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Project Allotment – an update

I blogged back in May about how we had taken a space on our village allotment during lockdown. It was a way to get us active, working together as a family and of course, grow some fresh produce to eat! So how did ‘grow your own’ work out? Did we manage to actually grow some vegetables?

I’m pretty good at planting things but poor at getting them as far as our dinner plates. I badly wanted this to be a success. Seeing the other flourishing allotments around our little patch was encouraging but also rather intimidating. We’ve wandered round and looked at everyone else’s when it’s been quiet so we can get ideas and tips.

So, how has it gone? Well I would say pretty well! We’ve had some successes and some failures.

  • Courgettes – these grew really well at first and we harvested six big ones. We should have had twice as many but they went brown on the ends and just rotted. It had been quite damp and the flowers had gone a bit mouldy so we should probably have pulled these off sooner. They weren’t sitting on the ground but perhaps putting some straw or something down would help. Anyway, we enjoyed what did grow.
  • Tomatoes – these were a disaster. We harvested about six in total from four plants. One of the plants died quickly, the others limped on but always looked really unhealthy. We watered them lots. Perhaps too much or too little tomato feed? I think next time we’ll grow them at home where it’s more sheltered. Perhaps they’re not hardy enough for the patch.
  • Runner beans – a great success. They look lovely as they grow and they’ve been a tasty side dish for our Sunday roasts.
  • Lettuce – we planted too many! The type of lettuce we planted was a bit peppery Next time we’ll plant a few different varieties. They were at their peak when we were on holiday and had largely bolted by the time we got back making them even more bitter.
  • Beetroot – we have loads. We’ve eaten them roasted on Sundays and there are many more to come over the coming weeks.
  • Kale – probably our most successful plant. We kept them covered to stop the pigeons getting them when they were young. Crispy kale is our favourite. We’ve had plenty of iron and vitamin C from this harvest!
  • Pumpkins – never germinated. Shame. We’ll plant them inside next time rather than straight into the soil.
  • Carrots – they aren’t quite ready yet but we dug one up the other day to see and it looked really healthy. We should have a big crop and it looks like our makeshift fleece wrapping might have kept the carrot flies away.
  • French beans – a grand total of one bean! This was supposed to be a low level bush but perhaps we needed to give it something to climb up. Who knows?!
  • Celeriac – donated by a kindly allotment neighbour. We have two and they seem to be doing ok. Not sure how we will know when they’re ready or quite how to cook them but I guess that’s all part of the learning!
  • Parsnips – they better work out. They’re so boring to grow- take ages and ages and take up quite a lot of space. No idea when they will be ready, hopefully they’ll have some kind of growth spurt like my kids!

All in all, it’s definitely been a success. The kids (particularly my eldest) have stayed engaged and been down there regularly. I did wonder if the novelty might wear off but it hasn’t. They’ve even taken friends down to have a look which is nice. It’s encouraged them to widen their vegetable preferences too!

It’s a peaceful little haven at the allotment. You’re surrounded by trees, plants and the sound of the river, sheep and birds. I feel very relaxed there, it’s a real escape. Even if nothing had grown I think I’d still be glad we did it, for our mental health during this crazy coronavirus time. As it is, we’re hoping a larger plot comes up and we have all sorts of ideas about what we’d like to plant next year. In the meantime – I’m off for a kale and beetroot salad!

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