January can be a quiet month on the plot. There is little to harvest.
When the frost comes, the ground can be hard as iron.
This is time for tackling those jobs that we don’t find time for the rest of the year; organisation, clear out the shed, building structures, cleaning tools.
January sales came in useful this year, as we needed some purchases for the plot. Top of the list was a new wheelbarrow. Our old barrow, a second-hand metal beast that is as old as I can remember – (must be near 20-30 years!) – finally rusted though this summer. Its replacement came from that online superstore Amazon (online tier 4 lockdown shopping with a glass of wine) and I plan to post a review here on the blog later in the month once we’ve given it a decent test run.
The test run will come when we start our two main projects of the winter; compost area mark 2, and the rain water harvesting. A couple of years ago we built a couple of compost bays in the lower corner of the plot (we didn’t have the upper plot section at this time) but it has never been particularly successful. As open pallet-constructed bays, the green waste struggled to build up enough heat to compost fully. This site is also shaded and damp, and despite using weed membrane, it quickly becomes ridiculously overgrown each year and is difficult to access. A lesson learned!
Over the months of working the plot, habits and pathways/desire lines develop, and a new location for the compost making area has become obvious. As compost is the heart of a healthy productive plot, the practical place for ease of access and high productivity is the centre of The Cutty Garden plots. Beside the raised pond, along the boundary that adjoins the upper and original plot sections, is a large area of ground where we have been clearing brambles and feral raspberry plants. Situated beside the main path, and importantly, easily accessible by wheelbarrow, this area lends itself to the perfect positioning of our compost bins. When we next visit the plots and start this project, I will take some photos or maybe a short video to help you visualise what I am talking about.
(You can read about our first attempt at ‘Operation Compost Heap’ in the blog archives)
Any gardener will tell you that the past few years have been ‘odd’ weather wise. Increasingly, winters are mild, wet, and windy, whilst spring and summer are bringing droughts that last for weeks. Managing water is becoming a high priority at The Cutty Garden.
Access to mains water is included with the rental of the allotment, and provided by a water trough shared between several plot holders. This trough happens to be a full plot distance away, uphill from our site, so the regular watering-can shuttle is quite a work out! The most recent drought of Summer 2020, saw high pressure on water resources across the south-east region, with calls from water companies for customers to think carefully about if and when they needed to use water, and fears of shortages. Working with nature and protecting the natural environment has always been a foundation of our cultivation of The Cutty Garden, and that consideration extends to the use or wastage of water. To attempt to relieve some pressure on the mains water supply, even if only in a small way, we are installing water butts on the allotment, to harvest rainwater during the wetter months, which we can use on the plot in dry times. Another ‘Watch This Space…’!
One project already completed is the winter seed sort out. Back in the summer my husband gifted me a subscription to @growyourownmag – it’s going to come in handy when planning the new season of growing on the allotment. (Not an ad). The free seeds are going to be a great help too! Any we can’t/don’t use will be posted to The Free Seed Company (a not-for-profit org) or Thrive for use/donation to community or welfare groups, schools, gardening therapy projects etc.
Like most gardeners, I seem to have a slight addiction to seed packets. Every year I struggle to cram them into some sort or order, in boxes and tubs and overflowing in the boot of the car. My latest attempt is to curate my own seed ‘catalogue’ – a ring binder with multi-pocket folders is proving (thus far!) a fairly successful storage solution.
Our new years resolutions for the allotment focus on successional growing- maintaining some for of cropping for as long a season as possible, ideally, all year round. As part of this, we are looking at growing more perennial edibles, and repeating our 2020 successes of garlic, onions and potatoes, as well as salads and tomatoes.
So, as a final note, I would like to wish from The Cutty Garden Allotment, to all allotment holders, growers, foodies and nature nerds alike, a very Happy New Year. Here’s to a healthy, green 2021!
Take care, stay safe, and keep growing!