Rewriting the Allotment Design?

Hello Gardeners World forum

I am in the process of creating a honeycomb of hexagon beds on my allotment.

image

The idea came to me when I learnt about the space / packing efficiency of a Hexagon tessellation.  In this case the amount of path to bed ratio is good - but could be even better if I chose to make the paths narrower.

Here is a video for you to see - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8qhWc1cSKE

My unique design gives very easy access to weed and tend all areas without walking on the soil and many other benefits including reduced pest and disease spread.  

Using weed fabric initially covering the whole area and cutting in folding and weighing down the fabric to make solid paths as I go.

I will be doing mixed planting of flowers fruit and veg, so pests will have a hard time spreading from plant to plant or from bed to bed, there will be no rows of carrots here!.  

I also made a simple 'ski' for my barrow, to stop it slipping onto the beds from the path :

 image

Each bed is 8ft wide, there will be about 28 beds in total - so far I have dug around 10 beds.

Richard Briggs, York

Last edited: 29 March 2017 10:12:15

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  • OnopordumOnopordum Posts: 390

    Well done, that looks a very interesting design. I'm interested to hear how it works in practice through the growing season. The paths do look quite narrow, so it could be awkward once the plants/flowers start spilling out over them.

    I'm a bit confused about how you intend to do all the planting & weeding from the paths into the centre of an 8' wide bed. Mine are 4' wide and 2-2.5' is generally about as far as I can reach over from the path.

  • Hi

    OK I'll post again later in the season if you like.

    The paths are about 1ft 8" - just wider than my barrow legs - but no problem with the 'ski' as above.

    For the mixed planting I will probably have say two or three spuds in each hex, along with all sorts of other stuff.  

    Your right I need to ensure teh bushy plants like spuds and marrows are central, with onions etc toward the edges.  

    Its an experiment to be sure - but so far I cant think of any real problems - unless anyone else can?

    I'm going to use 'no-dig' technique so I only need to get to the middle for planting and hoeing.    My hoe will reach of course, but to plant I place my fork into the ground and use it to lean on while trowel a hole or to plant something centrally.    I could also use a short scaffold board laid across a corner if I needed to - lots of ideas I expect other folk will come up with too I think.  Having said all that I find when I kneel down on teh edge of the path I can lean get to the middle anyways.

    Will post again when I have finished digging them all and I have some growth to report on :)

  • I had two thoughts, the first is whether there is consideration to the pattern of the sun?  I have roughly one third of my allotment dedicated to fruit trees and because the plot is approximately east-facing it's appropriate to keep them entirely down the left-hand-side of the plot so they don't cast shadow across it.  I wonder how your design affects the way you plant, particularly fruit trees or taller crops?  

    Secondly, our allotment's previous occupant created a very artistic looking plot with lots of raised beds (and one fruit tree on the right-hand side now casting shade and a tonne of hops that spreads like fury) and in between those beds he laid military-grade ground sheet and underneath many of those beds laid cheaper weed sheet.  The cheaper weed sheet being that which makes things worse in the long run; armed with a year's worth of decay year the plants just end up sticking to it and as you pull them out and the sheet rips and the plant is no longer compostable.  The military-grade sheet is so good that it's just ended up with 5 inches of mud (and weeds on top of it) and is also pinned down with [so very many] tent pegs that it was so much more effort to weed than it would have been just to remove the weeds from bare ground (the spade just hits the canvas or pegs and breaks your wrists).   I removed that too. Once my back had recovered, I ran a rotavator over the plot such that I now have a big rectangle of dirt (less the left-hand most third) and I'll keep that up.  The removal of the weed sheet took a whole day and the rotavating took about half an hour.

    I'm very interested in how this goes, especially longer term, and I hope it reduces your effort and doesn't increase it.  Allotments are certainly a thing of preference, though.  Please do post updates with how you're getting on.

  • Thanks for your comments Bob.

    The weed membrane is of good quality.

    Any mud on the paths is easily swept back into the beds - as you notice I am no fan of fancy bed edging. 

    I have a rectangle reserved for fruit trees at the Western end of the allotment, I have planted four trees (two apples one plum and one pear) - you can just see them at the top in the video as I pan left with the camera.

    Tall crops I can plant on North side of each bed - casting a shadow mainly just on the adjacent path.

    Good points - thank you. I will keep you posted as the season progresses.

    Last edited: 30 March 2017 16:48:01

  • SuperheroSuperhero Posts: 53
    I love the idea! I recently got myself an allotment and am currently thinking about what layout would be best. I like things to look good too and be practical, I like to be a little creative and I am thinking about copying your idea (if I may lol!). However, being the new "young" (using the term loosely!) kid on the "plot" I certainly don't want to come across as "clever", if you know what I mean? So whatever "design" I go with really must be practical from a growing point of view. So I am wondering, how did you get on? My first impression is that there is a lot of path compared to beds - especially when comparing it to the conventional row design. Maybe it is just an optical illusion. How big is your allotment? I certainly don't want to waste any space so from that point of view, in my case, I think the old-school row design may be better suited. But do let us know how it turned out! :)
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 13,487
    Richard posted in March 2017 and only posted 3 times so I don't think you'll get an answer Superhero. I could be wrong …..
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • Fear not I am still alive :)
    No regrets very easy to look after.
    In the first year I mixed the planting up hoping this would reduce pests and diseases, which might have happened but it was difficult to look after, so in the second year each hexagon was dedicated to one variety/plant, this was much easier.
    Here are some pics mainly of the first year, then in the second year I added some pallet wood to make raised beds to do the no dig technique, I just use the beds a bit like compost heaps.
    Remarkably we won the cup in the local veg show  :)




  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 13,487
    Well, that was a surprise! Good to hear from you Richard, it looks great. Well done for the cup.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 1,402
    It is good to see new ideas work well!
    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • SuperheroSuperhero Posts: 53
    Thanks Richard! Glad it worked out well! Interesting what you said about plant groups worked best. I too was thinking about going down the mixed plant route to help with pests. Why in particular was it harder to maintain? I like how you actually incorporated the pathsways in that you had climbers go over them like an arch.

    How are you getting on with the raised beds? I can now also get an idea for the sizes, I initially thought the beds were much bigger! 
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