The fences going up at the allotment has had an unexpected psychological impact in that I'm feeling a greater sense of ownership and confidence about the plot. We've started planting in earnest, raspberry canes, red currant bushes and a couple of courgette plants have gone in and next week's project is to plant our billions of seeds.
Planting continues apace at home too with lollo rosso seedlings, courgette plants, rainbow chard seeds and runner bean seeds going in.
Watering in the newly planted fruit bushes graphically underlined what a problem we're going to have with water. We have no mains supply at all, our shed has guttering and a water butt but it's mostly empty as we have only had one night of rain since it went up. We have begun to take 25 litre containers full of water with us every time we go to fill up the water butt but they are very heavy and difficult for me to handle alone. I was quite disappointed by how little the water level went up after our one rainy night.
So I have spent the last day or so pestering the people on Twitter and combing Google for advice growing veg with the minimum of water (thanks to @abbipanks and @ukallotmenteer) and this what I have come up with so far:
- Dig newspaper into the soil to help retain moisture and improve the structure of our heavy clay soil.
- Hang a big plastic sheet strung between poles over your water butt, feeding water to the top.
- Invest in an IBC 1,000l water container
- Use mulches such as bark chippings or grass clippings to slow water loss
- Cut the bottom off a plastic water bottle, sink it into the ground next to water loving plant, water into the bottle so that water goes straight to the roots and doesn't evaporate from the surface.
- Plant seedlings in a slight depression in the soil to allow water to puddle around them rather than run off
- Plant seeds in small pots initially rather than directly into the ground, you'll need to water a much smaller area while they germinate.
Plus, I came across this really useful document (link is working now!) from the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners which explains the differing water requirements of various crops (I had no idea carrots didn't need watering at all)
I'm hoping to put all of the above into practice over the coming season, obviously I will report back on how successful they are. If anyone has any further tips to add, I'd love to hear them. I'm beginning to realise that there are advantages to growing veg in a small garden, protected by high walls with a mains water supply!