During the summer last year a very good friend of mine mentioned to me that she had come to the top of the allotment waiting list at our local site. She had been on the list for five years so was delighted to be given a plot. She, like myself has three smallish children and she wondered if we fancied joining forces to take on the allotment together. I'd always liked the idea of a plot but hadn't given it any serious thought but thought why not, we can do this. I had grown veggies and fruit in our small patch at home for the last few years so was excited to have a challenge. My first visit to the site I must say made my heart sink. It was so incredibly overgrown with piles of junk and rubbish everywhere and a falling down shed at the back. I had definitely underestimated the work involved. I did realise however that we were incredibly lucky to have inherited a poly tunnel in pretty good condition. Also a small pond and several resident newts.
Several weeks of really hard graft followed to get cleared and its hard to describe just how disgusting that was. We must have found at least 100 beer cans, several old bottles of what looked like urine and 7 water butts full of stinking black liquid and rubbish (including old socks!).
We ripped down the old shed and had a new one built from a handyman on site and slowly things began to take shape, Finally we had cleared enough that we could rotavate the main area and get a few bits in for the winter. We planted some onions and garlic outside and used the poly tunnel for kale, chard and spinach. We grew a mixture of green manure over the rest of the ground.
This year as spring came around we rotavated again, to chop in the green manure and began to divide up our beds. We are using a 5 year crop rotation system with permanent sites for rhubarb and asparagus and several raised beds.
Currently it is set out like this:
Bed 1 - Cauliflower, romanesco cauliflower, broccoli
Bed 2 - Peas,runner beans
Bed 3 - Potatoes
Bed 4 - Carrots, Beetroot
Bed 5 - Onion, Garlic
We also have sweetcorn, squash and salad leaves in raised beds plus several pumpkins dotted about.
There are two apple trees, a cherry and several new raspberry bushes outside. The poly tunnel has been an absolute godsend with crops seeming to do incredibly well so far. Currently we have strawberries in hanging baskets, 10 tomato plants, several cucumbers, red peppers, cucamelons, and squash.
Today was a big day as we picked our first ripe strawberry, and what a beauty. It feels truly wonderful to be able to harvest and eat produce that you know you've grown yourself and that makes it taste all the better!
It has been an incredible learning curve so far and a journey I am so happy to be on with such good friends. The children for now all love the allotment and we have spent countless happy days there with the kids digging holes, finding bugs and generally just being kids while we get on with our own jobs. It's a safe place for them to play and they are getting really involved. They all have their own raised beds and have been planting seeds like mad over the last few weeks. They are learning so much by watching the crops grow and are picking fresh produce to eat immediately. It doesn't get much better than that!
I am hoping to blog a bit more about the plot over the coming weeks so do follow our progress and as always get in touch with any ideas or comments.