This month: Bristol- based Lucy Clements, who has grown produce on an allotment for the last 14 years
My allotment site has a rainwater harvesting system which uses a solar powered pump to extract water from a well, store it in tanks and then feed troughs by gravity. It is an excellent system of irrigation and water companies may provide funding for similar operations.
Anyone who hasn’t had experience of an allotment may not realise what a huge amount of produce can be produced on a full-sized plot. I have four apple trees and one plum tree that I grow alongside my flowers and vegetables. Inevitably their presence results in me doing a lot of preserving and cider making.
This year I aimed to get more out of my plot in terms of flowers. I planted lots of dahlia and gladioli and created a new area for a few perennials (catmint, geum and scabiosa), along with allotment classics such as calendula and nasturtium. By doing so I could guarantee plenty of colour and bees.
My soft fruits came along a treat and I netted the strawberries, currants and gooseberries to protect them from pests. I’ve had fun making strawberry tarts.
Mulch, mulch, glorious mulch is the best thing for a veg patch. I use a well-rotted bracken, manure and barkbased organic mulch which improves soil structure, helps to suppress weeds, feeds plants, is beneficial to soil organisms and helps to retain moisture. I try to keep a careful eye on the watering needs of each crop, not least during the recent heatwave. Runner beans like a constant level of moisture. Peas and broad beans need extra water when flowering to help pods to set, but French beans can tolerate some dryness.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that marigolds deter pests because of their strongly scented leaves. I have been giving them a whirl this year and have also grown calendula for courgettes, nasturtiums for brassicas and spring onions for carrots.
As for the future? I’m hoping to buy land soon and I’m looking in Wales. Exciting times.
Follow Lucy @Lucy_Clements_ Compiled by Debbie Kingsley who tweets from @SouthYeoFarm and set up @SmallholdersUK