Andrew and Max have been gardening their Craven Vale plot for the last nine years, growing a range of fruit and vegetables, together with a fair number of ornamentals and flowers too.
They report having most success with runner beans, courgettes, potatoes, pumpkins, French beans, sweetcorn and raspberries, which they put down to making sure there’s plenty of decent muck incorporated in the ground before planting. As Andrew says: “The more compost or manure we put in, the better these crops seem to do.”
Not doing nearly so well are carrots and peas, which they put down to the shallow soil and the fact that the chalk is too free-draining and deficient in humus for their needs.
When asked what they particularly like about having an allotment, they mentioned a few factors, which I’m sure many of us can relate to: “We love having a peaceful open air space with a view, only a short walk away from home. We also enjoy the exercise we’re getting walking there and back, as well as the exertion we of course get through gardening. There’s also the chance to grow our own fruit and vegetables, the psychological benefit of being away from it all and the friendly contact we have with other plotholders.”
This social aspect of being on site is something that Andrew and Max really value and so also really appreciate the site’s ‘clubhouse’ being so close to their plot: “The Hub with its regular tea and cake mornings has been a good way of fostering community on the site, which helps with maintaining good behaviour and motivation to grow stuff.”
However, not everything in the garden is rosy, if you’ll excuse the pun. The pair are frustrated – as many of us on allotments around the city are – by the lack of action by the Council to manage the site properly, which has resulted in many untended plots getting overgrown when there are scores of people on the waiting list who would leap at the chance to have one. The problem of a shrinking Allotment Service, without the capacity to do a decent job, could be reversed think Andrew and Max “if only the Council would break out of this cycle they are stuck in of low rents, and low occupancy rates producing too little income to provide an adequate service.”
And what advice would Andrew and Max give to anyone taking on a plot on the site? “Concentrate on getting a decent area entirely clear of weeds so that you can start growing and sustain your interest; sheds and other structures can come later. Pile up those weeds into a compost heap so that you can start enriching the poor soil here – it will need all the feeding it can get!”
Many thanks to Andrew and Max for agreeing to answer our questions.
If you’re a plotholder on Craven Vale or Whitehawk Hill Allotments and would be happy to share your experience of gardening, then get in touch!