winter allotment plan

Winter Allotment Plan 2011 – Green Manures, Sea Weed, Cardboard and Compost

Y’know, it all feels a little Autumnal.

I wore trousers and a jumper to the allotment yesterday afternoon, and I dug up my maincrop potatoes. I normally leave these in longer, but my plants died off weeks ago, and with all the rain we’ve had, the last thing I wanted was rotting King Edwards.

I also dug the bed over and pulled out any weeds, and as I sat down to admire my hard work, thoughts turned to my Winter Plan. Having crammed all the winter veg into one bed, the other three are completely free for some HLC (horticultural loving care).

Normally, I use farmyard manure, at about £20 a load, but I’ve decided to try something different this year.

A Green Manure Virgin
In an attempt to keep the pesky weeds down and make things easier for me when I come to dig over, I’m going to sow green manures in two beds. I’ve never used this method before, but at £4 for enough seed for my two bigger beds, it’s not to be sniffed at cost-wise. And I’m told it I buy organically, I can save the seeds for next year; double yes.

Reading around green manures, it does seem that there are a few things to bear in mind when using them, such as not following manure with a vegetable from the same family, like field beans where you’re planning to put peas and runners.

There is also manure for every soil type, so I’d recommend doing some research. I found the BBC Gardening section and Garden Organic are useful places to start, as was this article in the Times by Alice Bowe.

As I’m overwintering, I’m going to try Hungarian Grazing Rye, which I can sow as late as October, giving me lots of time to prepare the areas.

Sea Weed
Being keen to get as much for free as I can, I’ve also been thinking of what I have around me. One thing in abundance on the Dengie Peninsula is seaweed. I know this because of the number of fishing sessions I’ve spent cursing the stuff as I pulled in oodles of it on my line. Mum used it last year on the little patch in her garden with success, and the parsnips, in particular, seemed to lap the black weed up.

I’m planning to put ‘snips and carrots in the smaller bed next year, so will be checking for a suitable low tide to bag up. If you’ve used seaweed before, please leave me a comment below as I’m really interested to hear how it fared for you.

Cardboard and Compost
Finally, after being beaten comprehensively (think Man Utd versus Arsenal at the weekend) by the weeds in my fruit garden, I’m going to give them what for. I’m currently reading Dave Hamilton’s excellent Grow Your Food For Free (Well Almost), which suggests laying cardboard and then compost in and around fruit bushes to suppress weeds and pass on goodness.

These are exciting times, as having sourced some likely looking cardboard, I’ve now got an excuse to use my lovely, crumbly compost. Not only is it free, but it is beautiful, and possibly the closest I’ll ever get to producing a work of art. I cannot begin to tell you how giddy compost sends me. Sometimes, I find it so gorgeous that I’m almost tempted to eat it.


Anyway, I digress. That’s my plan for the winter. I’m looking forward to having beds with things growing in them during times when they’re normally bare, even if I can’t eat the plants.

I’m also chuffed at the possibility of manuring the entire plot for five times less than what the farmer normally charges me. We’ll stick that saving in the New Bike Piggy Bank methinks.

P.S. £1, 20ps, and 5ps are the only coins I can get into the bottle, so please make donations by the pound. You can keep the 20s and 5s. 🙂

allotment plan

2 thoughts on “Winter Allotment Plan 2011 – Green Manures, Sea Weed, Cardboard and Compost”

  1. I tried hungarian grazing rye last year and to be honest, I’m not sure what I think of it. It wasn’t the easiest to dig in, but that said, it wasn’t as difficult as some reviews I read suggested. And as to whether this year’s plants (runner beans) have profited from it, I just don’t know. The slugs attacked them pretty badly and this year’s weather has been so rubbish in Edinburgh that the beans are not as prolific as last year anyway. So – my jury’s out. Still, I’ve got some left from last year so will probably sow it again! I’ll be interested to read how you get on with it yourself. 🙂

    1. Thanks Croila, that’s interesting to know.

      Its been a very funny year everywhere I think. Even down south we’ve not had much sun.

      I think maybe with stuff like manure, we’re confident it does a job because it looks so substantial? Whereas the green manure doesn’t *look like* it should work??

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