Allotment 96B: New Beginnings

Ten years ago I went on the allotment waiting list. Local sites are heavily oversubscribed and I was expecting a substantial wait. Five years later, with one small child and another on the way I decided to come off the list as allotmenteering seemed unfeasible in the blur of family life. Instead we worked on our new garden, trying to include as much space for growing as possible.

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The mini-potager in our back garden

Put off but not forgotten

But I still had a secret hankering for more space – for growing brassicas, potatoes and other crops which aren’t really worth the space in our small raised beds, for experimenting with new plants, for a cutting garden, for oca trials, for experiencing gluts … the list went on and on! Then, this year, with school for my youngest on the horizon, I decided it was time to rejoin the list. Perhaps in a mere six years we would have our own allotment waiting for us… Three months later I received a phone call and within a week we took over Plot 98B with a certain amount of trepidation.

Initial plans for the allotment – the 3 central beds have now been made into 4

The plot in early April… then dug over ready for potatoes

Plot 98B

We chose 98B out of 3 possibilities. Plus points included 4 established rhubarb plants, 2 long rows of autumn raspberries, 3 blackcurrants (or some may be reds), 2 compost bins, a shed, a strawberry raised bed and resident celeriac and broad beans. Also one of the other plots had swede and leeks – ours didn’t (another plus point).

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Our handy little shed

Our weeds

The shed needs some sorting (tidying, water butt fitting, minor repairs), but overall is in pretty good nick. The plot does have quite a lot of perennial weeds, mostly couch grass and poppies with some bindweed thrown in for good measure, but the poppies look stunning and were covered in bees this morning, so at least we’re doing our bit for pollinators!

Poppies smothered in bees

Our crops

The celeriac was swiftly despatched into several batches of soup and I’ve been harvesting the broad beans with the kids to be eaten young, barely parboiled in salads. The broad beans and poppies seem to be harmoniously sharing the same space – we’ll have a go at digging out the poppies and their long tap roots when the beans are over. The rhubarb has already manfully supplied several crumbles, pots of stewed fruit and 4 or 5 rhubarb sponges (my favourite). It’s now destined for cordial and jam.

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The poppies and broad beans happily coexisting

The plot is split up into 6 beds and the fruit takes up 1 1/2, leaving 4 1/2 beds to play with. Today I’ve dug over the 1/2 bed between the rhubarb and Jerusalem artichokes and planted 2 courgette ‘Tricolor’ and one Fuchsia berry which we’re trying this year for its fruits. We have four more to plant but this one is the guinea pig (I didn’t tell it) to see if anything eats the plant (slugs, snails, birds, deer…) If so, I’ll need to protect the others when I plant them out.

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Courgettes and fuchsia berry planted out

One bed has already been planted with potatoes ‘Lady Christl’, shallots ‘Picasso’ and onions ‘Red Baron’. That leaves 2 more beds to dig over and plant – with my trial oca plants (all 14 of them!), a runner bean, cucamelon and trombocino wigwam, brassicas (Brussel sprouts ‘Rubine’ and Kohlrabi ‘Olivia F1’) and root crops (Celeriac ‘Monarch’ and a mix of rainbow carrots and beetroot). I feel very behind where I’d like to be, but having only taken on the plot in April and with a small family in tow most of the time I guess I should be pleased with any progress we make!

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Potatoes and rhubarb

Jerusalem artichoke ambivalence

One happy chance find (or possibly not – I’ll let you know) is the large clump of Jerusalem artichokes in the corner of the plot. I’m ambivalent about their taste and have not really found any super successful recipes, but judging by the amount we will be unearthing in November I’d better get working on a range of delicious ways to cook them! We dug out a large area which had encroached on the path last week and passed a couple of bags of tubers on to other people courtesy of a local facebook gardening swap site (not without the warning that it might be better to plant them in a big pot rather than in the ground).

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The Jerusalem artichokes are big, bold and a little intimidating

Our small allotmenteers

The kids are enjoying their allotment experience. They’ve made new small friends on neighbouring plots, ‘helped’ digging holes, watering and we’ve been working on their own dinosaur garden. They chose the plants (the most yellow form of heuchera they could find – ‘Electra’ as yellow is their favourite colour) and planted them in a tyre which we got from the local garage.

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‘Planting’ trees in the dinosaur garden

They’ve collected stones to put around the edge and we’ve started painting the tyre with acrylic paints (yellow) to live it up a bit. Then the big pot of dinosaurs comes out every visit and they create a Jurassic scene. We’ve also had the bug box out examining the mini-beasts on the plot (snails, snails, snails… and slugs) and they’ve both got grubby and tired – result!

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The dinosaurs have found a new home

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The heuchera in the dinosaur garden

All in all the first few weeks of having an allotment has been fun, we’re already eating the proceeds and I’m looking forward watching it grow, weeds and all.

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I found this little beauty, Tragopogon porrifolius (Purple Salsify), growing wild in the meadow verge adjacent to the allotment path

What hints and tips would you give to newbie allotmenteers like us? Please leave a comment for us – we’d love to hear your thoughts. To see our allotment as it develops, follow the blog here:

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Currants, raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries

Onion/shallot bed and the rest of our, as yet unplanted, growing space

16 thoughts on “Allotment 96B: New Beginnings

  1. Adrian Shepherd says:

    I keep toying with the idea of putting my name on an allotment waiting list in Peterborough. I do look at a couple of sites & there are plots that just look like a wild plot with 4ft weeds so I’m sure nobody tends them & I’d imagine they would be available, I could be wrong. Anyway reading your blog for the first time & a really good read might I add, might just have persuaded me to give it a go. I have put my email address in so I can follow your hard work 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Hi Adrian, I’d definitely go for it. I guess an allotment is a long term project and a lot of the advice I’ve been getting is to take it bit by bit to make it manageable and membrane the rest while you go. I phoned the council to ask about plots and got in touch with people on the local facebook allotment site, and friends who had local allotments. Then you get the full lowdown. Thanks for following the blog. Hope you enjoy it and good luck with the allotment hunt. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Louise says:

      Go for it !! It is the best thing ever!! I can lose my self for hours on my plot…yes it is hard work at first – but once you have done the basics I find a couple of hours a week weeding and the rest of the time enjoying !! I work, have osteoarthritis in my hips and am the wrong side of 50 so if I can do it …..ENJOY !!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joshua says:

    I like the idea of allotments, they are not something we have here. They seem like a great way to garden and participate in community at the same time.

    Good luck with the new allotment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you very much. It’s certainly nice to get to know new people who love growing too. And there’s a wealth of knowledge available for new people to learn from which is brilliant as well. 🙂

      Like

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Sally I like that idea. I’m always selling and growing things for charity as I’m involved in two community gardens and run the school plant stall. Great idea 🙂

      Like

  3. Jenny says:

    Jerusalem artichokes roast up beautifully; I don’t bother peeling them, just scrub them vigorously and chop them up. I believe they make good chips if you deep fry them, too. They also make nice soup, but it’s more of a faff. If you’re not sure about the flavour, roast them with other root veg – I love them, so I do them on their own rather than mix them up, but mixing them up is also good.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kathryn Flegg says:

    If you JA give you the baked bean effect then cooking with Summer Savoury herb reduces that. I love them but try to avoid eating the skin for the sake of my dignity!!
    I have a large allotment which is my hideaway and stress reducer after work. Took on two adjacent plots as they came available. Very interested to read about your experiments with unusual crops because it’s so easy to get carried away with growing stuff that is so easy to buy from the market.
    I have built up a sowable sized batch of Occa and have some outside and some undercover. Figs are my lust-after fruit and I am checking daily now for the first to ripen!!!
    Marvellous to see your children so involved too.
    Good luck and best wishes
    Kathryn

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks Kathryn. Your allotment sounds impressive – I think it’s a very important point about what to grow. Growing more unusual and expensive stuff definitely gives better value for money, although I also love my new potatoes! I love my oca as you’ll have seen from my posts and can’t wait for t harvest from the trial varieties. Figs have a sorry history in my garden – we bought a plant several years ago – a ‘White Marseille’ and we’ve had precisely 1 fruit since then! First it was in a shady spot, so I moved it and now I just think it is permanently sulking!! ☺ Have you grown any of the Thai ingredients from this week’s post? If so, how do you find them? Good luck to you too.

      Like

    • dogwooddays says:

      Thanks very much – we did work hard on it, but didn’t get a much done as we’d hoped due to time restrictions. This year though we’ve been able to do more and is looking better – I’ll be blogging about my attempts at no dig soon ☺

      Liked by 1 person

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