Allotment blog by Tates Director, Mark Gilbert
I have always had a passion for gardening, it brings back some wonderful memories for me; the earliest of which takes me back to digging trenches for the beans with my grandfather. My Mum was also a keen gardener and she encouraged me to have a go by allocating me my own patch in the garden when I was young.
Twenty years ago or so, we moved to the country and we were fortunate to have an allotment across the road from our new house so I quickly put my list down for a plot. Once I’d settled in, it became apparent that the custodian of the next-door plot wasn’t using theirs so I adopted it and now I have two plots side by side. To give you an idea of size, the total area equates to the size of a doubles tennis court and I have one plot dedicated to veg and the other to fruit.
With so many new gardeners out there after the Covid lockdown, I wanted to share my allotment experience and help some of you to get growing, hopefully, it will bring you as much joy and satisfaction as it does me.
A bit about my plot(s)
Being at the foot of the Downs, the soil is heavy clay, known as Weald Clay, which means we have a slow start to the growing season as the soil takes a long time to warm up after winter, but it means that it retains the heat for longer, so I am often still growing in November.
We have mains water on site, but I have a few water butts which I try to use, rather than relying on the mains. I also have a greenhouse and shed which is handy to retreat to when it rains, or when I’m in trouble at home!
My plots are at the top of the site and they get plenty of daily sunshine as luckily I don’t have any overhanging branches from nearby trees. All the plots are surrounded by a tall hawthorn hedge which provides plenty of protection from the wind (apart from storm Eunice where I lost a few panes of glass in the greenhouse!)
Being in the country we face many challenges including rabbits (who seem to love my lettuces!) and pigeons who seem to fancy the tops of my purple sprouting. We have the usual overdose of slugs and snails when it’s wet but I am learning to treat them with more natural methods – mainly showing them my neighbours’ plot which is hopefully more appetising than mine!
I have to remember that I work full-time so it’s a case of deciding what I want to grow each year and sticking to the plan, otherwise I’d run out of time – be warned – allotments are addictive!
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