One man & his organic plot - November 2018

The first frost hit North London this week, a nice silver ground frost accompanied by that brisk fresh air that clears the head and brings colour to your cheeks. It had felt like a slow motion autumn until this point but suddenly the colour has set right in.
Chris Collins in his winter garden
Acers, tilia & prunus seem particularly colourful this year and it's a great time of year to visit some of our national gardens. It is incredible how quickly the frost puts an end to the seasonal and perennial plantings. The allotment site I belong to has had a bumper year of tomatoes, these plants were instantly blackened as were the main dahlia plants that seem to be popular on the edges of a lot of plots. The dahlias have given me a summer of real pleasure, but nature has decided their time is up for this year.
I have to admit that I am still getting very carried away with the landscaping of my allotment plot. I now have a series of low raised beds that will aid me with ambition to operate a no dig policy. It’s been a long battle with the weeds I inherited, and they have needed intensive digging out but hopefully I am turning the corner. I have also put all my paths in and relaid Mypex for my larger plant growing areas. It now falls to develop the area for fruit growing. Soft fruit seems to do particularly well on my neighbours’ plots and as I spend a small fortune on soft fruit it makes sense to have a go. First to clear the area though and an old rose blight riddled plum offers me my first challenge. It was good exercise, cutting it back but leaving enough for me to rock it out as I loosen the soil around it helped greatly. Trenching the root-ball and severing any large roots eventually leads to the end of what I’m sure was a good tree in its day. Although it has sadly come to an end, it fought until the last.
I have to mention the first compost I’ve produced since taking over my plot. I’ve since built some proper compost bays out of pallets. However, most of the vegetation that has been dug out is couch grass & horsetail and I’ve had to burn this, rather than re-spread it but I did have one dalek compost bin which I uncovered this week to reveal some gardening gold! I’ll never get over the miracle of compost, a true gift from nature.
My balcony garden is also going through changes, especially from the trees around it as they go into full autumnal mode. The seasonal planting both colour and edible has now been removed to make way for the bulbs. I buy organic produced bulbs and to me they are one of the greatest bargains in horticulture, giving months of display from late winter to early summer. Easy to plant and easy to grow, I will enjoy putting these in at the weekend. This year I’m going for an all-white theme, a twilight garden for when the days start to lengthen again.
As always I am out and about with Garden Organic and have had another amazing visit to the Growing Buddies of Kent. More great work from people committed to their communities which is in turn supported by GO. The garden produced on former waste ground by Shepway Community Gardens or Shepway Chariots as they like to be known was a real treat to visit and I mention it as it hosted the most amazing Halloween party as we left. Well done to Judy and all involved down there in Maidstone.
I also got to meet the potential volunteers of the Garden Organic and HSBC Project. I have designed a couple of sustainable roof terrace gardens that will serve HSBC staff and outside organisations such as schools, both in terms of food growing and good old fashioned pleasure. Our CEO James, Margi and myself spoke to staff members and the whole event was broadcast on their website, across the globe - wonders of technology.
Technology or not, you still need to get your hands dirty! So until the next time, happy gardening people.