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.