If all has gone to plan on the plot – and providing the pigeons, rabbits and slugs haven’t beaten you to it – now is the time to reap the benefits from your season of labour. As the mellow days of autumn appear, there should be plenty of produce to harvest down on the allotment. Pumpkins and squashes will be ripening nicely, apples swelling to a rosy crescendo, and onions, potatoes and shallots gasping to be plucked, washed and plunged into the cooking pot.
In all the excitement of stuffing carrier bags full of bounteous, homegrown produce, it’s easy to overlook the more mundane tasks of allotment management. Your allotment is probably looking a little shaggy round the edges, and your shed cluttered with pots and detritus caused by a season’s worth of heavy shedding, so here are some tasks you can perform to keep your allotment organised.
On the plot
Make the beds
When you’ve tugged the last of the season’s plants from their soily bed, give the area a thorough digging over, remove any emerging weeds, then cover with a weed inhibiting membrane, weighed down with a few hefty rocks. In spring, you’ll be able to peel back the covers to reveal a nice, weed-free planting area, ready to fill with lovely veg.
Short back and sides
Chances are your grassy areas will be looking particularly tatty at this time of year, so whizz over any green pathways with a grass trimmer. It’s surprising what a difference neatly cut edges can make to a scruffy allotment, so give any dishevelled borders a trim with a pair of border shears. If necessary, re-cut the border shapes using a traditional half-moon tool, or get motorised and invest in a petrol-driven edge cutter for a speedy makeover.
Spread the wood
Mulch around any perennial plants with wood chippings to help them stay snug over the coming winter months. Be generous with your mulching – spread it to a depth of four inches for maximum weed suppression.
Carry on composting
You’ll have plenty of spent vegetal matter to deal with, so get composting. For best results, mix your compost pile with an even mixture of green waste (grass clippings, vegetable peelings etc) and brown waste (sticks and cardboard) and give it a fork from time to time. A word of warning – rodents love to bed down in warm compost heaps, so it’s worth investing in a plastic compost bin with a sealed base to stop them squatting within the confines of your steaming heap.
In the shed
Keep them clean, keep them keen
Scrub down any mud-caked tools with a stiff brush, and give wooden handles a rub with linseed oil to keep them in tip-top condition. Sharpen any slicing edges with a whetstone and oil, and lubricate joints with 3 in 1 oil to keep them rust-free. Use a nylon dish scourer and a dab of washing up liquid on tools that have become encrusted with sap – with a spot of vigorous scrubbing, they’ll polish up as good as new.
Can’t move for clutter? Consider investing in a free-standing shelf unit. You’ll be surprised how much floor space you can claw back by stacking and racking your pots and garden nick-nacks. Go for a unit that offers height-adjustable shelves, and one that can support heavy weights. We store fermenting cider demijohns on our shelf units so, to cradle our precious liquid safely and securely, we invested in the brawniest shelves we could find.
Hang ‘em high
It might be an amusing comic aside in slapstick films, but standing on the wrong end of a rake is no joke. To prevent such wood/forehead interfaces, hang your long-handled tools from the shed roof. Drill holes through the rafters and feed stiff wire through them. Bend the wire into hook shapes to hoist your rakes and hoes out of harm’s way.
Fixing the lid of a jam jar to the underside of a shelf before screwing the jar back on will provide a handy, mouse-proof receptacle for storing your precious plant seeds and free up valuable shelf space above.
How is your allotment looking this autumn? What other ways do you make sure your allotment is organised? Let us know in the comments!