Allotment Site

There weren’t many things that could have made me pull on a coat and rush out in the snow this morning. An email giving me the unlikely news that I had an allotment “should I still be interested” did the job…

After two years on the waiting list I’d contacted the allotment association secretary at the beginning of December, asking if there was anyone who might be interested in a plot share, or whether there were any plans to extend the allotment site. As I’d not heard back, I’d given up, and was going to investigate Landshare opportunities locally. I settled at my computer this morning planning to catch up on some blog reading, write a post about rye bread, and carry on planning the pond bed planting scheme. There, lurking in my inbox was a reply to my December email. I assumed it was going to let me down gently again, so left it until last. I had to read it twice to be sure, but the contents had me running downstairs and performing a very uncool jig in front of my somewhat amused OH. After apologising for having initially missed my email it informed me that a number of plots had been returned and my name was now at the top of the list. It went on to give me a number to ring if I was still interested as one of the newly released plots was mine if I wanted it. Jig over, I ran back upstairs and rang the number. Happily the allotment secretary was sympathetic to my enthusiasm and agreed to meet me up at the allotments almost immediately, despite the snow.

Plot 4a

So here it is, plot 4a. Prime real estate just inside the site, at the lower and therefore more sheltered end. It is a half plot, aproximately 10m by 12m. Previously a whole plot shared by 4 friends, it doesn’t split perfectly, having six largish (aproximately 2m x 3.5m) beds and then a portion of a couple of others which straddle the boundary. I have to keep a clear path running through the plot to allow access to the back half, which will soon also have a new owner, but otherwise it is mine to do with as I wish!

The allotments (19 full size plots now all divided into 2) nestle in a corner of the same field that hosts the Community Orchard I blogged about recently. Surrounded by native hedging, it is a lovely location in easy walking distance of home with great views out across the village and surrounding countryside. The strange tower you can see behind my plot is one of the air vents for the railway line that runs under the village here. Sadly there is a no livestock rule, so no chickens, but there again the plot is relatively small so perhaps that is just as well. More veg! I have ready access to a water supply, there are regular deliveries of manure and compost at a good price, and 40% off seeds at Dobies via the allotment association. I can have fruit bushes up to 1.5m high, and apparently half of another of the returned plots, originally a whole plot which again is being split in two, is totally devoted to fruit. The allotment secreatry said they were going to recommend the new plot holder allow other people to dig up plants to help him/her clear the area, so I may have a few freebies coming my way in due course.

I still have to head back out there when the ground is clear of snow and measure up properly, and will need to decide whether to work with the existing beds, which are too large to use a no-dig method on, or re-divide it. To say that I am excited would be an understatement, and happily I am far too ignorant to be scared – I’m just going to go for it, and learn by trial and error. I have several books from when we thought we were staying on Anglesey for longer and would be veg gardening there, so I am putting the pond bed planning on the back burner while I dream of rows of peas and broad beans, courgettes and squash, Jerusalem artichokes and beautiful annuals to bring in the pollinators. A whole new gardening adventure beckons, the perfect way to usher in 2011. I will be asking for lots of help and advice, so watch this space!

44 thoughts on “Taking the Lottie Leap

    1. Thanks Mark. Lets call it documenting my experiences rather than my progress, then it will include the many failures too!

  1. That’s so exciting Janet! Water, compost and manure, discounted seeds – you do what we call “community gardens” in the States very very well – I can’t to see what you come up with.

    1. Thank you Cyndy, I can’t wait either! First step – measuring…

  2. Whoopee – you excitement reminded me of how I felt last November when a letter arrived unexpectedly. I had been on the list for about 4 years and had actually forgotten all about it. I have found the last 2 months exciting and scary. I have been overwhelmed by books and veg seed catalogues. Plagued with how to get rid of the weeds – its a longish walk to the car! We arent allowed livestock or any permenant structures so no sheds so have to carry everything to plot on each visit which is tedious but planning on getting cheap wheelbarrow to leave at site. If I can give one bit of advice at this early stage from another newbie – just get one book as the more you get the more you will get confused. Many have told me that the Joy Larkcom book is the best but I havent got it yet! It will be exciting to see how you get on and to exchange tales and lessons learnt!

    1. Hi Helen – I thought of you and your own excitment when I read the email! Glad we are embarking on the adventure at roughly the same time, though as you have a head start I declare you the expert! I’m lucky to be in walking distance and for it to have been cultivated recently. What a pain that you can’t even have a shed. Can’t follow your sage book advice as already bought two when we were on Anglesey and was given a third, and Joy Larkcom’s isn’t one of them… Currently reading Lia Leendertz’s book “The Half Hour Allotment” which is excellent. Look forward to sharing our trials and tribulations – and triumphs!

  3. Exciting indeed. We’ve just (sadly) given up our allotment so I’m a bit envious. The ground looks a bit ‘start from scratch’ so I hope the initial work isn’t too heavy.(But that may be just the bleakness and roughness of the snow.) You will be so pleased and proud once it is up and going. Imagine the first time you push a fork into that soil!


    1. Hi Esther, I remember reading about you having to give up your allotment. The snow is obscuring the six large – and recently cultivated – beds that are already in situ, I just have to decide whether to keep them or change the layout to make better use of the space. I’m thinking the former, at least for now…

  4. Wow – congratulations and good luck!

    I do think it’s sad that ‘a plot’ these days means the half-plot, i.e. five rods rather than ten. It’s a sign of the times I suppose: I just gave up my full-sized plot to take on my current larger garden, and as soon as I left it was split into two. It’s particularly sad as the ten-rod measurement was calculated as the amount of space needed to grow enough veg for a family: either they’re thinking nobody tries to feed their family from an allotment any more (wrong) or they don’t care about such things anyway. I do feel it’s a break with tradition, though, and not in a good way.

    Anyway: rant over. It’s all very well for me to get on my high horse but the fact remains that if I wanted my allotment back (or half of it, anyway) I would have to wait another four years, if I’m lucky.

    Enjoy, don’t try to do too much at once, and grow the easy stuff (courgettes, beans, spuds) first until you get your soil beefed up a bit – that’s my advice for what it’s worth :D

    1. Hi! Sorry about your allotment. I know what you mean about half plots, although at least it gives more people a shot at trying it. I think ours are all split because that’s what most people wanted and because for some reason they didn’t put more plots in when they started up – there is plenty more room… I suppose they didn’t want it all turning in to a wasteland, as it is a new experiment for the village.

      Good tip re growing easy stuff – courgettes, beans and potatoes were top of my list!

  5. Janet, that is exciting news. I look forward to seeing what will be planted come spring. Very good news for the new year.

    1. Hi Janet, thank you! It is a rather wonderful start to the New Year. So much to learn though…

  6. This is exciting news Janet. I wish you all the gardening luck you can muster, good soil, great weather, productive crops, with just the right amount of sun and rain. It will be planting fun and there are many of us willing to along for the ride.

    1. Thank you Donna! I must admit I feel reassured that there are so many experienced gardeners out there in blog land that I can call on for advice, plus the forums.

  7. Hi Janet,
    Congratulations! Definitely cause for a jig or two! I wish you lots of luck with your new found space this year, and look forward to reading all about it! Sara x

    1. Hi Sara, thank you, I have a feeling I will need luck! And better time management… And you will certainly read all about it, good and bad…

    1. Thank you Gail, it is rather wonderful. Though I suddenly find myself wishing there was more time until Spring…

  8. Your excitement is contagious… I almost want a snowy community garden plot now, too! Glad to hear you are doing jigs and I hope all your growing daydreams become a reality. :)

    The new issue of How to Find Great Plants is out today, maybe it can help you plan. Thanks so much for participating!

    1. Thank you Eliza – I’ll check out your post. Time to stop dancing jigs and start digging!

  9. That sounds like a wonderful situation with manure, compost, water and seeds available. And you’re likely to have help from all the allotments around you. Sounds like a fun way to garden, congratulations.

    1. I’m really looking forward to meeting the other allotment holders, the ones I’ve met so far are really friendly, and there will be several others starting fresh at the same time as me, which should be good. Just hope I get on well with my immediate neighbour, apparently there have been boundary disputes amongst some…

  10. how absolutely thrilling…I have goosebumps of excitement for you….I cannot wait to hear how this goes for you…happy 2011

    1. I have to confess that I didn’t get much sleep last night, too busy thinking about where to put the compost bins, and where would be best to plant the soft fruit…

  11. I’m excited for you Plantaliscious! And a bit jealous… last time I checked my local allotments, the waiting list was 7 years, but that was back in the summer, so 6.5 now. But perhaps I will go and see if anything has come up – your success has inspired me. And half a plot is better than none – I don’t think I could manage a whole plot just yet. Good luck and look forward to reading about your progress.

    1. 7 years!! Good grief… I would encourage you to keep in touch with the allotment secretary, I’m convinced it was my gently nagging reminder email that got me the choicest of plots when some finally became available. Also, do check out Landshare, you may find somewhere to grow things that way.

  12. Hi Janet,

    How exciting!

    Good luck with the plot and I hope you manage to grow plenty of yummy veggies!

    1. Thanks Liz, I have a feeling I will be needing lots of luck. And muck, and advice!!

  13. Happy new allotment Janet – looking forward to hearing more about it – alot of good links in there – Happy 2011!

    Warmest regards – Fay

    1. Hi Fay, Happy New Year! And don’t worry, everyone will be hearing LOTS about this latest adventure of mine, if only to help me not bore the rest of the household silly. Bless them, they are all very supportive but not nearly as fanatical…

  14. How exciting Janet and what a flying start to the new year. Funnily enough I saw my original plot for the first time in frosty January weather, though swapped it in February for one across the path which had a greenhouse and shed. Your plot looks as if it is located in a really peaceful spot. For what it is worth my advice is do little and often especially at first. Have fun planning and dreaming before the real work begins :) Look forward to hearing about how your plot takes shape.

    1. Hi Anna, great advice re taking it gently – one of the books I bought a couple of years ago is Lia Leendertz’s “The Half Hour Allotment”, which I picked precisely to help me do just that! I do need to dig out my digital watch though, I tend to get totally absorbed when I am gardening, and suspect I will need a bleeping reminder to take breaks… Am envious of your shed and greenhouse. A curiosity of these allotments is that so far no one has a greenhouse at all, and most of the sheds seem more tool-shed than “sit and have a cuppa while watching the rain”.

  15. Congratulations for the allotment, I hope you have lots of fun and many successful crops! I felt just the same enthusiasm as you when I first had an allotment in the UK. I started mine in August, not actually a very good time as there was hardly any time to prepare the ground for planting anything that year. I remember I planted leeks for the winter. I recommend that you do change the beds to 1.2 metres wide so that you don’t have to walk on or dig the beds – this saves a huge amount of time too as you can concentrate all your efforts where they will be most required. Your allotment sounds great; it is so important that it is close to home, then it makes it feasible to just pop to the allotment for just a short time, especially to harvest maybe even a lettuce or some beans for dinner. The book I found most useful was ‘The Kitchen Garden, Month by Month’ by Andy Clevely. I think it has just been republished. Knowing when to sow and plant was actually the one most important thing for a successful crop. Good luck and remember the most important and seemingly obvious thing – Don’t plant things you don’t actually really want to eat and don’t plant huge amounts of just one thing unless you intend storing some for future use, though I have to say I think the joy of vegetables from the garden or allotment is picking them fresh and eating them within a few hours of harvesting. Seasonality! Good luck, Christina

    1. Hi Christina, great advice, thank you, I hope there is plenty more where that came from as I am certain to need it! I have Andi Clevely’s “The Allotment Book”, not sure if that is the same one, but it is certainly excellent. And I will definitely be going for narrower beds. I have a plan…

  16. PS This afternoon I weeded and removed the dead chilli and pepper plants from a bed ready to plant garlic and onion sets, I’d never have done it if the bed didn’t seem such a manageable size; it really does make a difference , really worth the extra time now. Christina

    1. Thanks Alistair. I am immensely lucky to have a plot so close to home and that isn’t totally over run with perennial weeds and brambles.

  17. Hi Janet, the excitement in your post is catching. Such a great New Year present and proves the value of persistence. The fact that it’s within walking distance will make it so much easier to pop along in spare moments. Happy plotting

    1. Hi Laura. I love that it is so close, my plan is to head up there for half an hour or so most days, little and often. It helps that the walk there and back is really nice too.

  18. Fantastic news and a wonderful way to start the new year!!! Yeah for you! Looking forward to seeing all the yummy veggies you will grow!

    1. You and me both Cat! I think I might prefer this current phase, when it is all in my head and therefore perfect, unblemished by the inevitable failures and cock-ups!!

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