National Allotments Week 2021

I am surprised and embarrassed to note that the last time I wrote on TFG’s blog was back in January. Where have the last 7 months gone? I will endeavour to post more frequently going forward; however, we all know how life/full-time jobs get in the way so please, bear with…

The Plot in May this year

It’s National Allotments Week this week. According to the National Allotment Society website, the event started in 2002 as a way of raising awareness of allotments and the role they play in helping people to live healthier lifestyles, grow their own food, develop friendships and bolster communities. Until TFG told me, I didn’t even know there was a week that celebrated or highlighted allotments in the UK….you live and learn.

July 2021

One thing you can depend on your allotment giving you is a healthier lifestyle. In the growing season TFG and I are up there almost every evening during the week and our weekends revolve around it. We spend the best part of a Saturday or Sunday (or both!) up there with the dogs, weeding, tidying, dead-heading, etc. It’s hard work but it is also enjoyable and the sense of satisfaction when your vegetables are cropping and your rather large dahlia collection is in full bloom cannot be beaten. It’s important to look after yourself and take things easy as a bad back does not right itself quickly.

Dahlia ‘Islander’ in the evening sun

Sustainability and care for the environment is key on any allotment site. As you will be aware, we also have the Jungle and G&T gardens at home – they play a large part in the upkeep and maintenance of the allotment. How so, I hear you ask? We recycle soil from the plant pots at home and take it all to the allotment to enrich our beds. We also take all our garden waste there to be composted. We have a home and allotment ‘circle of life’ to ensure that, as much as we can, we care for our allotment through caring for our exotic plants at home.

There are chicken keepers on the allotments too (something I am a little envious of having been a chicken keeper myself in the past). Any waste that we have which is ‘hen friendly’ can be traded for half a dozen fresh, tasty eggs. The hens get enrichment and nourishment and so do we!

Our bolted Swiss Chard ‘Peppermint’ on its way to the hens

As I have mentioned above, the allotment’s main purpose through toil and hard work is to provide us with food (and fresh dahlia blooms for the home). This year’s plot is different to last year’s in that we sacrificed the main long bed in the middle of the plot for the growing of dahlias – 120+ varieties – it wasn’t a difficult sacrifice to make! That doesn’t mean that we aren’t still growing vegetables. We are cropping courgettes, dwarf french beans, climbing beans, cucumbers, raspberries and gooseberries, to name a few.

The tomato bed is a worry to me. We haven’t cropped a single fruit yet. The weather here has been hot, cold, wet, dry, repeat, ad infinitum. Tomatoes really don’t like that at all. They demand consistency of temperature and watering, and they have had neither. We shall see how they get on but I am not expecting a crop on the scale of 2020. In fact, I am currently considering pulling them all up, it’s that bad.

The tomato bed in late May this year

We have had success with potatoes and, in particular, a lovely variety called ‘Red Duke of York’. We planted a couple of rows and they have done very well for us. They’re not the biggest cropper but what they do produce are nice uniform tubers in a most pleasing magenta pink which, when I look at them, always remind me of nail varnish. I’m sure we will grow this variety again on a larger scale in the future.

Potato ‘Red Duke of York’

Apart from the usual allotment staples of potatoes, tomatoes, sweetcorn, etc, we are also excitedly growing a yacón! The yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a species of perennial daisy traditionally grown in the northern and central Andes from Colombia to northern Argentina. It’s prized for its crisp, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots. The word yacón means ‘water root’ in the Inca language.

Yacón ‘Inca Red’

The variety we are trialling is called ‘Inca Red’. Yacón are, to our surprise, tall plants and, as you can see from the image above, quite wide. The plants produce little neon-orange blooms as summer progresses. The large, underground tubers can be eaten raw or cooked. Apparently, the taste is like fresh pear or water-chestnut: we shall report back once we crop the beast! The foliage is green, white and bronze, very angular and makes a real statement in the border – almost ornamental. Hopefully we will have many tubers to dig up. If not, I would still like to grow yacón as a statement plant in its own right. I rather like the idea of a bed devoted to them, I think it would look spectacular.

Yacón flower

I would like to end on friendship. If you’re lucky like us, you will have super plot neighbours who become your allotment friends. We are surrounded with a number of very nice people who we look forward to seeing. We compare our crops, we discuss the dismal weather, we chat excitedly about what we are growing, what is working, what isn’t and what we will do differently next year. Not only does this forge and nurture those friendships but it also cements in your own mind that you’re doing it right. If you’re not, you can pick up tips to ensure that mistakes (and we’ve made a few!) can be rectified. It’s all a learning curve. What better way to learn than with lovely people who share a common interest and hobby? I look forward to chatting with our neighbours every time we go to the plot.

And that, Dear Reader, is where we and the dogs are off to now….those dahlia blooms won’t pick themselves!

Happy Gardening One and All!

The Beau.

N.B. if you are interested in taking on an allotment, the National Garden Scheme have thirty-five allotment sites that open their gates, with five coming up through August and September 2021. Visiting an allotment site is a great way to get a feel for what’s involved and start the ideas flowing. Find out more here.

Me and Dahlia ‘Spartacus’

21 thoughts on “National Allotments Week 2021

    1. Thank you, that’s very kind. I started the post apologising for the lack of writing and here I am apologising for the lack of responding to your lovely comment. I will try harder….honest.

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  1. Wow that dahlia is humongous! Good to see the allotment has been productive again. I only had 3 tomato plants this year and so far have picked 2 tiny fruits! They’re going into the compost now. I grow them indoors, but they’ve barely grown at all. 😒

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    1. Sadly, at the weekend, I took the decision to remove every single tomato plant – they all had blight! We won’t be cropping a single tomato in 2021, however, TFG bought me a super book about tomato varieties so I am already excited for next year’s attempts…..

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  2. Ah, it must be nice. I was supposed to get back to it this year, but was still unable to. Gads, it has been a long time. By the time things slow down a bit, it will be autumn, but that will be okay. I should be ready for next year.

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    1. I am currently enjoying the masses of dahlia blooms we have on the plot. But, I find myself looking around and looking forward to the ‘clear down’, the tidying of beds and the ultimate quiet of autumn/winter. I have plans in my head to discuss with TFG for next year’s flowers and veg which just makes the plot exciting all year round 🙂

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  3. I was wondering where you have been hiding out. Good to read that you are back at it in the allotment. Happy Allotment week. I know you have been busy I can tell by the size of that Swiss Chard you pulled. My, I have never seen any so tall. Tomatoes can be finicky. You have had some wild weather this year. It seems that the weather everywhere is unpredictable. Those pink potatoes look mighty fine. Spartacus looks to be as big as your head. HUGE! and such a lush color. Best of luck with all you have going on in the allotment.

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    1. Hello Lisa…..I’m still here, just absolutely awful at keeping up with it all. I forget – the ‘manopause’ is to blame or at least that’s what I tell myself 😉
      ALL the tomatoes were pulled up last week and destroyed – every single plant had blight. What can you do?! Never mind…..we planted some lovely flowers for autumn colour and you would never know the tomatoes were ever there 🙂
      Yes, Spartacus is huge, he’s a handsome brute of a dahlia. I highly recommend ‘Islander’ too for sheer size with her marshmallow pink petals.

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  4. How you two find time to ‘work’ is beyond me. 🙂 The allotment looks wonderful, and thanks for all the information you provided. I especially love hearing about the dahlias and the circle of life from home gardens to the allotment. The town I live in started two community gardens this year, and they have been a huge success for all the wonderful reasons you note including friendship. Happy gardening.

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  5. It is especially lovely to hear from you again! We have found it a very poor year for vegetables (Waterford, south-east Ireland) with extremely poor germination of some of the regular varieties. ‘British Queens’ have always been our regular and reliable potatoes and have had another excellent year – new potatoes and fried mackerel, yum, yum! What I take from your post it that the inclusion of plants for cut-flowers is a good bet against that feeling that all is failing. Your photographs certainly would encourage anybody to include cut-flowers in the vegetable patch. Not to be entirely negative – runner and french beans have come to our rescue here while raspberries and blackberries are coming in very generously.

    Looking forward to your next update as I enjoy reading them very much! Paddy

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    1. Thank you Paddy – apologies for the delayed response to your message. We will always include flowers on the allotment, not just for another ‘crop’ for the home, but also for wildlife. Pollinators, as you will know, are incredibly important to the success of any fruit/veg growing and pretty much every day in the summer we have butterflies, moths and all manner of creatures enjoying the blooms. Finding a bumblebee busy inside a Gladioli or Dahlia bloom is one of my favourite simple pleasures…
      We have been picking blackberries every time we go to the plot, the crop this year is fantastic. Quite why more people are not picking them is a mystery to me, however, their loss is our freezer’s gain!

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      1. Never worry about a delayed response – we all have lives to live! I’ve had the two youngest grandchildren picking raspberries this morning and blackberries are ripening. Enjoy the garden!

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  6. Wow – those dahlias are huge! In contrast to you, tomatoes are the only veg that I’m having any success with this year. We’ve had 90F temps for weeks, and ONE rainstorm since late May. Gardening teaches us new lessons every year. Glad you and TFG are enjoying your gardens.
    Su

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  7. Hello Su. The dahlias are super, aren’t they?! 🙂

    Unfortunately, every single tomato plant was removed last weekend as they all had blight. It would appear that it has swept across all the allotments with everyone’s conversation being nothing but the ‘b word’.

    However, we still have lots to enjoy and then there’s next year to plan….always exciting thinking of the next veg and flowers. And, of course, maybe more dahlias 😉

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