‘You’re losing interest, aren’t you?’
I was in my shed, tinkering with a bike when my mum said that to me yesterday morning. Bikes are my other passion after veg growing, and I was giving the road bike a much-needed Spring overhaul.
‘I’m not losing interest, mum. Things are just different now.’ I thought for a moment. ‘I grow differently these days.’
When I first took on an allotment and started Real Men Sow, life was pretty easy. It was just me and Ailsa, with plenty of time on our hands to bimble around as we wished. But now I’ve got Lewis and Rory as well, finding the time to fully commit to an allotment is tricky.
And so I reiterated my point to mum. I’m definitely not losing interest. I don’t spend as much time on my plot as I did, but in fact, this has heightened my interest – but the focus has altered. Without realising until now, I’m on a mission to refine my growing habits and techniques to get the very most enjoyment and reward from as little time as I can.
Daylong (even morning long) sessions on an allotment are on the backburner at the moment, particularly if I want to fit my bikes in around my family too. I help mum on her allotment when she needs it, and I do miss the vibrancy and community of the plots but growing in my garden has given me the convenience required to keep the harvests coming.
Three Raised Beds, A Greenhouse, and Some Fruit
I’ve got three raised beds in the garden, plus a greenhouse and a fruit patch. The space isn’t huge, but it’s perfect for growing the stuff we as a family enjoy to eat, sample some tasty homegrown goodies straight from the plants, and save a few quid whilst we’re at it. I’m limited with space so don’t grow endless types of veg or varieties now, just the staples that we love.
Typically, I’ll grow a few squashes, tomatoes, beans, mangetout, salad, beets, and cues; plus something to keep us going in Winter, like leeks and kale. I’ve got a good array of rhubarb, strawbs, raspberries, blueberries, and gooseberries too, as we eat a lot of fruit, which is expensive in the shops. The fruit is low maintenance and can be frozen for Winter.
I’ll try a couple of experiments each year, like melons in the greenhouse or blocks of sweetcorn, but generally what I grow is now the same small group of reliable crops. In some respects growing like this might look a little dull and not very challenging, but I love it. I can keep things neat and tidy, and most of the time my crops are successful, but I can fit the jobs in around life. Little and often is the key, and being in the garden means I can pop down and do a job, even if the only time I have spare that day is 5 minutes.
Keep Things Manageable – My Favourite Beginner Tip!
All this brings me round to my favourite tip for allotment beginners: keep things manageable. I am convinced that ongoing GYO success comes from a solid, fruitful start. Half-sized plots (even quarter-sized ones or beds in gardens) are much better full of a smaller amount of healthy veg than a large, scruffy plot with loads of middling to failing plants.
Keep things small, enjoy what you’re doing, and master some of your favourite crops. You can always get a bigger space another Summer.