Weekly Witter: Plot to plate- Heelis’ glorious garden allotments.

This week sees the launch of My Cool Allotment– an inspirational gardening book by Lia Leendertz, that mentions the tranquil allotments set within the office courtyards at Heelis– headquarters of the National Trust. Gardener Phil Osman takes us through what the Heelis allotments are all about:

The vegetable gardens were initially installed at Heelis in spring 2009, at first there were 6 raised beds which since has increased in number to 10. Plants and seeds are supplied by volunteers from the Heelis gardening club which meets once a month to drink tea, chat about gardening and on occasion actually review what we do!

The produce grown, which includes salad leaves, herbs, rhubarb, and last year tomatoes is picked and delivered to the kitchens to be used by the catering team. Phill Osman and Anne Whiteside meet early each year to decide what to grow in the coming season, tea is drunk, biscuits eaten and plans drawn, and then it is off to the green house to sow seed.

The Heelis allotments- tranquil green space within a busy headquarters

The Heelis allotments- tranquil green space within a busy headquarters

May

The rain is relentless, such a disappointment after the promising early spring weather, salad crops are in, the shallots and onions will be ready to come out soon and runner beans planted. Just need some sun now!

June

Well at least the hosepipe ban isn’t having a great effect on us! We keep planting and it keeps raining, everything is so slow to come on, the only things that seem to enjoy the weather are the snails and slugs! Tomatoes are in, a first this year, but I do wonder how they will do.

July

A brief respite from the rain, just as well as we have Lia Leendertz visiting to ask some questions about the veg garden for a book she is writing. So all hands to the pumps to make sure it is looking its best, Have to say that considering the awful weather so far it does all look very promising.

August

Summer it seems has passed us by this year; at least we haven’t had to water regularly. The tomatoes have done far better than I expected but are now inevitably showing signs of blight so they’ll have to come out. The battle with slimy predators is relentless; I really don’t know where they all come from.

September

Salad crops are still going, which is a tribute to the never ending efforts of Anne et al even with the appalling weather this season they have managed to keep a steady supply of produce going into the kitchen. Donna is our first line of defence against slugs and snails and without her regular forays I think they would have had more of what we grow than the catering team!

October

Harvest the last of the seasonal salad for the kitchen and start to tidy up for winter, although like many others we don’t seem to have had a summer.

November

Onions and garlic planted have topped up some of the beds with compost. Sweeping up leaves which seem to go on forever! Should have a good supply of leaf mould compost for next year. All spruced up and tidy for the AGM, We are doing a display about the gardens in the atrium this year.

December

Dodging showers, final weeding, turning over, adding more compost and netting the kale, cabbages and chard in an attempt to keep the pigeons off.

Last gardening club meeting of the year, tea and cake and all hoping for a better season next year.

January

Meet Anne and Donna to chat about what we are going to grow this year, the tomatoes were a surprising success last year so we’ll repeat those again. Several of the beds need top soil added, one for a little later on when it’s a bit warmer! A request for some Chicken manure from my two hens Thelma & Louise to mulch the Rhubarb crowns.

February

It is so cold!!!!! Snow, rain, gale force winds, the new shoots on the Rhubarb crowns have taken a real battering even though they have been well mulched, the onions and garlic we planted last autumn don’t seem to be doing anything, We have started sowing early lettuce but it will be too cold to put them in the green house to bring them on at this rate.

March

It’s still cold!!!!!! Anne’s seedlings have become to leggy to use so they have been scrapped and fresh batches sewn, we have been able to let the catering team have some kale and purple sprouting broccoli, the rhubarb is attempting a comeback and the onions and garlic are just showing some signs of life.

April

It seems to be getting slightly warmer, at long last! It was almost pleasant barrowing in two tons of topsoil last week! Fresh seedlings have actually made it to the green house, have digitalis, borage and field poppies ready to plant and sow under the fruit trees. Hopefully the cold will have an adverse effect on our resident snail population this year; otherwise its back to our tried and tested control measures, Donna picking them off by hand!

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