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.

Published by Elaine Batiste

I'm a teacher, a lifelong learner, a traveller, a maker, an adventurer and a 'want to do more' kind of gal.

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