Can you even call yourself an allotmenteer?

Like so many, my route to starting an allotment was driven by the Pandemic. Restrictions due to the health crisis have pretty much, all been lifted. However, the changes to our status in Europe have meant that we do have some limits on where and when we can go to the mainland. As a 3rd nation, we are limited to 90 days in any 180 days in the Schengen area i.e. 3 months in any 6 months. This kind of created limitations which morphed into a challenge.

Since we both retired, we have wanted to travel further and for longer each year, so the idea of three months away has been tickling our imagination for quite a few years. This summer, we decided we wanted to do a trip around northern Europe, combining some travel in our own vehicle and a month in a hired campervan. However, this means three months away from the allotment.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because it will have a huge impact on my allotment exploits. I caught the seed-sowing bug in a big way this year. I’m trying not to be a spendthrift and not to get seduced into buying all the allotment-related things and I thought growing things from seed was the way to go to save a bit of money. I was also mindful of last year when I had many successes but they were small because I had Gone Small. There were so many things I’d told myself to Go Hard on next year. I wanted more than a single bowl full of peas and beans, I wanted more than just the one butternut squash. In addition, I had fallen down the Instagram rabbit hole, all but abandoning my other hobby of dressmaking and craft in order to devote myself to growing All The Things. Instagram had me convinced I was a farmer. If someone can grow tomatoes and melons – yes melons – in Yorkshire without a greenhouse, why can’t I?

To add to what I’d bought last year I got another seed compendium and gathered seeds from far and wide. I wish I’d thought this through a bit more carefully beforehand because it’s possible to plant many things that will be ready after we come back. Things like the squash and brassicas will be okay because they won’t be harvested until well into the autumn. If I can get those seedlings to a size where I can plant them before I go, those will be fine and depending on reasonable weather over the summer and help from my plot neighbours with watering, they should be able to more or less do the rest themselves.

So I spent March and April potting things up and all around the house. There are little tray pots and tin foil packets full of seedlings. Soon every available window sill and shelf in our small house was full of seed trays. I did make a small number of purchases, one of which was a heating mat, although it’s only 25 cm long so it only accommodates a couple of trays.

The problem arises in that I have chosen to attempt growing quite a lot of items which will mature in the period that we are away.

I chose to try growing some tomatoes and peppers this year. what I didn’t think about beforehand was the gestation period of these plants, most of them take between 70 and 120 days which sounds like a lot but seeing as I’m going to be away for about 78 or so days it means that some things like the tomatoes, for example, which were sown late February, will be ripening right in the middle of our long trip. Add to that the fact that they can’t be stored that long, and it means I’m going to be donating a lot of tomatoes to my friends and I won’t have the benefit of eating them myself.

I have a lot of peppers and tomatoes, as well as a couple of varieties of cucumbers and squash that could do with a bit of warmth to urge them along. Fortunately, my upstairs study/studio enjoys a bit of a greenhouse effect due to double aspect windows, so it’s a nice place for the seedlings.

Here’s what I’ve sown:

Purple cauliflowerPeas – MaincropCucumbers:
Gherkin Bohemia
Crystal Lemon
Corno di Toro Rosso
Orange bell pepper
Hot Zimbabwe black
California Wonder
plum Roma
Indigo apple
money maker
standard Flyaway
rainbow mix
Black beauty
Yellow golden
SpinachSweet Basil
pak choileeksonions
Mashed potato (winter squash)
Sweet dumpling
Potatoes: AnyaSweet potato:
(supermarket red)

Most things have germinated nicely although a few of the seeds had quite a poor rate: only 3 out of 10 orange bell pepper seeds for example and 4 out of 10 crystal lemon cucumbers.

I’m going to just enjoy the sweet delight of seeing my seedlings grow and think about the potential harvests later.

Autumn 2022: Final Harvests

I’m back and miraculously my little plot is still alive! It seems that the drought broke not long after we left and there has been a fair bit of rainfall. I was fully expecting most of my crops to have perished through neglect but it seems Nature had other ideas.

I couldn’t quite believe how much I had to harvest. As well as the peas and beans I gathered earlier and the many courgettes and onions, I had lettuce, tomatoes, squash – only one butternut this time but eight “Mashed Potato” squash. I had savoy and red cabbages as well as beetroot. Such a lovely surprise after all my absence.

22nd of September 2022

It was a bit of a dull day but I hadn’t been up for a few days, so I needed to check what’s going on. Everything seemed pretty much the same as last week the red cabbages look like at least one of them might be ready for chopping. I pulled up a beetroot last week there are a few smaller plants in the green bag so I made sure to keep it watered to see if I got any more of those before the end of the season.

My miraculous green cabbages were looking great they are still coming along nicely. This just shows what a bit of perseverance can do. I’ve learned a lot from the cabbages this year. They have such a long growing season. When I thought they had been mauled by the ‘slimeys’ they showed that they are quite resilient and bounced back. There’s another nice big one that looks ready to harvest but I decided to stick with the red one this week. It always surprises me how far a cabbage can go.

The aubergine seems to have decided to come alive at long last it put out some buds and we’ve got a beautiful purple flower on it now I’m just going to take the net off it because I don’t want that ripping the flower off like it did with the first one.

My four-headed mutant cabbage is still growing so I’ll just see how that goes.

There are a couple of tiny courgettes on the yellow plant I gave him a feed last week but that doesn’t seem to have come on much since then. I’ll still persevere hopefully I’ll get 1 or 2 more before they finish.

Towards the end of October, the squash were ready so I picked those and took them home to cure. The final lesson for the year was that I can leave my cabbages in the ground until I need them. We were going away in November and I decided to pull them up for fear that there might be a frost but I was advised that they are so hardy they will ride out the storm.

I was so happy with my yield for 2022. My only regret was not to have planted more of some items. My 3-metre square patch was so productive and it just made me excited to try more in 2023.

August 2022: Parting is such sweet sorrow

4th of August 

I just visited the plot for the last time before we were about to go to Italy for 5 weeks, leaving the allotment in the hands of my plot partner. I still managed to plant a last few things before I went as there were some things in the little grow house that I wanted to put out. It seems like the last few days of overcast weather have allowed the seed to germinate, so I had a few things like carrots and those peas and beetroot shoots had finally come up, so I planted those in various places.

The last thing was some lettuce from the box that I bought at Christmas. They’d put out some sprouts. I’ve put them into the big tub in the hope that I’ll have some when we return.

I pulled out one more cabbage as it looked ready. I also picked up the giant courgette as I don’t think it can wait until come back. Like the previous year, I asked Pam to just take anything that looks like it’s ripe or mature that she wants rather than it going to waste.

I’ve also pulled out a few more onions as the boxes were getting really crowded. Wherever there was a clump it was looking really squashed. I thought it was a good idea to give the others room hopefully those will be OK. I’ll leave them to dry out for when we come back.

One negative thing is that it looked like one of my precious red cabbages had succumbed to some kind of mould. I’ve no idea what it is but I didn’t like the look of it, so I excised the afflicted cabbage so that whatever it was would not spread to the other five. Also, some of the leaves look a bit chewed and I did find a couple of little snails had finally infiltrated the umbrella.

Following my plant and hope strategy, I’m hoping to have something to harvest when I return. The squash should be ready there should be more carrots and onions as well. I’m hoping for more peas and beans too so I took a handful out today of the French bean and hopefully there will be more later even if they are dry by then, maybe I can save them for stews.

Everything looked so healthy, I’m almost sad to be leaving it all. Now hoping the heatwave abates and doesn’t fry everything while I’m away.

July/August 2022: Everything’s coming up

The first lesson I learned about container planting is that watering can be so deceptive. I’ve been happily watering my containers thinking I’m doing well. then I began to wonder why my 2nd set of carrots wasn’t appearing. Even though I thought I’d really saturated it, I tucked my finger into the soil and just beneath the top layer these tubs are dry as the proverbial bone. OK, I have to make absolutely sure that I really saturate them until the water’s coming out the bottom before I finish soaking them.

19.7 22

Despite getting up at 8:30 it took me until nearly midday to get up to the plot. It’s so hot today as was predicted but I decided to brave it. I put my legionnaire’s hat on to try and protect myself a bit. I’ve spent 3 hours watering just trying to make sure that everything was saturated. I’m just going to do a summary of what’s in here now.

It really pleases me to see I got a couple of good courgettes to pick, Plot 101 is finally starting to yield some good crops, although I’m still getting lots that are dying off. Anyway, I’ve got one whopper in here that I’m going to pick today. I later discovered blossom end rot, I think that’s what the problem has been. From what I’ve read this is caused by inconsistent watering. I think the combination of the drought conditions and my regular absences means that the watering has been erratic. I snaffled a few little courgettes before they spoiled and cooked them with some early onions. They are just like spring onions.

My Savoy cabbages are still trying really hard although the outer leaves are still being nibbled, they look like they might actually come to something. My yellow courgettes still look a bit puny but they’re still putting forth fruit so hopefully, they’ll come good like the green ones.

I’ve got tomatoes! This cherry tomato bush seems to thrive since I transferred it into a pot. I’ve now got about 10 little green tomatoes and hopefully, I’ll get something off them before we depart.

I’ve transplanted a few of the cucumber seedlings that I’d had upon the bench as something I got in and chewed a few of them so I thought I’d better put them in the ground and see what they do I’m hoping as they were last year’s heroes I’m hoping to get some good cucumbers this year and hope I’m not too late

The squash still looks like it’s thriving, it’s beautiful and green and putting out loads of female fruit but I’m still not sure if they are getting pollinated and still getting a lot of shrivelled fruit after a few days so I’ve taken the cover off the squash now hopefully that will mean that things can have access to them to pollinate them

I think I’m going to take another handful of peas today cause I seem like I’ve got another bunch of really fat juicy pods ready to burst

The onions are still looking great, I thought I had overcrowded them but having read a little bit of the allotment book, it talks about planting onions in clumps just as I did and it doesn’t seem to be a problem, so I’m just going to leave them to their own devices and see what happens. I reckon I’m gonna have about a dozen of each white and red onions

The carrots in my original tub are still looking good, however, very few of the succession seedlings are coming through and can just see a couple in there. I realised last week that my watering wasn’t very efficient. When I just scraped back about a millimetre of Earth I could see that the soil was just dry as anything so we’re making sure I really saturated these bags these grow bags.

I’ve got at least 2 decent beetroots in my green bag although again nothing much came through all my 2nd sowings well after saturating the whole space I now see that I’ve got 2 little seedlings so I’m gonna put some more in to be stubborn and just keep watering like crazy

I think my spinach has bitten the dust, it seems to have gone to seed I’m not quite sure what to do I might see if I can collect the seeds and then replant this tub with something else.

My ring of red cabbages looks absolutely beautiful we’re taking the umbrella off to have a look at them and the colour is just wonderful and they don’t seem to have fallen foul to any damaging critters I hope that I’m not tempting fate by saying that

I tried an experiment with one of those wall-hanging systems. It’s a felt “mat” with pouches, into which you plant stuff. I had some initial success with some salad leaves and I started my pak choi off in there but now I realise I don’t think I can sustain this. The felt does not seem to retain any moisture – when you water it the liquid runs straight out. So now the wall was unfortunately very dry again. it ideally needs to be watered every day and I just can’t see that happening.

On the bench, I’ve still got some pak choi and I’ve got a couple of cucumbers. I’m starting to consider taking those back to the house to see if I can get them to grow in the garden. The chard does not yet look like anything’s happening there although it got very dry.

I only put these in 4 days ago so hopefully maybe I’m just being a bit premature some of these things do seem to shoot up really quickly in this heat though you’ll see what happens and keep waiting.

In the grow-house I’ve got action – those tomato shoots are looking very healthy they look like they need planting out soon but I am almost scared to move them cause they’re so happy here and the lettuce and peas I planted on Saturday haven’t really done anything yet but again that’s early days yet.

but I do have a couple of tiny shoots in the aubergine tub and these tomatoes just look healthy.

After this whistlestop tour, I hope you can tell I was so over the moon that everything was coming up veggie. But of course, the time had come for me to abandon my plant babies again. It’s summer holiday time folks, so let’s see what survives my absence this time.

Early 2022 – New Year New … Nah!

I’m not very good at new year’s resolutions, so I’m just saying that in 2022, I simply intended to try more. More time at the allotment, more different crops, more learning. That’s about all you can do.

In the winter, I don’t yet know what to do with the allotment. It’s obviously mostly maintenance – tidying things up and preparing for the coming growing season.

I didn’t actually go to the plot at all in January and then in February we had a series of severe storms, the worst of which was Eunice. It was the tail end of Storm Franklin that had an impact on our allotment, though thankfully we didn’t get the worst of it. There were deaths, flooding and evacuations in other parts of the country.

Finally on a still miserable-looking Saturday, I went up to the plot partly out of guilt as I hadn’t been there in weeks, and partly curiosity to see how it had coped. As I arrived I could see that there had been a bit of damage – a few people had lost their sheds.

Our plot at first looked untouched, apart from the drainpipe on our shed which had been detached and the fact that next door’s little Wendy-house had been deposited on our patch.

I didn’t stay long as it was still quite windy and I figured I could do without catching a flying greenhouse.

There wasn’t much I could do at the plot but I could start some preparation. I decided that I was going to try growing a lot more things from seed. Almost none of my original shop-bought seedlings came to fruition last year and as a retired person, I have to try to minimise costs, so I went with seeds. By the time I had started in the previous year, it was too late to start sowing seeds, but now I can try them and see how they go.

Therefore after a slow start, the 2022 season began.

White bean stew with allotment leeks and carrots

The sample posts that came with this theme featured recipes and they gave me the idea to start an occasional series to show some of the dishes I’ve made using my allotment produce as mini blogs. One of my first year’s harvests was leeks which I used in a delicious vegetable stew.

Some of the leeks I grew in 2021

White Bean Stew with allotment leeks



* 1 tbs olive oil

* 2 garlic cloves grated

* 1 celery rib chopped

* 2 medium sized leeks chopped

* 1 tsp dried thyme

* 1 tsp salt

* 2 can white beans drained

* Fresh parsley chopped

* 1 onion

* 1 carrot

* 1-litre vegetable broth

* 1 tsp black pepper

* 100g baby spinach

* Grated parmesan cheese

* Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large pot or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until onions are translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, leeks, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable broth and beans, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes to combine all of the flavors together.
  4. Line a bowl with spinach and pour the soup over it
  5. Sprinkle fresh black pepper, parsley and grated parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.


Per Serving:
Calories 248.29kcal, Total Fat 3.11g, Carbs 42.28g, Sugars 3.35g,

Protein 14.81g, Sodium 1470.1mg, Fibre 10.02g

All the veg prepped for action

This stew is easy to make and you can customise it to your taste as I did by adding my leeks. You can also add seasoning to your liking if you prefer more flavour.

The finished stew

I hope you enjoy it.

Spring 2022: it starts to look like something

The sun starts to shine and I start to feel energised again. I was at the plot more and started to get things sorted. My partners had got everything dug and the potato trenches were in place, while my corner of the plot still looked neglected. I had not dug or covered the plot so there was a lot of weeding to be done.

A couple of satisfying sessions of digging and weeding left my pitch ready for business. I decided on repeating the successes of last year i.e. squash and cucumbers. In addition, I planned to improve on the also-rans – cabbages, carrots and kale.

My plot partner had acquired a mini greenhouse that someone was discarding and he said I could use it. This helped with my plan to grow more from seed.

I also chose to leave the fruit twigs in place. Although they weren’t dead, the blueberries and blackberry canes that I planted last year don’t seem to have grown at all. The Goji berry on the other hand has shot up.

We visited a nursery in the spring and I came home with some cabbage and onion seedlings.

A big shift in my approach was to include some container crops after the carrot failure of the previous year. I got some of those felt buckets and planted carrots, peppers, beetroot, spinach and garlic, I repurposed some old storage tubs to plant yellow and red onions.

As well as the containers, I planted red cabbages under the mesh brolly and under the mini polytunnel there were savoy cabbages and courgettes and one aubergine plant – I’m nothing if not optimistic.

So by the end of May, I was really happy with how the plot looked and the prospect of what was to come in autumn.

The end of 2021 Report

For a first year, I think this wasn’t too bad, I planted stuff and I harvested stuff. I lost a fair bit to weather critters and absence but that was to be expected. Notably, my absences didn’t seem as terminal as I’d feared. a lot of stuff got on with it without me – cucumbers, squash, I’m looking at you.

I returned from our Autumn adventure in the middle of October. I fully expected to see and mass of dead plants awaiting me. A combination of my plot partners, suitable weather and Nature’s ability to nature, meant that I still had produce to harvest on my return.

I was over the moon to see that the squash had developed into proper-sized fruit and in fact still needed a week or so to mature. Google and various plant books told me that the squash isn’t ready to harvest until the stem is dry and cracked. Mine were still green at this point so I had to wait a little longer, which was fine by me – my biggest dread was that everything would ripen and rot while I was away.

So what was harvested in 2021

Tomatoes – I claim a couple of tomatoes which grew in the pot that I placed near the fruit border. I didn’t actually get to eat any but the fact that it grew is still amazing to me.

Carrots – despite them being far from attractive, I did grow some edible carrots. I found a YouTube video on growing them in containers so I decided this is how I would try it the following year.

Kale – on one of my plot visits I met one of my allotment neighbours, Rose. She very kindly gave me a few kale plants which I planted under my mesh umbrella. These yielded a few tasty leaves which I was taking on a cut-and-come-again basis into the winter.

Cucumbers – as I said I had forgotten these all together when I planted them so they were one of the heroes of this year. I got about 10 big juicy cucumbers and although these did mature while I was away, my friend was able to enjoy them and make us some cucumber relish which we enjoyed for the next few months. Considering these were planted as an afterthought when a lot of my sowing had perished, I was really happy with them.

Butternut squash – the other great result of this year. I had a yield of 9 really good-sized squash. These cooked well and were delicious as well as lasting well into the winter. I resolved to try more of these next year.

Right at the end of the year, there were still some slim pickings, if you learn not to be fussy about appearances. I managed to get a few little cabbage hearts out of the purple cabbage that had been struggling against the snails all season, there were a few more carrots some decent sized this time and some more kale and indeterminate leafy greens, plus one little spear of broccoli. With that, it was the end of the year and time to start planning for 2022.

I think for a first growing season it didn’t turn out too bad, good enough for me to be excited for the next year.

August/September 2021: Conflict of interests

I have learned over time to manage my expectations in certain scenarios and this allotment game was one of them. I said yes to my friend’s offer of a share of this plot primarily for a legitimate reason to get out of the house during the pandemic lockdown. I was not thinking I was going to become self-sufficient in food, I was not sure I would grow anything much in fact. So, whenever I started to see signs of real results on my little square of earth, it was a really pleasant surprise.

I’d planted pak choi, purple sprouting broccoli, red and green cabbages and sprouts but had lost all of them. After the pak choi bolted and the cabbages, and broccoli had all been massacred by snails, I added some butternut squash plants to my area. Only because that’s about all that was left in the garden centre at the end of May. I planted them under the mini polytunnel that I had purchased and once again crossed my fingers and pretended not to expect anything.

By the end of July, I was starting to see a lot of action under there. There were lots and lots of flowers and the excitement began to bubble up. Then it was time for the month’s lesson. At first, my flowers never developed into anything so I did a bit of reading. There are male and female flowers on a squash vine. Often the male flowers appear much sooner than the female ones, so there is nothing to fertilise. The male flower is a beautiful yellow bloom and the female flower has a fruit which needs to be pollinated. It’s often necessary to do this manually if they don’t do it themselves.

My very first fruit must have been disturbed by something because I arrived at the plot to see it lying on the ground. Eventually, I started to see little squash-shaped fruit gaining size.

On no, Oh no …

I planted three plants and by the end of August had nine squash on the go. Around the same time, I had a nice surprise. Earlier on I had thrown some netting over my remaining plants as I had become aware of the attention of the birds. I’d been under the false impression that it was just the slimy duo of slugs and snails that were causing the demise of my crops. However, now to my dismay, I realised what havoc pigeons were causing as well. I love birds and I had so enjoyed the company of robins and blackbirds who hung around waiting for me to unearth worms while weeding, but I had not realised what the pigeons were up to.

Anyway, under my netting, I suddenly came across some cucumbers. I have to confess that I had forgotten all about them. I’d committed the cardinal sin of not labelling what I’d planted. When the leaves were coming up. I’d thought they were more squash but I was getting quite a lit of bumpy dark green cucumbers.

I harvested three huge ones and had about seven or eight little ones left on the vine.

I finally pulled up my carrots and oh boy, this was a mixed experience. On the one hand, I grew carrots! On the other, they were so flipping fugly that I couldn’t help but feel a certain way about them. The lesson – I read that carrots like fine, free-draining soil. I discovered that you shouldn’t plant carrots on stony ground. Our allotment is on some pretty naff land. It’s very chalky here near the cliffs and we seem to be perched on top of an old builders’ yard. Sifting through this gives you a harvest of old bricks, clay drainage pipes, rusty old nails and broken glass. My poor carrots didn’t stand a chance. I did a bit of riddling and might throw some lettuce in here before the summer ends. Well, you live and you learn. Next year…

As August rolled on I was in parts excited and in parts a little worried. Travel restrictions were now being relaxed considerably and vaccinated folk were allowed to travel abroad with some precautions. We decided to take our first trip out of the UK since the you-know-what. This was always going to be a problem from the point of view of the allotment. As we had been restricted for so long we wanted a good long trip and the plan was to be away for a month. Right at this crucial time. I take a pragmatic approach though – I harvested what was ready and asked my allotment partner to water when they could and to take anything that was ripe and wouldn’t last until we came back.

In the middle of September when we set off I was waiting (and hoping on) the following.

  • About half a dozen butternut squash
  • About six cucumbers
  • Some spindly cabbages that were hanging on under the netting
  • 4 leeks
  • A couple of kale plants that one of my allotment neighbours gave to me
  • Some broccoli

It just remained to see what was left when we returned from Spain.

June/July 2021: My first allotment harvests

In the middle of June, I had my first triumphs. Between the garden at home and the plot, we were actually getting some produce. My allotment partners got the first yield as their potatoes started to give up some bounty. I can’t claim any credit for them as I did none of the Herculean digging that my friend seems to enjoy. However, they did share their bounty with me and I could take home a bucket full of spuds that lasted us a long time.

At home, I had planted a couple of strawberry plants in a pot and that started to fruit. It’s a small plant and it turned out to be the first of only a handful of fruit in total but this was my first strawberry so I wasn’t disappointed.

This encouraged me no end and I decided I needed more things to grow. I had idly thrown and few pepper and tomato seeds into trays on the kitchen windowsill and to my surprise and delight they sprouted. OK, I know it was ridiculously late but I still marvel that anything I touch grows at all, so I wanted to see what would happen.

The pepper got me excited by producing a single blossom, before the flower fell off, so that was that. I did know now that I could grow a thing from seed so I decided that was something I could try again next year.

I ended up taking the tomato plants to the allotment and planting them there to see if they liked it. It did seem to like its position as it developed into a nice-sized plant. Producing a few decent tomatoes.

The lesson of the month was carrots. I had planted a bunch of carrot seeds in my initial phase and was pleased to see the carrot tops always looking green and healthy. I had however sowed them all together and so I thought it might be a good idea to separate them. I pulled up the bunch revealing some cute little carrot-lets and spread them out.

We would see what the results would be.