Celebrating National Allotment Week 2011 – Featured Allotmenteerist #1 John Harrison

allotmenteerist John HarrisonTo celebrate National Allotment Week 2011, I’ve decided to profile some of my favourite allotment holders.

I’m honoured to open the series with the inspirational John Harrison. John set up allotment.org.uk, which has grown into the UK’s most popular allotment site and is crammed with excellent advice and information. The site is one of the first places I go if I’m stuck for answers to a problem.

There is also a lively and active forum, loads of recipes, and helpful allotment videos.

John has written a number of books on the subject, including The Complete Vegetable Grower and The Essential Allotment Guide.

You can follow John on Twitter @allotmentorguk.

Cheers, John.


Where is your allotment and how long have you rented it?

I  had my previous plots in Crewe for 8 years.

However, I moved in October and don’t have an allotment as such anymore. We’ve moved to a smallholding in North Wales, fulfilling a lifelong dream, and are only just establishing veg plots, etc after suffering the trowels and bricks of outrageously priced builders.

The plots are being made on old pasture land – turf above rocks and sand! Oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s tough work though.

What is your favourite thing about having an allotment?
My favourite thing on the allotments was the social part – so many helpful and friendly folk who were unfailingly generous.

What is your least favourite thing about having an allotment?
Least favourite was the little vandals and thieves who appeared in the school holidays. The fact of urban life, I’m afraid.

What is the best veg growing tip you’ve picked up and where did it come from?
The best growing tip is to look after the soil and that looks after the plants (thanks to Grandad).

What is your favourite fruit or veg to grow on the allotment?
Potatoes – most underrated crop, yet the taste of homegrown is so superior to shop-bought you’d hardly believe they were the same vegetable.

Got a tasty allotment recipe to share?
There are loads of recipes on the website.

(My faves are plum cake, and the luxurious winter warmers leek pie and vegetable pasty. John’s wife Val also has her own brilliant preserve section – Jono.)

What one item or tool could you not do without on the plot?
Couldn’t survive without a hoe – a sharp hoe is a joy to use.

What was your biggest or most embarrassing allotment hiccup?
Most embarrassing – my miniature cauliflowers! I had five heads in the palm of my hand. I’ve attached a photo for you – just to prove not all my caulis were a disaster!

If you had one piece of advice for an allotment beginner, what would it be?
Best advice – take it day by day rather than leaving it for a week and then killing yourself over a weekend. Besides, it always rains on the day you plan to go to the plot.

I probably should have said buy The Essential Allotment Guide!

* Next up is Jo Bratt. Jo’s in her second season of running an allotment, but after winning Best Kept Plot at her Essex allotments in her first year, she’s obviously a natural.

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