Me and my boyfriend have recently taken over an allotment plot, which is something we have wanted to do for a while. With the cost of organic fruit and vegetables on the rise, and with the likes of genetically modified products on the market, it is our dream to become self-sufficient, and to know exactly what we are eating and where it has come from. We came to the conclusion that the only way to be sure of this is to grow our own, which is exactly what we're doing, and we've been having a great time gardening at the allotment.
Ok, so having an allotment isn't all fun and games, it does involve alot of hard work. But when you get to eventually pick your own fruit and vegetables that you have grown yourself, the rewards are well worth it. And when you think of the major part that fruit and vegetables play in our daily diets, it's definitely worth puttng in a bit of hard work to know where your food is coming from, and to also save yourself having to pay ridiculous prices for the most basic of foods. Even if you're not the type that eats salads everyday, or you don't consider yourself as a 'health freak', fruit and vegetables still manage to find their way into your diet. You need potatoes to make your chips with and your burger wouldn't be complete without some lettuce, tomato and gherkin! So whatever your diet is like, fruit and veg are always going to play a part in it.
Grow your own
We have had our allotment for around four months now, and already we have picked loads of strawberries, as we were fortunately left lots of plants, and believe me when I say that you can't beat the taste of home-grown fresh strawberries! We've been taking great advantage of the strawberries, and also the raspberries we have, by chucking them into a blender to make smoothies, which is a great way to get a massive intake of several fruits in one hit! We have also had a few cucumbers with more on the way.
The vegetables we are waiting to harvest are the potatoes, which are looking great, cabbage, broccoli, shallots, red onions, green beans, peppers, carrots, peas and tomatoes. Looking after them and watching them grow is very rewarding, knowing that you have grown them yourself and they will soon be ready to pick or pull up, and eat. Crops can even be grown over a period of time to make sure that you have a continuous supply of fruit and vegetables, which is a great idea if you have the room, but we haven't managed to do that this year. But even if you don't have alot of space to work with, it is still possible to grow your own. You can grow potatoes in grow bags in a shed or dark cupboard, or you can grow tomato plants on a window sill that gets alot of sunlight (I have three massive tomato plants on my window sill), or you can even grow herbs such as mint, basil or chives in small plant pots.
Planning an Allotment
We were pretty clueless about growing your own fruit and veg when we first got the allotment, and we're certainly still learning, but that's half the fun! There is lots of information available online, or growing and gardening books are available from local libraries, and car boots and second hand shops. There is plenty of helpful information out there if you need it, advising you what to plant and when, what are the best conditions and when to harvest, or how to plan an allotment. Even if you don't have the necessary information, it's all a bit of trial and error to be honest; sometimes you can do things completely by the book but something still goes wrong. You sometimes have to work it out just by learning as you go along, but I think alot of time and effort could be saved by reading a book, or getting some information on the subject first.
Allotments or land shares are widely available these days, and I really would encourage everyone to try it! Gardening is a brilliant way to get away from the tv, get some fresh air and exercise, and to also be doing something worth while. It's also great to get kids involved, as some young children these days can't even identify the simplest of fruit and vegetables (as pointed out by Jamie Oliver, in his Food Revolution TV series, now that is scary!). The fruit and vegetables that you get at harvest time, and the money you save, are the bonuses. Allotments are normally really cheap to rent, they usually just ask you to pay a small amount on a yearly or six monthly basis, as a way of maintaining the allotments. Check with the council in your area to see what allotments are available, or see if there is a local allotment society or allotment association. But even if you can't afford an allotment, you can work with a small plot in your garden, or as I've metioned, grow bags or pots on your window sill. And tools, such as spades and forks, can be picked up cheap from gardening stores or second hand shops, it's quite a cheap hobby to have!
Please check out my pictures of our allotment, hopefully they will encourage you to also become self-sufficient and grow your own!
Here's some sites you may find useful:
- BBC - Gardening - Gardening Guides: Basics
Index of gardening basics
- BBC - Gardening - How to be a gardener - Go further
A complete online guide gardening for beginners, bringing life to your learning with eight modules covering everything you need to know to give you a great start in gardening.
- Allotment Growing: Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Gardening on an Allotment
Allotment Growing, help and advice on finding and growing on an allotment, vegetable and herb gardening.
- The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, NSALG, Allotments, protect, promote, preser
The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners