So, it’s been a while! But we have been very busy and bar a few rainy days, and with plenty of tea, we have been doing quite a lot.
We have been preparing the beds in both our allotments and already started planting a few things. Garlic and shallots, and oh so much Rhubarb, are in the ground. Beans are in the ground ready to go to! We’ve also got plenty of fruit on the go with kind donations of Raspberry canes and Loganberry bushes. We’re also trying out Goji Berry bushes.
We have a new volunteer Jill, who is another font of gardening knowledge.
And we’ve also dug a pond! And Frank has been climbing on lots of roofs.
The indecisive winter weather so far this year has seen slow progress at the allotment.
Due to the frozen ground and wet weather we’ve had some enforced Sunday lie-ins (oh, the horror!) but as there is not much pressing work to be done right now we can enjoy this slower time – it certainly won’t last, as soon as the ground warms up the weeds will be racing off and we’ll be struggling to keep up with it all.
That’s not to say that we haven’t done any work. For starters, our apple tree that had been so overgrown when we took on the allotment was given a winter prune, and combined with the earlier removal of the brambles suffocating it hopefully we’ll get a good apple harvest this year, now that light and air will be able to get to the fruit. Check out our apple tree before and after – hubba hubba!
We’ve also been busily edging our borders, and Mike was hard at work putting up some bean canes so we can look forward to another bumper crop of runner beans this year. We even included an installation art piece as a typically Folkestonian health and safety feature, thanks to a neon yellow plastic plant pot we have stuck on the end. Hopefully this will be enough to stop Cantiaci members impaling themselves.
Some new rhubarb crowns have also gone into the ground, and a couple of established rhubarb plants have started to poke their way through the matted grass. We cleared the grass from them and found a bottomless bucket to hopefully force the stems of the smaller so we can have some early rhubarb. Rhubarb was one of our key crops last year, the plant we had inherited on our other plot produced massive bundles of rhubarb right through to September so we’re hoping for similar success again.
Meanwhile at our other allotment site we continue to harvest leeks – although some are not growing as fast as others (why is that?!) and our onions don’t seem to have grown underground at all, despite their flourishing green tops – all fur coat and no knickers.
Naturally, all this hard work is always rewarded with a steaming cup of tea, often as we cower out of the wind and drizzle in our (rather small) shed, dreaming of spring harvests and mild weather (and not thinking about those weeds… or the slugs… or that chemical toilet we still haven’t had the courage to open and dispose of…!)
Frankly it sometimes feels like being at the allotment is just an excuse to enjoy a good cuppa and have a natter…
This week was chilly, very chilly! The ground was to frozen to dig and even too frozen to weed! Our new allotment friends the moles seem to have been unperturbed by this frosty ground, atleast our soil must be good. Luckily the tea wasn’t frozen, and delicious. Today we enjoyed ginger and turmeric, and dandelion and burdock.
There was still somethings to do. Frank cut our dishevelled green house into small car sized pieces. The rest of us, and then Frank, gave the apple tree a haircut so hopefully this year’s apples will slightly more healthy.
Even the sun was pale today!
On Sunday a handful of us braved the cold, drizzly winter morning to take a tour of Folkestone’s Park Farm allotments, a large established allotment site run by Folkestone Town Council.
Our guide was Jimmy, who has had a plot there for several years and was making good use of the space he had with broad beans planted last November already at a good height and peas doing well in his greenhouse.
It was very interesting to see how this site was run – and the luxuries they had! Our own allotment at Newington doesn’t have such fancy things as electricity, running water or toilets (well, apart from that chemical toilet we found in the shed and still haven’t had the courage to open…)
Allotments are always good places to see innovative recycling and none more so than the Park Farm space, with its communal tea shed built from materials donated by builders working on the new school across the road, homemade planters (a particular favourite was the old barrel with holes cut in the sides for strawberries, plus upturned bottle for watering.) You could see allotmenteers at this site had really made their plots their home from home and put a lot of time and effort into their growing.
Park Farm Allotments
A colourful shed at the allotment
Old drink bottles become a safety feature
Old bins are now home to carrots
Also worth a mention is the concrete area to one side – huge raised beds built from breeze blocks with paving slab pathways. Quite out of place among the muddy paths and ramshackle wooden sheds you normally see. Jimmy explained that this area had been built to make the allotment more accessible – the tall raised beds are perfect for people who can’t bend down anymore, and the paving slabs make it easy for wheelchairs to get through. What a great way to make growing your own produce easier for everyone!
The concrete wheelchair-friendly area
The concrete wheelchair-friendly area
We did notice a few unloved plots that had been left to go to ruin. In some cases the allotmenteer had become ill or sadly passed away, but in other cases the plot holders simply didn’t have time to manage them with family and job commitments.
That’s where a group like Cantiaci can be really beneficial for people who love the idea of having an allotment but don’t have the time to take one on. By tending to our plots as a group we remove that pressure and members are able to still enjoy their free time and go away for the weekend without worrying about weeds and slugs taking over. If you’d like to take part just drop us an email at email@example.com or message us on Facebook. During winter we meet in Folkestone at 10am every Sunday morning and usually work until 12 – 1pm, but when the days get longer often fit in some weekday evening slots too. Of course you would be welcome to pop to the site at times convenient to you, if you can get to Newington and don’t need to carshare.
To rent one of the Park Farm Allotments call Folkestone Town Council on 01303 257946.
It’s 2017! Goodbye 2016 and your excessive culling of dearly loved figures of popular culture! Hello 2017, a year of great times ahead!
We broke ourselves in gently with some light weeding and digging over of a few beds. We also consumed some frankly essential tea, as well as resuming our recycling and composting.
We made a few nice surprises, one was the first shoots of some rhubarb, and growth on our fruit bushes. It wasn’t all casual weeding, Mike released the apple tree from it’s thorny prison of brambles while Shallots were planted. Simon turned our bed into a zen garden.
Our beds are ready, perhaps we might be ready for the planting season?!
This week at the allotment it was another leisurely week. We cleared a lot of rubbish and made room for a new bed!
We also spent far too much time trying to burn wet grass. Even head fire starter Mike couldn’t help.
We had to mourn the loss of our green house, Storm Angus cleary didn’t take too kindly to it. We sat and mourned the pile of twisted glass and metal over a nice cup of dandelion and burdock.
In brighter news we were able to harvest some leeks and a squash!
This week we turned over more beds, and battled with the compost containers. We opened our hearts to three soon to be homeless herbs and a hyacinth bulb. Those are really the only constructive things we did.
A great amount of time was devoted to drinking tea and enjoying the sun, as we discussed everything from quinces to some certain recent political event. Rose Lemonade tea and a delicious Marigold /Peppernint/Lemon blend went down very well. There was even cake! Truly a terribly civilised Sunday morning.
We just need to decide what to plant!