At this time of year some of the work is behind the scenes, planning the new growing season, researching new activities, and getting some funding bids written.
Work on site during the winter includes cleaning and repairing our tractor, lawn mower, strimmers and other machinery, before storing them away so they don’t rust during the cold, damp weather.
Bulbs are appearing and birds and wildlife are waking up, as the days get longer and the temperature increases. Time to net the fruit and vegetable crops and prune the shrubs.
We have the opportunity to start getting some more environmental skills under our belts on the extension to the site, and plan some coppicing, scrub removal and willow work.
The work starts here!
Our volunteers return in March and we are always keen to welcome new faces. There will be lots of seed sowing and getting the place ship shape for the season ahead. This will include planting the onions and shallots and ‘chitting’ the potatoes.
We start doing more planting outside in April and, if the winter has been kind to us, we will have some produce to harvest. There is lots more seed sowing to keep us occupied while we shelter from the April showers in our poly-tunnel. April will see ‘Potato Planting Day’ which is a real community event. We usually have help from the Allotment Society, our own volunteers, and students from the University of Leicester – but as always everyone is welcome.
May is a very busy month. We are planting out our more hardy vegetables and sowing seeds outside. Then there are all the tender crops to sow and nurture in the poly tunnel before the risk of frost passes at the end of the month.
Come along in May to learn about growing your own salads at home; even if you only have a window sill we can show you how to make it a productive space.
June is planting month. Now is the time when we plant out all our tender crops as Jack Frost should have left us for a few months. Pumpkin planting is a major job and usually takes us about a week to complete. During June the site is buzzing with ‘mini beasts’ and the weather should be great for building dens on the orchard. Why not plan a school, club or family visit? Activities could include environmental art, mini beast hunts and campfire cooking.
Most of July is taken up with watering! This might be a slight exaggeration but isn’t far from the truth. Most of the planting is done, so the nurturing begins. Watering with the rain water we have collected over the winter until it runs out, and feeding with our home made Comfrey feed. There should be lots to harvest by now both in and out of the poly tunnel. The first tomatoes of the year are always a cause of much excitement when the snow and ice seems so far away.
August is a time for keeping on top, both of weeding and watering. We have lots of pairs of helping ‘little’ hands during the summer break when we have visits from Goldhill Adventure Playground most days. The children and young people help us to water, pick, and eat some of the produce that we grow. Cooking on the BBQ is a popular feature of the holidays, with the addition of the fire pit, our cooking options will widen this year.
Time to harvest, harvest, oh and er… harvest. As the crops leave empty beds, we get them ready for winter. Our fruit trees do their sweet and juicy thing, which gives us loads of work, both picking and finding outlets for all the lovely apples and pears.
September sees our ‘Harvest Celebration’ event which last year saw over 250 people visit us for an afternoon of food, dancing, apple pressing and most of all, fun.
The last rush of harvest is ending, the site is winding down, and we are usually feeling ready for a lie down in a darkened room! There is some sowing and signs of life in the tunnel, where we will be getting prepared for a tasty winter with some hardy crops that, with a bit of shelter, will give us something to eat until spring. We also have ‘Autumn Tidy Up’ this month. Usually a day or two of cutting back and clearing up, accompanied by the odd bonfire and hot allotment soups for lunch.
The nights draw in and we remind each other how to light our little gas fire in the hut for lunch break. Only the hardiest of crops (and volunteers!) are still with us now. Our root veg, leeks, and brassicas are still going strong, and the ground shouldn’t be too frozen for us to lift them, yet. As well as finishing off the tidy up, it’s a time for pruning and moving. We have good games of chasing the mice out of the hut, and counting how many packets of seed we used last season.
Unless there are any major winter jobs to be done, the Project closes at the end of November for most activities, except for harvests which are still busy, and our annual Christmas party to thank our volunteers for all their hard work.