On our Winter Allotment

The first snow of the year has come and gone, melting in the weak winter sun. We’ve moved the artichokes and, essential in this weather, lit a fire in the fire pit to keep warm when we have our tea. We’re now more or less finished reorganising an area of the allotment that has resulted in creating more beds for growing vegetables, as well as garden areas.

The wet weather before Christmas resulted in a backlog of bulbs sitting in trays, waiting to be planted. A mix of alliums, tulips & the last of the daffodils, along with a few Allium bulgaricum & a bag of fritillaria assyrica left over from the autumn planting. The unseasonably warm weather has allowed us to continue transplanting & re-siting well into winter; it also means planting bulbs is still feasible, if rather late. It is risky, but worth attempting rather than tipping the lot into the compost bin – some of the daffodil bulbs, a few of the tulips, & a significant number of the allium bulgaricum have gone mouldy, while the fritillaria seem to have shrivelled up, but enough look sufficiently healthy to make planting them worth the risk.

Using raised beds has enabled more intensive mixed vegetable planting over the year, & enabled us to think about how we use the space on our plot differently. We’ve started to create bands of flowering plants across the allotment to encourage bumble bees, as well as butterflies; the teasel & echinops seed heads were recently visited by a charm of goldfinches, justifying our decision to leave tidying until the beginning of spring.

The re-siting of the fruit trees left us room for a new Iris bed, at the bottom of a slope which catches the sun all day & tends to bake during the summer, ideal for Iris Germanica –Bearded Iris, as the tubers need to bake in order to encourage the plants to produce flowers. Teresa dug up the iris tubers, which had become ridiculously congested, cut out the old rotten sections & replanted 4” sections with strong flags. The usual time to lift & move Bearded Iris is in July, after flowering, but we didn’t have a new bed ready for them, so it didn’t happen. Moving them now is a risk, & they’re unlikely to flower this year, as they put their energies into establishing their root systems. However, we’re also experimenting with mixed plantings, creating drifts of irises, with alliums interplanted amongst the tubers, & possibly drifts of Achillea in between. The idea is to have contrasting textures amongst the iris flags, & flowers right into autumn-we’ll have to see if this all works-it’s the excitement of experimenting, trying different combinations.

 

winter allotment

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