Update on my ‘crazy’ allotment growing experiments
For a variety of reasons I’ve ended up with a batch of really well advanced brassica’s, according to the authorities some of these over-winter ok, but other’s like Broccolini and Romanesco are never mentioned as candidates for over-wintering and planting in spring. Anyway I have some, and some sprouts, that I intend to harvest for their lovely leaves.
In this video I plant the last of this over-wintered batch, show you the progress of the ones that I planted a few weeks ago and talk a bit about the experiment. My big message is that when extending the season you never really know until you try. There are so many variables and so many opportunities/ways/times to eat the resulting plants that it’s best to have a go. Especially if it means the difference between eating your home grown food and resorting to the supermarket.
In ideal circumstances I would have planted a batch in October and November too and these would be ready for planting in the polytunnel now, but that’s a lesson learned!
If you are new to my allotment videos you might find a bit of context useful. We live in the north west of England, in Lytham St Annes, which I believe is the equivalent of USA Zone 8.
We have three allotments in my family, mine (Steve), my wife’s (Debbie) and my middle daughter’s (Jennie). We also have a small kitchen garden at home. They are all managed in an integrated fashion, so don’t expect to see the usual mix of veg on each plot. I do most of the planning and seed starting. We each have our own plots, but we all help each other out.
Jennie’s plot has been designed as a traditional allotment, but we put a lot of focus on minimising the work we do there. It’s basically a plant and forget it plot, full of garlic, leeks, onions, potatoes, brassicas, squash, beans and fruit trees. It’s heavily mulched to reduce weeds and easy to water.
Debbie’s plot is mostly full of perennials, it’s a garden plot. Again we did a lot of work to keep the weeds down and Debbie’s approach is inspired by the TV programme The Ornamental Kitchen garden.
My plot is all about experimental growing, maxium productivity and year round abundance. As with all of the other plots I did a lot of work to control the weeds, but it’s a high maintenance plot. I’m always planting, harvesting, experimenting and generally having a great time.
Collectively the plots deliver an amazing abundance of fruit and veg all year round. Debbie, Jennie and I are effectively self sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit for much of the year. During winter we have enough surplus to feed a few more of our friends and during the rest of the year we feed up to 22 people.
This video provides an overview:
I do an update of the allotments, roughly one a week, you can find the tours here:
Our approach to allotment life is to: grow as much as we possibly can, to be self-sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit in season, to give away our huge surplus to friends and family, and to have as much fun as possible. For more on self sufficiency check out these videos:
Debbie and I spend about 4 hours a day, 4 days a week on the plots (on average) and we keep nudging that down as we eliminate non-productive work: like grass cutting, weeding and watering as much as practical. We are both newbie gardeners, only starting the allotments in 2016.
I’m a bit obsessive about the nutrient density of the veg that we grow and making the plots easy to work because it’s through this allotment lifestyle and food that I’ve overcome a debilitating auto-immune disease.
I’m always aware though that it might not last so I make sure that I don’t work too hard, eat as much organic fruit and veg I can and design the plots so that I can still work them if I flare up again.