Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Allotment Goes to Bed...

I have clearly been guilty of far more procrastination than planting, since my records indicate my last post to the London Vegetable Garden was on October 11th! Although the winter months are barren, my barren blogging spell has in fact been down to a number of reasons: hectic periods at work and home, coupled with the fact that I had to give up the allotment in November.

Those of you who remember the move to the allotment in April will also remember that I was there under grace and favour. Two kind elderly women allowed me to use part of their huge allotment free of charge, since they were struggling to cope with such a vast plot. Continuing that sentiment, it transpired in November that they were going to reduce the size of their allotment to a piece they could manage, which obviously meant releasing half of it back to the council, through official channels. This, in turn, meant that my enjoyable holiday on the allotment had officially come to an end.

Whilst this was a blow, I always knew that I was enjoying a very lucky situation, as well as knowing my fiancé and I would be moving away from Richmond come the springtime. So in retrospect, what have I learned from 7 months out in the open, gardening and growing vegetables in an allotment? After all, a year ago, I was growing crops in pots on a balcony!


For me, one of the biggest learning curves was the sudden problem of pests and gardening in the exposed outdoors! My initial naivety saw baby seedlings quickly eaten up by pigeons; snails consume great swathes of lettuces; wind knock down runner bean poles. As much as one works 'with' nature when growing vegetables, one is also constantly battling it.


Despite claims that varieties of carrots can be grown in deep pots, I had no success on my balcony. This year, I discovered that carrots are also extremely difficult to cultivate in stony soil. Perhaps it was the variety I used; perhaps the location I planted them. But one thing's for certain – carrots are not good to me!


For me, working the soil was ultimately one of the most eye-opening experiences of having an allotment. The days of filling balcony-sized pots with bags of nicely sieved compost are long gone and hard physical work was needed to till the soil and make it hospitable for plants and seeds. Picking out stones, breaking up clods of dry earth – I'm sure many of you can sympathise.


I lived about 2 miles from my allotment and used to run up there. In the summer this is wonderful – finish work, run up to the allotment and potter about. However, it soon becomes a chore to plan trips of this distance, as well as logistically difficult if one needs to carry / things / take things / forgets things (I'm not a car driver)! I would say that being close to your allotment is vital for ease of access and motivation. The summer months are hectic and a few days without visiting results in a messy allotment and a lot of work.


I was lucky enough to regularly see some lovely chaps on the allotments around mine. Their experience and advice was greatly experienced – it's this passing down of knowledge that not only makes gardening such a social pastime, but also makes one think about the wider social picture. I learnt a lot of tips from these chaps, Colum especially, so allotments are a gold-mine of friendly and experienced people – make sure you pick their brains!


If you can be bothered to trawl through this blog's archives, you can see that I managed to produce lots of tomatoes, runner beans and lettuce leaves on my balcony. An allotment is a different ball game however. The room, space and depth of soil allows you to really plant things that will grow fantastically and at some stages in the summer, I was coming home with regular loads of booty. And this was only on a patch of a shared allotment – if carefully planned, a whole allotment really could feed a family fro several weeks.


There's no doubt that the placidity, calm and enjoyment from allotment gardening is immense. I plan to write a post soon entitled 'Why I Dig', explaining the various forms of enjoyment one gets through gardening. But it really is fantastically enjoyable, as well as rewarding.


It's been a wonderful experience and I know that 2011 holds even more exciting treats in store. There is a possible relocation up north to happen, which would involve looking at a house with a garden. The London Vegetable Garden will be on the move once again – and the name may have to be re-thought a little! But the determination to garden, grow and cultivate remains stronger than ever.



  1. We find proximity important, too. Especially when you have compost and seeds from the windowsill to take up...and carrots, well they're an enigma, too. With us it was the darn carrot fly!

    Also, the 'Commuting' or 'Travelling' Vegetable Garden seems more appropriate for you now.

  2. Seed sowing is the first step towards gardening. Gardening is a beautiful habit and hobby to follow as it gives content to the heart and peace to the mind. Even I have a small garden in my backyard.

  3. Your words about Nature are beautiful,sometimes I have any difficult to understand what they are meaning ,but then I imagine it watching that wonderful images!

  4. Hey, Callum, we wondered what happened to you! Sounds like the allotment was a great learning experience anyway. It must be great to have that many gardeners on one piece of land- or interesting at the very least :) As far as carrots- we have trouble too, but usually it's the rabbits and voles that get them...the little monsters!

  5. Just starting a veg garden myself,on one side of my garden.Rather cold out there today but all worth it in the end i hope.

  6. Great reflections - very much looking forward to seeing what the future holds for you and a house with a garden sounds like a fabulous prospect! I'm still making do with the windowsill for the timebeing but it's amazing to see how much you can squeeze in there...

  7. Its the initial way to start gardening. I know some of the basic about gardening.

  8. It's been great reading your blog, hope you do find a new place to grow

  9. Hi Callum

    I am really happy for you that you had an enjoyable time on your plot and hope that you will be able to find another one soon and hopefully closer to where you live.

    As for growing Carrots, especially in pots, they DON'T like very rich soil, which is what most compost sold for pots is. So if growing in pots I always mix in some garden soil as well.

  10. Hi Callum,

    Have just come across your stuff, it's really interesting and proves how much you can grow in a small space!

    Re carrots I do find they can be slow to germinate and as Growing Vegetables says, don't like soil that is very rich - but well worth it when you harvest and taste them.

    Hope the move goes well - will there be room for a veg patch in your new garden? That would be the best of both worlds!


  11. That's inspiring! Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed the visit. :D

  12. Nice post. As you say, veg gardening is very rewarding and even with a small balcony or patio you can grow a few tasty treats. There's something truly grounding about vegetable gardening that I like.

  13. Lovely post here. I've always found allotments a very sociable place indeed; lots of like minded people always willing to help or give advice.

  14. lots of great advice on hear i really enjoy reading your blog keep up the hard work

  15. Way awesome, some legitimate factors! I find this document very interesting. Its quite worth sufficient for me. In my view, it’s just about all webmasters and bloggers created good content. The internet are going to be much more beneficial than ever before. Keep posting!

  16. Have you thought about using a motorised tiller to break up the soil the Mantis is good. Using railway sleepers as an edging to your veg beds means you can fill up with nice soil.

  17. On worn out areas or areas that get muddy during the rainy winter months lay artificial grass for a hard wearing surface.

  18. pest control! tell me about it, there is some great ways to do it naturally though. the first thing i did when i moved to an open countryside plot was put a pond in.once i had that i then had frogs and they are marvelous consumers of slugs.



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