Caroline Deput is the author of THE JOY OF ALLOTMENTS, a beautifully illustrated diary of two years on her allotment. A must-read for all gardeners, who will all recognise the trials and rewards of tending a garden, you can read a free sample here, or read on for Caroline’s illustrated guide to planning your allotment. From crop rotation to pest prevention, you can plan for everything – except, of course, the great British weather.
The Importance of Planning
By Caroline Deput
Over the last 13 years, I’ve discovered that tending an allotment requires a lot of planning and organisation.
Crop Rotation – not my strongest subject
I’m not good at remembering which vegetables should follow one another. I know it’s important and I should look it up and write it down, but I always forget. Do brassicas go before or after potatoes? No idea. And what about this new tomato grafted onto a potato plant, so it produces tomatoes above ground and potatoes below? How does that fit into a crop rotation?! If I could eventually get the hang of it, my veg would grow like a well-orchestrated symphony.
Crops need constant vigilance against all sorts of pests.
Perhaps I’m paranoid, but right from the first day I got the allotment, I could sense the wildlife watching, waiting for me to fail.
I try to garden organically, and that means I have to be quite tough. So look away now if you are squeamish…
I’m afraid slugs get stamped underfoot, whitefly larvae get squished, and the rabbits are eaten by the foxes. I don’t mind the parakeets, rumoured to have escaped from the set of ‘The African Queen’ at Shepperton Studios nearby, as they look pretty eating the sunflowers.
You need accommodate different veg’s particular growing needs.
Some like a sandy soil; others need protection from the elements at the beginning of the growing season while others are unhelpfully described as ‘not fussy.’
Plan DIY projects properly
I’ve always fancied one of those ornate circular seats that fit round a tree – the sort you see at National Trust properties. Our local DIY store was throwing out 6-foot long pallets, so my husband helped me take 5 of them up to the allotment.
‘What will you do with them?’ he asked.
‘Make a bench!’ I replied.
‘Need a hand?’
‘No, I’ll be fine, ta.’
Well, I measured and re-measured for my octagonal bench, which would fit perfectly around my palm tree on the allotment. Yet somehow I ended up with something more like a septagon-and-a-half than an octagon. And so flimsy, it would collapse if anything more than a robin should sit on it. Hey ho.
But not everything can be planned…
One of the chaps on the allotments had some manure delivered this summer. I say ‘some.’ It was more like a ton. We all couldn’t believe it when he told us all to help ourselves. You could barely see us, we moved so fast with our wheelbarrows up and down that path to the main gate. (The soil is so sandy on the plot that without constant muck it would dry out and blow away.
And you can never plan for the weather
When you work full time, as I do, you have to get onto your plot at the weekend – whatever the weather.
Last summer was like a monsoon. The rain just kept on coming.
So I gave up hoping the weather would improve, and longed instead for a stylish boat that I could use to sail around the potato beds…