Allotment rules.

Earlier this year, I paid a visit to my sodden, mud-covered allotment and made a promise to it that this was going to be a brilliant year.

2013 saw the arrival of my first letter from the council—the letter designed to either make you quit or get cross. In my eight years of allotment holding, I’ve never had it quite so bad. I was tempted to write an angry letter in return, telling them all about the end of my marriage, that I was living with my parents and that I had enough things to worry about without the threat of losing my beloved plot. Instead I opted for a feeble “if you look hard enough, you can see I’ve planted things” kind of response, with a tug of the forelock in the direction of the council as I did so.

Since making that promise, aloud, to my plot—on a day when thankfully, the site was otherwise empty—I’ve since done precisely nothing. Not a single thing. And I know from previous experience that the start of every year is slow, and then Spring pops up seemingly overnight because I’ve not been paying attention and all of a sudden I’m rushing to catch up.

So it’s time for a plan. And seeds. Hurrah for seeds and their promise of greatness. I didn’t manage to save any seeds last year, due to the above-mentioned life changes, so I’m shopping for all new ones. I tend to get my seeds from online suppliers like Sarah Raven but this year I’m heading up to RHS Harlow Carr for a day’s wandering around the site for some much-needed inspiration and then to the shop for stocking up.

So that I’m not setting myself up for failure, I have some rules for my allotment:

  • Only grow food we like to eat! Sounds simple, but sometimes desire for crop rotation and doing things ‘by the rules’ leads to oddities in planting plans. Runner beans are a great example of something that’s easy to grow but that I really don’t like to eat.
  • Don’t grow things that are attention-seekers: Some plants cope really well without a lot of attention (such as sweetcorn) and some do not. Growing things that require more time than I have will lead to failure.
  • Grow things that cost more to buy: Maincrop potatoes don’t require a lot of attention but are cheap to buy. More interesting varieties such as Pink Fir Apple cost more to buy, so are more worth growing.
  • Grow things that taste their best when absolutely fresh: Sweetcorn, peas and strawberries are great example of this and so are all on my wish list.

Inevitably there are conflicts between these rules—plants that are more interesting to eat often are harder to grow! Where there is conflict, my heart and stomach will always rule over my head, naturally…

After much deliberation, crop rotation planning and thinking about my rules, here’s my wish list:

  • sweetcorn
  • parsnip
  • carrots
  • peas
  • borlotti beans
  • squash/pumpkin
  • dwarf french beans
  • beetroot
  • bush tomatoes
  • spinach
  • corn salad
  • waxy potatoes

Also—dahlias, sweet peas, ranunculus. I long for cutting flowers this year.

I’ve not decided on varietals yet, so if you’ve got any suggestions for me, that would be great!

What are your gardening plans for the year? What would you grow based on my rules? Do let me know…

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2 Comments to “Allotment rules.”

  1. A great list and loads to get going with but don’t forget catch crops that you could sow in between. My favourite are lambs lettuce, giant red mustard, radishes and American land cress. (Give the council a show early on!)
    I grew potatoes BF15 from Pennard last year – a great success.
    Also have you considered tall French beans and peas. They give a longer cropping season. French beans Phenomene have no stringy bits. Peas Alderman really old fashioned. Both grow to 6ft tall.
    Carrots, there are so many I suggest a mixture, see what works well for you and extend the season without worrying about that pesky succession sewing!
    Good luck. Have fun.

    • Thank you so much for this great comment. I’d forgotten about adding some catch crops in. You’re absolutely right – it would add some early stuff to point out to the council, should they come looking again! I shall have a look at all the varieties you recommend, I’m always really happy to get recommendations from people who’ve actually grown them, it’s so much more useful.

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