Allotment Frequently Asked Questions
This document captures answers to the most common questions that I get about our allotments, what we grow and how we grow.
Where are you?
- North west
- Lytham St Annes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lytham_St_Annes
- Shepherd Road Allotments are here: https://goo.gl/maps/3XBLthZwqp8AddHh7
Are you really by the seaside?
- The house is ½ a mile from the sea
- The allotment is about 1 mile
- We are just at the point where the Ribble Estuary transitions to the Irish sea https://email@example.com,-2.971947,7830m/data=!3m1!1e3
What’s your climate like?
- Roughly USA zone 8
- Warm (not hot) and fairly dry in spring and early summer, wetter in August
- Fairly cold, but very windy in autumn and winter, but with little snow and only moderate, infrequent frosts
- For more detail https://weatherspark.com/y/39771/Average-Weather-in-Lytham-St-Annes-United-Kingdom-Year-Round
How many plots do you have?
We have three in our family. I have a full sized plot, my wife – Debbie – has a small plot and my middle daughter Jennie and her husband have a full sized plot. I do the planning for all three plots, everyone plants their own plot.
How much growing area do you have?
- About 250 square metres
- This excludes paths, grass, trees, compost, water, patio etc
A few people comment about the amount of space given over to paths and seating areas. This is because Jennie is disabled and I have a long history of arthritis and auto-immune issues, so the plots were designed to be easy to move around, with access for wheel barrows etc and lots of space to rest and chill out.
How much time does it take to manage?
- My plot takes about 12 hours a week
- Debbie plot takes about 7 hours a week
- Jennie’s plot takes about 2 hours a week
- A lot of that time is spent harvesting
How much do you grow?
- About 10,000 meals
- About £10,000 worth at organic fruit and veg prices
- About 200 varieties
How do you calculate the value of your harvets?
We take the simplest possible approach:
- A few years ago I carefully tracked how much I harvested over a period of 2 months and priced it up using organic supermarket prices or organic veg box prices
- I also kept track of how many litres of veg we harvested during that time. We use standard 2L harvest boxes for most produce so that was easy.
- I divided the total harvest value for those 2 months by the number of 2L boxes and came up with £2.50 as an average value, too high for spinach, too low for tomatoes, much too low for raspberries
- We cross checked this a few times with organic veg box delivery schemes and we were about 25% too low, so we took that is a reasonable margin of safety
- Now all we do is count the number of harvest boxes and multiply by 2.5, in the end it’s just a bit of fun, but it’s a useful comparison from month to month and year to year
Are you really self-sufficient?
- We grow almost all of the veg that we eat
- We grow almost all of the fruit that we eat in season
- We classify tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers as fruit and we buy them out of season or receive them as gifts
How big is you polytunnel?
It’s 20 ft by 12 ft and we bought it from First Tunnels
Do you heat your polytunnel?
No but we do lay down fleece on the dozen or so day’s when there’s a hard frost
How much does it cost to run the allotments?
- About 10% of harvest value
- This works out at an average of £300/plot and includes the cost of the polytunnel, raised beds, polythene, mesh, fleece, compost, seeds, rent etc
- We typically harvest enough food in January and February to pay off the costs for the whole year
What do you do with all that fruit and veg?
- We eat most of it ourselves
- We gift quite a bit to family
- We gift to other allotmenteers
- Anything that’s left over we gift to friends and neighbours
- Most of the food we gift comes from our garden, rather than the allotments
Where can I download your database?
- Read this blog post https://steves.seasidelife.com/2020/01/26/how-to-plan-your-fruit-and-veg-garden-with-my-new-free-tools-demo/ and watch the associated videos
- The data resides in the cloud, but you can export it to a spreadsheet it you want to, there are also apps for Windows, OSX, IOS and Android as well as a great web app
- You can take your own copy, with or without my data
- You can change it to suit your needs
- I do an update once a year at least
What’s the variety name you mentioned?
Every variety we have ever grown can be found here: https://airtable.com/shriEHYVDlURL42Zk/tbllaCmnrTxhjvzSD?blocks=hide
What should I grow?
- Grow what you like to eat
- Grow things that commercial growers use a lot of pesticides on
- Grow things that you can’t buy organically
- Grow things that are expensive to buy, but cheap to grow
When should I sow?
Take a look at my full year sowing guide for inspiration https://steves.seasidelife.com/2020/01/18/all-year-round-vegetable-sowing-planting-guide/
If you want more look at my monthly sowing guide videos
If you want even more look at my weekly diary (top left to get a weekly email) https://steves.seasidelife.com/category/allotment-diary/
Where do you get your seeds?
- We normally source our seeds via Amazon, I love the fact that I can search everything I’ve ever bought and just click: Buy Again
- A few specialist varieties we get from https://www.realseeds.co.uk/ and https://seedsofitaly.com/ and seeds that we use a lot of (carrots, beets, radish etc) we get from https://www.wholesale.molesseeds.co.uk/
- We get a lot of basic seeds free with the magazine Grow Your Own
- If you want to manage your seeds better, my database can help with that https://youtu.be/Wm3ll9yoWqg
Do you make all of your own compost?
- We don’t, we make a lot but the rest comes from http://www.kc-compost.co.uk/
Where do you get your nets from?
- We get fleece from Amazon, we try not to use fleece outside as it degrades to quickly, instead we are trying this https://www.agralan.co.uk/frost-protection/envirotect.html
- We get most of our other mesh from Easy Nets, we particularly like this one https://easynets.co.uk/product.asp?ProductID=32&ProductName=Vegetablemesh_Extra_Fine&CategoryID=21