When we took over the plot in October 2021 there was so much to do, the plot itself looked fairly easy as it had been used for growing the previous season and wasn’t completely overgrown, but I soon realised to get it into shape for the current growing season there was a lot I would need to do. We’ve had a solid, productive winter as we cleared the ground, moved our double compost heap, laid out some beds and started to landscape it. These are jobs that (hopefully) only need doing once, so we made sure we made the most of the winter in order to get everything we needed ready for spring.
Finishing off the plot
Like I said, we achieved so much through the winter in regards to transforming our plot into the workable plot we have now. It’s by no means done but it is slowly getting there. When the hope of spring rolled around as March hit we decided it was time to prepare ourselves for the coming season.
Some of the jobs we did on the plot in March include:
- Moving our bean poles and re-erecting them reading for growing our first runner beans.
- Laid our shed base – we went for an eco base with pea gravel.
- Scored a free 6×4 shed + paid £50 for a smaller storage shed.
- Laid weed membrane and play grade wood chip for an area for the kids to play.
- Started laying our stone path across the plot.
- Dug over, stripped back, weeded and started sifting out stones from the beds.
All the strawberries
A good friend of mine, in clearing her garden, had loads of new and older strawberry plants that she wanted to clear and asked if I wanted some. Of course, always open to more produce I emphatically said yes and rehomed around sixteen plants. Our plot neighbours also gave us 6 plants as a welcome to the allotment kind of gift that I have planted in an old bucket there.
Up on the balcony, I have 7 plants that I have had for the past 5 years, they stopped fruiting last year but gave me 5 runners, which have been overwintering in my mum’s greenhouse. I have decided, with those older plants to see if they will do another season and possibly give me some more runners this coming season. I have repotted them and so far seeing some early signs of life, so stay tuned to see what they do this year. The 5 runner plants are doing amazing and I have recently bought them home to my own greenhouse before planting them out. With the current cold snap, although I am sure they will be fine, I have left them to be planted out until it is slightly warmer. Instead, I have left them in my greenhouse on the balcony.
Of course, because this isn’t enough strawberry plants for anyone, I couldn’t resist purchasing some strawberry plants from the garden centre when I visited the other week. I purchased 2 early, 2 mid and 2 late-season varieties. I have potted these in hanging pots on the balcony and they are so far doing great.
First up at the plot: Parsnips
As soon as March hit a switch flipped in my brain which made me want to sow all the seeds. I have somehow managed some restraint because I don’t want to go too early when I don’t have a lot of indoor space with adequate light (ie, I’ll end up with leggy plants) or a heated greenhouse, a zip-up greenhouse on the balcony is the extent of it so far. I decided to start a few things off in March, firstly my Luffa’s, which (at the time of writing) aren’t doing too bad. I went for pre-germinating them in wet paper towel, in a plastic bag (LFT bags work a treat if you have leftovers) and putting them on a shelf that sits above a radiator. I also clipped the base of the seedlings before germination too, to help it along. Almost all the seeds I did this germinated and have so far gone on to produce strong-looking seedlings.
You can watch a fun reel I did on my Instagram page about my Luffa’s, which gives you an idea of how it works.
What I did focus on this month, however, was parsnips and some early tomatoes. Parsnips are quite hardy and have been something that is pretty much impossible to grow on a balcony. There isn’t much you can’t do in containers, but parsnips and carrots certainly aren’t easy. As with most things that I am growing this year I have some experience of trialling things on the balcony, so it is just adapting that to the allotment and a much bigger space. That being said I am trying something new this year: sowing in three ways.
I decided to test how well things do, given the space, I have at home for starting off seedlings, a small zip-up greenhouse and no greenhouse at the allotment yet. So I have decided to try and plant/sow three ways.
- Direct sow where possible.
- Plant in pots or trays either indoors/in the zip-up greenhouse.
- Pre-germinate in a wet paper towel before planting.
Using these ways I plan to see what works best and what produces the best plans with the best crops. I am planning out my growing season in my trusty allotment log book & planner*, which I can’t rave about enough.
The first rhubarb
We inherited three glorious rhubarb crowns on the plot and they have been ready to harvest for the past couple of weeks, cue lots of rhubarb all around. I am not the greatest fan of rhubarb crumble but I have heard that it will make a wonderful rhubarb and custard cake, so I am off to harvest some as soon as I have finished this blog post.
Propagating a raspberry plant
Something I want for the allotment is some raspberry canes, my mum grows raspberries in her garden and she says they are wonderful. Our plot is very exposed and I am creating almost a wall of growing things to shelter the plot a little, and raspberries are in the plans. After some quick googling I saw that you can have somewhat of success by propagating a cutting from a raspberry plant, so I chopped off the top of one of my mums, popped it into some soil and I am waiting. The ideal way is to split the plant at the bottom and this way is only about 50% successful. However, it’s been 2 weeks and it hasn’t died and I think there might be a new shoot, so it is looking promising. I have been keeping it in the zip-up greenhouse for now until I see how it goes.
March & fools spring on the plot
Fools spring got us good and proper this year didn’t it? 20 degree days, making us feel like it was finally here and it was time to sow and plant everything. Then one week later it’s -2 and snowing. Hello fools spring, you got us again.
The beautiful weather did serve us well and we got our shed up and re-felted. We were lucky enough to score a free 6×4 shed that someone was getting rid of and it’s honestly in such great condition. My original plan was actually going to be for an 8×6 shed so I also picked up a second-hand plastic tool storage shed for £50, and the two together work a treat. I plan to paint the shed when the weather warms up for real.
Other than that we used fools spring to finish up the plot, dig over some beds (we plan to do no dig after this year but didn’t have enough time to really see it come to life this year), create a play space for the kids (that is still a work in progress) and start laying a makeshift path. We have gone for stepping stones and also grabbed these for free from Facebook Marketplace.
Sowing wise, we have started off some seeds indoors (Luffa’s, Tomatoes, Peppers and sunflowers, started off some parsnips in pots in the zip-up greenhouse but also directly sowed some into our first bed a week ago. Not much can be outside at the moment but it’s a start.
On the balcony
It has also been busy up on the balcony, with lots of seed sowing, planting out some of the early seeds (parsnips, tomatoes and Luffa’s), potting on some of my garden centre purchases (strawberries and some herbs), as well as getting the balcony ready for spring.
My zip-up greenhouse has served me well but had a couple of rips from the storm, so I sorted it out with some weatherproof tape. I have also just ordered myself a second, smaller zip-up greenhouse for the balcony to deal with some of the overflows. I do eventually plan to have something at the allotment but at the moment I don’t know what.
Despite having the allotment I still plan to have a very productive growing season on the balcony. Firstly it will be where I start off most seeds, but also I am still going to be growing an abundance of produce up here too. Our balcony is south facing, beautifully warm and sunny, as well as a wonderful, peaceful oasis. This year I get to decide what I grow and where, so the balcony is going to be full of herbs, salads and strawberries. I am also going to do those things at the allotment too alongside everything else.
I’ve been making a start on my herb garden up on the balcony, and so far have mint, chives, oregano and thyme. I am also waiting on some rosemary to germinate indoors too. I created this fun gutter herb garden on the balcony and I cannot wait to see it thriving.
So that’s been my month on the plot & balcony, it’s been so productive and the season has barely started. I am rolling into April so excited for more sowing, more potting on and even more hours outside.
See you next month & don’t forget to follow along our daily growing adventures, along with living a slow and simple life, on our Instagram page.