This year sees us muddling through our second growing season at our five rod allotment plot. This time last year we were total novices, and to be honest, I’d still bracket ourselves in that category!
Still, we continue to ride the ups and downs, learn as we go and master the art of growing our own. Ultimately the goal this year isn’t about an enormous haul, it’s about achieving a balance that works for us – being efficient and clever with our approach that reduces waste in time, produce and energy, allowing more time for reconnecting with the joy in our passion.
Here’s how it’s panning out so far.
Crop rotation what?
So apparently, according to the crew down at our lotty, you can’t just whack a load of veg in the same tried and tested spot – there is method in the madness and a rotation system applies. Potatoes improve the soil quality, beans fix nitrogen, so these should be moved on each time.
Putting back in
Apparently our previous plot owner Geoff, god rest his soul, was pretty religious about fertilizing the soil over winter with manure and compost, which the commentary suggests could have been the cause of our lucky streak last year.
In a last minute bid of panic the royal ‘we’ (with kind help from my generous in laws) managed to empty the huge compost bin and get that stuff down for the summer season, plus whack in a bit of manure. Winging it allotment style, there really is nothing like the last minute.
The allotment advisors have also pointed out we need to be using fertilizer with each planting…which we obviously have still neglected to adhere to, or even purchase. Guess we are somewhat organic growers #thatsmyexcuseanyway
Grow what you eat
The biggest lesson of last year was to not over plant and under harvest. We were inundated with potatoes which rotted in our cupboard, the carrots we pulled went floppy in five minutes, and we raced through the sweetcorn in a day or two!
This year we are abandoning planting what we didn’t eat, or reducing the quantity and staggering seeding. I’ve also tried to start seeds at home and transfer as mature plants.
We have totally lapped up the rhubarb this year – in the form of rhubarb gin, and we aren’t making the same mistake of last year of wasting all those raspberries #sacrilage.
No two years the same
Already, the plot is completely different to last year. We have had major success with strawberries (not a single one last year) and yet the courgettes which filled our fridge last year have been a total flop from seeds.
We have trebled the amount of sweetcorn, and omitted the pumpkins which took over the allotment but gave very little in the way of food on the plate.
The wildflower bombs we threw in last year we thought were a total waste of time, but the blooms of californian poppies and cornflowers have been out of this world this year, and have brought us a lot of joy – plus some local wildlife too. It’s got me itching to throw a few more down this summer.
Finding the joy and ditching the guilt
It’s all too easy for the love of our secret garden to give way to the allotment guilt. That little niggle in the back of your mind that makes you groan that you should be making more effort, going more often, making it into a monster. I suppose in taking smaller bites we have less in the ground than last year, but in balance, am finding the whole process so much more relaxed and enjoyable.
This year, I’m ditching the guilt and embracing a more relaxed approach. Spending the odd weekend there doing a longer stint of clearing back weeds, in shifts if the kids get fed up. we’re adopting a more relaxed and enjoyable way of allotmenting. A slow stroll over with the mouse between pre-school and school run – to do just one job.
An evening walk with Tigs to pick raspberries or water the crops. Maybe a stroll over alone if I need some peace and want to get outdoors. Growing a few more bits at home in pots for easy tea time picking, and definitely trying to eat and give away more of what we produce.
We’re growing in confidence and passion and that crucial next generation of growers too. Will we grow any food to cook for our tea? I guess that, we’ll have to wait and see…
How do you manage gardening or an allotment with young kids? Is there ever really enough time for all the things we want to do?!