The name "the maggot" came about from the shape formed by the wheelbarrow-loads of grass trimings and weeds, which created a series of mounds like a big green caterpillar. When Tim felt the heat radiating out of the long black cushion-like area that resulted, it seemed an ideal place to grow squashes and pumpkins. The black covering would keep the roots warm and retain moisture, the decaying vegetation would generate heat and nutrients, the living foliage would disguise the black polythene. We cut holes in the polythene, parted the compost to reach the soil surface, dug some pelleted chicken manure into the ground, added some general purpose compost, planted just four plants (Acorn squash, Crown Prince, Red Kuri, butternut Harrier...).
The pumpkins loved it. They grew phenomenally, and covered the black polythene completely. We quickly learned that we needed to mark the planting holes with canes, so that we could tell where to direct water and feed, so well hidden they were by leaves. The crop was excellent. We repeated the exercise the following year, in the same place, with equal success.
In France, the maggot system is used for all our cucurbitaceae - courgettes, cucumbers and melons as well as squashes and pumpkins. Every year it hs been refined slightly.In 2011 we replaced 2/3rds of the black polythene with tarpaulins (bâches), cutting the planting holes with a soldering iron to seal the edges. Last year we bought a third, which has two holes in for the pumpkins. Now there is a drip watering system, and we have retired the marker canes.
However, next year the canes will go back, to mark the plants for feeding, but we can't see the holes. We can't find them in the foliage!
A jetwash-type dispenser attaches to the ordinary hose for the feeds.
|The maggot 2014 showing planting windows and scientific method of holding it down.|
We use the maggot as a way of breaking in new land. We cycle our plantings through a series of five sets of beds. The 2014 maggot completes the cycle. Next year it moves to bed Number Two and will, hopefully, start to really condition the soil by adding all that composted vegetation to the soil for the start of 2016.
The pale green bâche in the background covers a stock of dry grass clippings that should have gone onto the maggot before the plants got too large. Unfortunately, the plants grew so quickly this year, we missed the opportunity, so it will be added to next year's "maggot".Or used to put around plants that need protection over the winter, then added to the compost cycle.
|19/5/2014 Maggot ready for planting, the potato beds (site of 2013 maggot), leeks and onions (maggot 2012).|
|25/07/2014 Growing strongly|
|25/7/2014 view from the Melon Patch showing the drip watering system|
|30/08/2014 a breaking wave of vegetation - Sweet Dumpling heading to take over the melon patch|
|The maggot, with Bezuard farm in the background|
A hint of fruits to come:
|Another Red Kuri, with a Butternut behind it|
|Sweet Dumpling / Patidou|
* when Burley Model Allotments were established in 1958 on a site that was designated originally for allotments in 1892, a standard plot was 10 yards wide by 30 yards deep, an area, my dad used to say, of "one perch". A square perch is actually 30 ¼ square yards. No doubt the plot size is now 9.144 metres by 27.432 metres. No amount of metrication will make the plots any bigger or smaller.