Real Men Sow

The Benefits of a Manageable Plot

There has been talk recently on Twitter and blogs about finding the time to work on allotments. I’m not sure if the tough growing year has anything to do with it, but there seems a lot of people out there are struggling to keep up.

Helen, The Patient Gardener, made an interesting point when she said “My weekends are precious and I am spending Sunday mornings at the plot, coming home and wishing I had more time to spend in my garden which is weedy and neglected. The plot is eating up the time I would spend tending the garden.”

I Like Doing Other Things Too
I can sympathise with this, as there are other things I like doing too. Riding my bike and fishing are other passions of mine, but they’re also hobbies that can keep. There’s always another day to ride or another tide to fish. Weeds stop for no man, and unwatered plants die pretty fast, so allotmenteering tends to dominate. Like Helen, I can sometimes feel resentment building when I’m down on my knees weeding all morning, when the bike trails are dry and the sun is out.

It’s also been a busy year for me. I’ve moved house, been on holidays at the wrong time for growing, and this has given me less time to work on the plot. Although I blame the weather for a poor year, my input hasn’t been great.

And with my first child due in February, getting down the allotment isn’t going to get any easier.

A Manageable Plot?
All this got me thinking about the benefits of a manageable plot. A full size allotment is a big ask and I do see people regularly taking on plots, and perhaps not fully appreciating the time and effort that is required. The tele makes it look very easy, but hides much of the graft.

Unless you can get down the plot for short periods 4 or 5 times a week, there is a good chance you’ll be spending a good few hours at the weekend catching up. It takes very little time for an allotment to start looking a mess, and when this happens to me, I find it a very disheartening.

When I took my plot on, I was lucky as I had my mum to help me. I also regularly rope in my lovely wife to lend a hand too. Without their help, I’m not sure I’d manage. I really take my hat off to people who run a full size plot on their own.

Is Small Better?
I’m starting to appreciate the mantra that small is beautiful. Some of the most productive, well kept, attractive plots at the allotments are half sized. There are half the weeds, half the soil to dig and half the effort. Of course, there is also half the growing space, but there are plenty of ingenious small-space growing ideas on display.

I always end up with spare space too, and I’d even be tempted to argue whether anyone really needs a full plot.

A full size plot can seem incredibly appealing at the beginning, and I do love mine. But as I enter the proper grown up stage of my life, with a family, a bigger house to look after and longer hours at work, I am starting to appreciate the idea of something smaller. For someone looking to start out, I’d really encourage them to think about whether the have the time to run a full size allotment on top of all the other things they no doubt do in their life.

Growing less can be more in my opinion. Keeping on top, having a neat and tidy plot and concentrating on growing the things you like gives confidence and ensure morale stays high.

P.S. The allotment in the picture is my friend Jo’s. Its very neat and tidy, but then so is she!


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  1. MariaAugust 16, 2012 at 9:42 amReply

    Well, congratulations to you and Ailsa on your new arrival!

  2. HelenAugust 16, 2012 at 6:34 pmReply

    I agree completely with you but I think even half a plot along with my travel time i just not a goer for me so I am going to grow veg at home.

  3. MartinAugust 19, 2012 at 7:40 pmReply

    Hi Jono, congratulations and hope you are looking after your special seedling in this heat.
    My new title of dad reflects a lot of the sentiments you pose. I have had to reduce and reuse the time I do things. The good news it is very short lived and totally worth it!
    May be worth finding a temporary lodger for the plot maybe even a plot idol for next season but who am I to advise just make sure you enjoy it!

    • Jono

      JonoAugust 19, 2012 at 9:10 pmReplyAuthor

      Thanks Martin. Plot Idol is genius lol.

  4. Amy BrambleAugust 28, 2012 at 10:20 amReply

    I love this post! – mirrors just what I’ve been thinking over the last few weeks – have just published a new blog post linking to this called keeping it simple if you’re interested…

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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