It’s occurred to me that I quite often witter on about different beds on my allotment – leaving everyone to work out what the hell I’m on about. The monster? The horse-trough? The triple?
So here, at the start of the season, when everything’s nice and clear, is a short spin around the country estate.
The Basics. I’m on a hideous hill, that doesn’t even have the decency to be evenly steep. At the top south east corner it’s something like eight feet higher than the bottom north-west. So it’s nearly all terraced by myself and my great allotment pal Paul. We learned as we went along, which is why the earlier beds are strange shapes and sizes. It also faces north, but is so nestled into the hillside that it’s actually very sheltered. I get a good amount of sun as long as I keep the adjacent sycamore tree in check.
We’ll begin with that Top, South-East Corner and the Temple of Asparagus.
So-named because when we were building it (and when the grass is low) the broken paving stones that provided the lower retaining wall looked like the archaeological remains of some long-lost temple at Ur. I planted the asparagus (Pacific 2000 and Stewarts Purple) in 2015, and have been very good indeed about not trying even the smallest spear. This year I will crop it very sparingly, just a spear or two. As you can see it’s still snug in its bed of manure at the moment.
The other side is the strawberry cage, with three varieties of strawberry. The three hanging baskets are trials of a new, trailing blackberry, called Black Cascade. The plugs arrived too late last yet for any real growth, but they haven’t died back at all and I have high hopes for this year’s crop.
Down the hill from the temple is the Monster.
This was probably a mistake, but it’s still quite a bed in every respect. We’d just been given a whole bunch of paving stones from lovely local builder Riney and we decided to make a giant bed of doom, using paving slabs as retaining walls. This was the result:
It’s a big, big bed, but quite hard to garden. I got a great crop of spuds the first year, but had troubles with pumpkins last year. We’ll probably be dividing it this year, for ease of maintenance.
The little spike with a ‘3’ in it is the number badge all allotment holders have to have. The banister rail along the edge, which, like all the wood, came out of sundry skips, is used to hold a series of windowboxes along the edge, which last year I filled with trailing cherry tomatoes.
Then comes The Awkward Bit. It’s ridiculously steep; I can’t grow much on it because just under the soil is a tangle of sycamore roots. I want to ‘do something’ with it this year to turn it into a seating area. Currently I prop the table on bits of wood to keep it level.
Next comes the Horse Trough.
This, too, is built from paving slabs and looked, to all intents and purposes, like a horse trough when we first put it in.
Admittedly it looks more like a Roman coffin from this angle.
I added some trellis from the £ shop, hung from some old estate agent signs and it’s now where I grow runner beans.
Moving along, and back up the hill at the south end, is Cyril’s cold frame.
Cyril worked this plot for 35 years before me. I never met him; I still live in hope that one day he will visit; I’d love to talk with him. He left behind a cold frame made for him by Pete, another former allotmenteer. One of the panes was broken, so we replaced it with some tripolycarbonate from Paul’s mum’s old conservatory. I’ve lined it with mirrors out of skips, which helps the light problem.
Next to Cyril’s cold frame is a row of fruit trees, mainly pomes.
The other side of the fruit trees, lies the Triple Bed. This was another early bed. An improvement on the monster, I could at least reach the centre, but because the three beds cascade down the hill, I can’t get between them very well. Still, they’re useful, and the little one at the bottom is a good size for small crops.
Next to the triple bed, and across the other side, are our later efforts, much more regular in size and more useful, but rather dull. They don’t have individual names. This year I want to install frames for netting.
Next to them, I have a bed I’m not entirely happy with. It’s currently got two redcurrent bushes that aren’t performing very well in it and some saffron crocus that doesn’t flower. The bed follows the lie of the land and I can’t help feeling there could be better use made of the space.
Finally there is a blackcurrant bed
and a rhubarb patch.
In the next post I’ll do a rundown of the perimeters. Bet you can hardly wait…