Path maintenance and access development

January 2017, we took over our allotment and decided that, once we’d cleared the plot and removed all the old concrete, we would create woodchip paths with a geotextile barrier underneath to help combat weed growth.

We wanted clean and dry access around the plot, not least because it would be easier to get about on a mobility scooter. We decided on woodchip because maintenance is less than grass, and cats don’t tend to confuse it with their litter tray as they sometimes do with gravel. Another advantage is that, after the initial cost of the geotextile, woodchip can usually be sourced free of charge.

All that’s needed is a bit of effort in replacing old with new chips every now and then. Something we needed to do recently. Continue reading

A closer look at the shed

While we’re clearing the plot, it makes sense to assess the shed and decide whether it can be saved.

It is a quirky little structure with a steeply pitched roof. Covered in ivy, it looked charmingly rustic.

The quirky, ivy-covered shed we inherited

It didn’t take long to notice that the floor was rotten in parts.

The shed floor is rotten in parts

But it was not until Elisa from The Secret Garden managed to clear the ivy from one side that we were able to see the state of it. The first surprise is that it has windows all the way round – far more than a normal shed.Unfortunately, it has a few other less welcome features.

The roof has both wet rot and dry rot:

Dry rot on the roof

The walls are very wet and marked, and they move if you apply any pressure.

The roof and walls of the shed are showing serious signs of damp

One thing we did notice is that a roof panel seems to have the fittings usually used to hold a window open.

Ivy growing inside the shed

It was then that Andrew had a flash of inspiration. The reason the shed is the shape it is, with its steeply pitched roof, and has so many windows all round, is that it probably started life as a greenhouse.

Having had a chance to have a good look round, we are coming to the conclusion that it has been neglected for too long for us to be able to save it. It seems a shame not to be able to continue to give it a further lease of life. But we think it has gone beyond saving. By the time we replace the floor, the roof and the walls, we’ll have a new shed! As we had both began to warm to this quirky little structure we were somewhat reluctant to agree to say goodbye to it, although it will probably make a good bonfire.

A sad day.

A map of the site

Measurements of the site showing it as we found it

We had thought that we would do a proper survey of the site. Unfortunately, it was too overgrown and we weren’t sure how safe the piles of vegetation around the shed were for standing on. So, we had to content ourselves with simple measurements.

The plot is supposed to be 100 square metres. Looking at the measurements, this would suggest that the plot starts where the choisia is, and that the shed is not on the actual plot itself – which is a bonus! (There is a short piece of pipe in the corner where the choisia is, which could be a plot marker.)

It looks as though the site hasn’t been cultivated for some time. It is possible that parts of the site were abandoned only recently, such as the area where canes have been set out (possibly for runner beans). But it does look like some of the site hasn’t been cultivated for three or four years.

It’s likely that, apart from the choisias and the phygelius (not some sort of fuscia, as first thought), most of the plants were self seeded.The raspberry canes, large brambles and the two trees probably all self seeded.

It’s going to take quite a bit of work to clear it. We only did about an hour’s hacking on Monday and, although it was great fun, we certainly knew all about it the next day!

We’re going to need some help!

Surveying the scene

I thought we’d have to wait years for an allotment. In fact, it was only a couple of months.

We asked to be put on the waiting list for three sites at the end of September 2016. In the week running up to Christmas, we got a letter back letting us know that there were two potential plots at our the nearest allotment site.

A shot of our new allotment - overgrown with brambles, other weeds and large shrubs, and with a scattering of rubbish and abandoned garden equipment

Here’s our chosen plot. It was more overgrown but had the advantage that it was on the edge of the site which we felt gave us a little bit more space.

Here’s a tour:

We measured the plot and we’ll draw out a map so that you can see what we’ve got.

We then spent a happy hour or so hacking away at them stems of the choisia and bramble, with the aim of cutting them into short, manageable pieces. It seemed a pity to be so brutal but we need to get the site cleared so that we can grow what we want.