Over the past couple of weeks, my thoughts have been turning towards what to do about the uncultivated land at the front of the plot. This has been used as the fire pit area and I have just kept it tidy my strimming the grass. However, I need a plan for the way forward.
The pre-existing beds that I inherited (three of which I have brought into cultivation) are too big, approximately 5m x 2m. It is not possible to plant and weed these beds without literally getting into the beds. For me the ideal bed width is 1.2 metres, as this will allow me to reach the centre without overstretching and without leaning on or stepping on the bed.
Therefore, the initial idea for the front of the plot, is to do away with the original beds and build a series of beds which are 1.2 metres width. The question is, how long should these beds be? Because again the pre-existing beds at 5 metres plus are far too big. So I need to find out what length beds I can put into this area without wasting too much space.
For this I turned to my tried and trusted VegPlotter vegetable garden planning programme.
Firstly let’s look at the area of the plot in question. It is the first part of the allotment that you see when you arrive along the access path and is clearly marked out in red. It measures 6 metres wide and 4.5 metres deep.
Now on VegPlotter this is the area, again clearly marked out in red. The criteria is that I will need to have comfortable access around each of the beds and that the beds can be no wider than 1.2 metres and a lot shorter than 5 metres long.
I dragged a new bed into the area with the only known element, which was that it had to have a width of 1.2 metres. The length would be dictated by the amount of space available allowing for easy access around each bed.
What I came up with was a layout for four 2.4 metre x 1.2 metre beds. This is an ideal size for a bed as I can reach the centre without overreaching and they are big enough to accommodate a single or possibly two different crops. The space between each bed is approximately 0.7 metres. This size also makes netting a lot easier.
This bed size and spacing allows me to add a further four beds when I lift the tarpaulin and prepare that area. It is hoped that by the spring I will have 8 beds ready for cultivation which will become the main production area and allow me to work my way back up the allotment creating parallel rows of 2.4m x 1.2m beds until I reach the polytunnel (when it gets built).
In the ideal world, I would like to create these as raised beds, but the cost of timber is too prohibitive. However, the advantage of choosing 2.4m x 1.2m is that a single bed can be created out of 3 lengths of 2.4m timber or 12 pieces of timber from a 1.2 metre euro pallet!
The first job on the plot will be to mark these beds out with pegs and cord and to make sure the design is practical on the ground. Once I am happy, I can lay out the weed fabric to establish the access ways and start to create each of the beds. This however, is a job for late summer/autumn.