies love your ‘new’ ungrown-in soil. I’ve heard salads can grow pretty well in the shade. I have a shaded spot too and it can be hit & miss. The best thing to have grown there was fennel. I’m excited to see how you get on dude!

  4. Jono

    JonoMarch 3, 2013 at 10:29 pmReplyAuthor

    Hey Anna, thanks for your comment.

    Yes, I’ve heard the same about salads in shade, so there are options if things don’t work out.

    And I’ve now got three compost bins…

  5. MariaMarch 4, 2013 at 11:13 amReply

    I like your optimistic lookout!
    PS let me know if you find any surefire ways of deterring neighbour’s cats – I have the same problem!

  6. Jono

    JonoMarch 4, 2013 at 6:14 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Maria,

    Trouble is, I’m a bit of a cat softie. Running down the garden clapping isn’t really much of a deterent!

    Apparently, lemon balm is supposed to keep them away as they don’t like the smell. Not sure if this an old fish wives tale though…

  7. AnonymousMarch 7, 2013 at 10:05 amReply

    Pigeons and cat poo – and foxes – are the bane of my community veg garden! I’ve put cheap netting around my veg beds so that the cats/foxes don’t treat them like giant litter trays. And I’ve noticed that since someone started throwing out bread crusts for the pigeons, they tend to leave my veg alone (as far as I can tell) – might be worth a try! Good luck with it all!
    PS. I didn’t know about lemon balm deterring cats so I’ll give that a go as well – thanks for the tip! Also, shade won’t be a problem if you plant it right. ;)

  8. Jono

    JonoMarch 7, 2013 at 9:31 pmReplyAuthor

    Hello Anonymous :)

    Funny you should mention the breadcrusts. We’ve done that a couple of times in the past few weeks and noticed the pigeons munching very happily on it. Will definitely try that again once the season is underway.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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