As the allotment continues to change and develop these plans will be updated so check back to see that latest developments every so often.
last updated: 23/06/2015
There are many reasons why you would want to go down the route of planting on straw bales. My reasons are as follows:
Make sure you get your straw bales put into your chosen position in advance of plating out. You don’t want to plant your seedling directly into the straw bale as soon as you set it on the ground. I recommend a minimum of 15 days with the straw bales “out in the elements” and to make sure you visit them regularly and soak them in water whenever you can.
You do not need to add extra compost and nitrogen fluid but it does help if you can do so. I intend to use chicken manure saturated water on the bales to soak them in extra nutrients before planting.
In addition to this, think about what plants you are going to have near it. I chose a row of Borage right next to the straw bales. I waited for them to get big enough to not be bothered about the shade, this is a big hardy plant that is useful in many ways. In addition, Borage is reported to be a good companion plant for almost anything but in particular squash and strawberries. The straw bales on my plot are destined to have squash and pumpkins on them and in addition I have strawberries filling my fruit bush and raspberry bush area which is right next to the bales. This therefore seems like a match made in heaven!
To plant the borage, I dug a long trench alongside the straw bales, and then placed the borage evenly along it.
On Day 3 of going over the allotment to prepare it for cultivation, we made a small handy pop bottle structure for planting along the fence by the pathway. This is known by many as vertical growing.
We didn’t plant anything at this time – it was totally out of season, but now I have a bunch of Spinach seedlings with no home and I decided this would be a great spot for them.
It’s important to note that I do not know if spinach really will be okay in these bottles. It’s shallow, its warm and it’s dense. However, I gave a handful of seedlings to my partner Alan for his standard allotment so I know either way I will still have Spinach on the table.
I added a handful of fresh compost to each of the bottles and planted a spinach seedling in each one. Then I watered it heavily and stood back to admire my handiwork. I will keep you updated how well this goes.. Just check out our sustainable life facebook page for allotment updates.
Make sure you set aside a full day or two for some really hard work and back breaking labour. Don’t make the mistake we did and assume your polytunnel will be okay weighed down for a day while you get your breath back, it won’t!
Separate the work across two days. Make sure you only put the cover on when you have time to dig it in all at one go.
Get the Polytunnel erected (frame only). Make sure you have all your tools and equipment necessary and an extra person to help out. You will need someone to help carry and lift the arches if nothing else and to hold bars in place while they are fixed in.
Dig a trench where the polytunnel will fit in all around it, even if it has no base frame – you will need the trench for the cover. You can use the frame of the polytunnel itself as a guideline so you don’t need to mark it out. You will need to move the frame while you do so.
Get the cover on the polytunnel as per your instructions, you will need an extra helper for this too. Align up the sheeting and tie it down. Then move the frame into the trench if not already and ensure the cover lays down into the trench. We lined our cover with a few bricks and rocks to help weigh it down but we are not yet sure if this was wise. Next, move the soil from the trench back into the trench on top of the cover. Do the same on the inside of the polytunnel too to seal in the cover and ensure there are no gaps. Press the ground in firmly.
You will notice how warm and cosy your new polytunnel is (just like ours, mmm!) Remember to seal the doorway properly before you leave or it will serve as an entryway for the wind.
This section of my new allotment will not be much permaculture this year. The polytunnel will house a mixture of perennials and annuals. The greater plan for next year is to convert the base of the polytunnel into a pond/self irrigation system which requires the entire polytunnel plot to be dug out. This pond will then be converted into an aquaponics fish farm eventually completing the project.
In the meantime, It;s the middle of winter and I am several muscles short of digging out the polytunnel section in time for my first plantings in february. Therefore to ensure I don’t miss out on this year’s harvests I am postponing the pond until next year and building my new polytunnel somewhere else on my plot. This will give me the year to casually dig out the pond section where I eventually want the polytunnel to end up.
My rough plan for the finished plot shows the polytunnel and pond system on the right hand side. I will move the polytunnel to the middle section while i dig out the pond on the right hand side where i want ti to be. This means for the first year my polytunnel will have to be regularly maintained and watered manually.
Plants planned for polytunnel:
Tomatoes, chillis, Peppers, Melons, Aubergines, Avocado tree (currently on windowsill), cucumber, sweet pepper, cape gooseberries, coffee plant.
I will be putting up the new 6m x 3m x 2m polytunnel this week so if you’d like to come along and help please do get in touch.