When I was little I vaguely remember that my dad would take me to his allotment. I had no interest in gardening whatsoever until I bought my first house in 1989. I planted some Lobelia and was absolutely amazed that they grew and flowered for so long. This was when the gardening bug hit me and I loved planting flowers.
In June 2005 I took on my first allotment in the hope that it would save us money. Up until this moment, the only vegetables I had ever grown were a few radish and the odd lettuce, so it was a challenge.
My first plot was long and thin and the top half was covered in long couch grass and on the bottom half there were brambles higher than my head. My wonderful dad helped to strim the couch grass and bought me a shed to sit in when it rained. Over the next three years I gradually managed to tame the plot and I spent as much time as possible reading magazines and books about vegetable gardening.
In September 2008 I started a course at Brooksby College, Melton Mowbray, Leics. The course was a ‘RHS Level Two Certificate in Horticulture’, which I studied one day a week. I loved the course so much, it was really interesting and well taught. I did find it hard to study again, nearly 25 years after I left school, but the work so was rewarding. I managed to pass the course with a ‘commendation’, so I was really pleased. The course was wonderful and I learnt so much about horticulture but I have got to say I learnt the most about vegetable growing from my allotment neighbour, Eric.
Eric was there when I first took my plot on. He had the three plots next to me. He would always point me in the right direction and I learnt so much from him. He showed me the little things that are important, e.g. how to nip the tops off broadbeans so it reduces the blackfly and the bigger things like how to order and use manure. He kept a close eye on my vegetables and pointed out pests and diseases, but most of all he gave me loads of encouragement. Eric was an inspiration to me and we would spend many an hour putting the world to rights while digging our plots.
In January 2010 Eric gave up one of his plots as it was getting too much for him. The plot was the one next to mine so my growing area doubled in size overnight. In March of the same year my other neighbour gave up her plot, so I took on plot number 3. Plot number 3 was overgrown and it was very hard to sort out, but now I’m really pleased with it.
In January this year (2012), Eric gave up his remaining two plots, as it was just too much for him. I offered to help him as much as I could, to try and change his mind, but he had already decided he was giving it up. I really do miss him at the allotment.
I therefore took on plot number 4, which was next to my other three plots and my sister and brother-in-law took Eric’s other plot. The plot was in no way overgrown but just needed some attention. Eric also left me his wonderful polytunnel, which his family put up for him in 2008, so it is still only four years old.
So that is how I ended up with four allotments. Just in case you are wondering, all over the country there are waiting lists for allotments, but where I live, there are always some available to rent, so I don’t feel guilty for having four plots.
Between 1st January 2011 and 31st December 2011, when I was cultivating three plots, I worked out how much money I saved by growing my own fruit and vegetables during the year. When I picked any fruit or vegetables I weighed them the same day and worked out how much they would have cost me if I’d bought the ‘value’ version from my local supermarket and made a note of this on a spreadsheet. I picked the cheapest priced fruit and vegetables to work the cost out, as this is what I would have to buy if I didn’t grow it myself, even though my vegetables were grown organically.
By the end of the year I had picked and used £1454.53 of fruit and vegetables and this didn’t include things which you just can’t buy from the supermarkets e.g. patty pans, khol rabi and fresh gherkins. So I decided it definately pays to ‘grow your own’.
Below is a slide show of my allotments when I first took each plot on and pictures of my allotments as they are now.
Click on the first photo to see them in a slideshow.
I hope you enjoy looking at them.
Really enjoyed looking at the slideshow of your allotment pictures – what a stunning transformation! It really shows how much hard work you have put in. It looks like a lovely place to be too.
Thanks Deb. Yes I love it there but it is hard work.
Hi, I have just come to you from Mums Simply living blog. What wonderful allotments you have – obviously the result of a lot of hard work. Congratulations.!!
Hi Sue. Thank you so much for putting a link on your blog to my cheesy courgette scones. I think your blog is great and have really enjoyed reading it.
We took on our plots when no-one else wanted them so don’t feel guilty either. My husband rents three and I have two. We reclaimed them from derelict plots on a site that was semi derelict and in danger of losing its status as an allotment site. A few of us took on multiple plots to protect it and if we hadn’t then the site wouldn’t be there today so I don’t think we have anything to feel guilty about. The plots were head high in brambles, dock, couch etc so it was a lot of hard work to get them sorted out. We now have newcomers taking on plots that don’t take long to get ship shape but then fail to keep them going. I don’t think everyone realises that gardening is hard work and needs a lot of committment.
I agree, allotments are hard work, but so rewarding. I did the same thing, two plots in my name and 2 plots in my husbands name. I don’t feel guilty about having four plots, as half the plots on our site aren’t worked (even though people actually rent them). People take them on and then work them for a day or two and then you never see them again, it’s such a shame.
I so love your photos. Wish we had something like that here in Australia. Do you have to pay for the plots or are they council owned.
Hi. They are owned by the council though the allotment has a committee that runs them. I rent each plot and pay for them in January, the plots total just over £111 a year, for all four of them. This may seem alot which is why I worked out last year how much I harvested from them, which you can read about here (approx half way down). I found it certainly saves us money over the year.
I have enjoyed looking at these photographs. I am in awe of your industriousness. You have achieved so much with your plots, you are to be congratulated. I have two tiny plots I took on when I retired. Just eight square metres each which is as much as I can manage and it keeps me in most veggies except onions. They don’t do so well in my sub-tropical climate. I love every minute spent on my allotments, and as well as the fresh veggies and exercise I have made a wonderful group of new friends. I have learned so much from the other gardeners as I had never grown veggies in Australia before. I love your blog and will be following it with interest.
Thanks for your kind words jean. It’s important that people only take on a plot, the size they can manage, or it soon becomes more of a burden than an enjoyable hobby. You have done just the right thing Jean.
I took my plots on one at a time and they now save me loads of money, which enables me to stay at home and be here for my husband and girls, instead of going out to work.
I love your blog too.
How on earth do you manage 4 plots?!!! Amazing!
I am there most days, but I love it. I think you have to love gardening to have an allotment, as it is sometimes such hard work lol
It sure is, but there’s nothing better than being outdoors and picking lovely veg. Besides it tastes nicer when it’s home grown too 🙂
They’re all amazing too! Beautiful plots! 🙂
Thank you so much for your comments today. It’s lovely to hear from you.
No worries! I am really enjoying your blog! It’s very inspiring.
Interesting to find you as my husband and I have 5 plots (2 in my name and 3 in his) all next to one another which were head high in brambles and various dumped rubbish when we took them. As for feeling guilty, we took ours when our site was almost derelict and in danger of having its allotment status removed so many plot holders took on extra plots which saved it! Now I feel we have earned our plots as those who enjoy gardening a plot on the site now wouldn’t have had that opportunity if we hadn’t worked hard to save the site. It was hard work getting the plots cleared and we have spent lots improving soil and planting fruit etc. so top give up any our our plot space would be unfair.
Hi Sue, I totally agree with you. A lot of people these days take on plots as it’s a ‘trendy’ thing to do and you see them start with ‘gusto’ and never come back again, which is a shame. People like you keep allotments going and should be respected for your hard work and knowledge.
Thanks for dropping by to my blog.
I have had asmall plot for 3 years now and i love it. Need more space now but plots in high demand in my area. Going to college in september to hopefully learn more about growing your own fruit & veg.
Good luck to you irene….I also went to college to study horticulture….what course are you taking? I absolutely loved every minute of it and if I could take the course again I would lol