Before we know it, October will be over and snow will be dusting the ground. So there was no time to spare to make a last visit to our allotment garden and clean up.
Tomato carnage! :c( Alas, we planted so many that we just couldn’t keep up. We did manage to eat a lot off the vine and then put the rest in the freezer for winter soups and sauces.
But there is nothing sadder than a veggie garden after everything is finished. Tomatoes fallen, shrivelled vines and broccoli gone to flower.
I am clearly not proud of this sight. In the background you can see forgotten bales of straw that weren’t used and bamboo supports that were meant to showcase a stunning variety of colourful sweet peas (why, oh why do I keep thinking you can grow sweet peas in Ottawa??). My attempt at growing beans, watermelon and squashes were really more of an afterthought (they really should have been planted earlier in the season); next time they’ll go in the ground much earlier.
But work today was swift and productive. It was a sunny day, around 9 degrees celsius and almost no one else was around. Many of the allotment gardens appeared to have been abandoned; few of the plots around ours had been fully harvested and put to bed for the season.
After clearing out all the beds, we hauled the debris over to our new compost heap!
And then we laid the bales of old straw atop the planting beds and spread them out.
The partially composted straw will break down over the winter and when the ground warms in the spring, worms will work this organic matter into the soil.
As you can see, when we were finished we were left with four beds (three horizontal and one vertical at the back). The remaining garden on the rear right is full of ragweed that has gone to seed — oh no! But this will be our project next spring. There are several bales of straw remaining and they will get used to topdress these new beds, as well as the pathways — that will probably be quite soggy again in the spring of 2012.
My lessons this first year of our allotment garden are:
1. Plant more variety. This spring I planted tomatoes (four varieties), broccoli, peppers, beans, sweet peas, onions, watermelon, patty pan squash, melon and pumpkin. Of these, the tomatoes and broccoli were the best producers. If I had planted more beans and done it earlier, they would have been prolific as well. We harvested two Ailsa Craig onions (I’m sure I planted more…) but probably should have left them over the winter because they are still quite small — more like shallots!
I had packets of greens, carrots, etc. but didn’t get to plant them. Good news is that I’ll sow them next year.
2. Plant less of some and more of others. Less tomato plants (less with little fruit – we just don’t eat them…) but beefsteak varieties are always popular, especially my favourite ‘Rose’, which was juicy and flavourful; more onions, squashes, melons, etc.
3. Plant earlier. And here I mean the squashes and melons. That way I’ll actually get a better, more mature crop.
4. Plant more flowers! The only flower I planted this time was Tithonia or torch flower. Stunning orange flower but a little lost all by itself. I had seeds for varieties of sunflowers, cosmos and hollyhocks, which I’ll plant next year. I’ll also look for some good edgers like Little gem marigolds and a variety of charming cutflowers.
5. Plan more visits in mid-summer when the heat pushes everything out of the ground like gangbusters! Especially the weeds!
6. Get better supports for those monster tomato plants. The 6′ bamboo stakes just didn’t hold them up. Anyone have any ideas? I don’t want to invest too much money because they might be tempting to someone else…
All in all, I’m very happy with our first season. And very satisfied with our clean up effort so that next spring we can get right at it.