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?


Are you really by the seaside?

  1. The house is ½ a mile from the sea
  2. The allotment is about 1 mile
  3. We are just at the point where the Ribble Estuary transitions to the Irish sea,-2.971947,7830m/data=!3m1!1e3

What’s your climate like?


  1. Roughly USA zone 8
  2. Warm (not hot) and fairly dry in spring and early summer, wetter in August
  3. Fairly cold, but very windy in autumn and winter, but with little snow and only moderate, infrequent frosts
  4. For more detail

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?

  1. My plot takes about 12 hours a week
  2. Debbie plot takes about 7 hours a week
  3. Jennie’s plot takes about 2 hours a week
  4. A lot of that time is spent harvesting

How much do you grow?

  1. About 10,000 meals
  2. About £10,000 worth at organic fruit and veg prices
  3. About 200 varieties

How do you calculate the value of your harvets?

We take the simplest possible approach:

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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?

  1. We grow almost all of the veg that we eat
  2. We grow almost all of the fruit that we eat in season
  3. 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?

  1. Read this blog post and watch the associated videos
  2. 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
  3. You can take your own copy, with or without my data
  4. You can change it to suit your needs
  5. 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:

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

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)

Where do you get your seeds?

2020-01-11 14.19.50 (Medium).jpg

Do you make all of your own compost?

Where do you get your nets from?

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

7 Responses

  1. James Mcallister Plot 107 says:

    Hi Steve, do you have any cuttings of Gojiberrys and/or ;loganberry’s please, that are going spare?

  2. Hi James, we have a Gojiberry bush and are happy to take some cuttings for you. We don’t have any loganberry, but we do have Tayberry. I’m on the plot today and tomorrow morning : All the best – Steve

  3. Sarah newell says:

    Hi Steve, is it ok to use well rotted horse manure to fill raised beds? I don’t have much top soil or other compost to mix it with?

  4. Absolutely Sarah, just use it directly on top of the soil, don’t mix it. If it’s well rotted hopefully it composted hot enough to kill weed seeds, if not you might benefit from filling the top 2″ with mushroom compost, which is what I do : All the best – Steve

  5. Heather says:

    Hi Steve, can you do a bit on micro veg for people with only a small window sill at home and explain the benefits, I think it’s a topic for everyone.

  6. I wish I could, but I don’t have any experience and I only speak from experience. I am planning to grow micro veg over winter this year though : all the best – Steve

  1. January 21, 2020

    […] more information about what, where and how we grow please read our Frequently Asked Questions document and/or watch the […]

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