Jul 232021
Allotment Update Summer 2021

The last time I wrote about the allotment was in my Allotment Update Spring 2021. I’d like to tell you that everything has been going smoothly, and that we love working on the allotment, but that would be a lie. In this allotment update for summer 2021 I’ll go over the progress we have made since May, successes and failures, and future plans.

Allotment Successes

Let’s start with the positives:

Beetroot – By far the biggest success is the beetroot. For some reason, the critters don’t like to eat it and the roots certainly benefited from the cool and wet weather we had in June. I’ve already had a harvest of the 8 or so plants that I started as seedlings at home, and they are delicious! The remainder of the beetroot were direct sown, and have a few more weeks of growing to do.

beetroot harvest

Potatoes – The plants are doing really well, though it remains to be seen if we get a decent potato crop. Most of the potatoes are main crop varieties, but there are a few Charlotte potatoes which I should really dig up now.

Raspberry Canes – Some of the canes haven’t survived, but there are at least two transplanted canes which are fruiting.

Rhubarb – What a winner! I made some delicious rhubarb gin, and also a galette (Rustic Strawberry Rhubarb Galette).

Brussels Spouts – A neighbour gave us some sprouts seedlings and they are doing okay… not great, but not dead!

Squashes – The fourth attempt at planting squashes seems to be a success. We have one thriving pumpkin, and a few courgette and butternut squash plants. I think their success was as a result of warmer weather and a generous sprinkling of organic slug pellets.

Allotment Failures

Flowers – Out of a load of wildflower/flower seeds, we seem to only have a few survivors. There is one sunflower that didn’t get munched by slugs, and a very pretty borage flower. So much for a lush field of flowers for the pollinators!

Borage flower

Winter Veg – In the winter veg bed, which had dozens of kale, chard, and perpetual spinach seeds sown, there is exactly one chard plant and one spinach plant… and lots of weeds.

Leeks – The leeks are tiny and pathetic. I blame myself for letting the weeds take over the bed and shading them out.

Peas – I ended up taking down the pea trellis as the plants were eaten by critters.

Runner beans and bush beans – Mostly a failure. There are a few that haven’t been eaten, but I doubt we’ll get a decent harvest.

The Future of the Allotment

Lucy and I both came to the conclusion separately and then together that the allotment is not the right type of hobby and gardening style for us at this point in our lives. I’m of two minds about the allotment. It’s such a privilege to have the plot, given how long the waitlists can be, and it’s an opportunity to be more self-sufficient and sustainable. That being said, it’s a huge time commitment, and an expense. We shouldn’t do something which is meant to be a hobby just because we ought to do it. It’s meant to be fun! Gardening is intended to help ease anxiety rather than exacerbate it. For these reasons, it’s likely this will be the only year we have the allotment.

We made a commitment to look after the plot for this year, and we will continue to do so. Apart from checking on it during our weekend walks, I really didn’t do any work on it in June. I’m now dealing with the consequences of weeds taking over the beds. On the plus side, the weeds trapped in moisture which meant that the crops didn’t scorch in the heat wave! I look forward to seeing what kind of harvest we get in late summer/early autumn, and I’ll share that with you. However, I wanted to be upfront that the allotment content is likely to disappear after this year.

Allotment summer 2021

Honest Thoughts on the Allotment

I was finding the weekly allotment treks tiring, and it feels more like a chore than an enjoyable pastime. I much prefer working in the garden at home. We avoided doing any work there for a month, partly due to our busy schedules. It was hectic with exams at work, and Lucy had a lot on her plate too. Although it made me feel guilty leaving the plot untended, it was a relief skipping those Sunday gardening sessions.

For me personally, the allotment is stressful. It’s a big piece of land to manage and realistically, I can only commit an hour or so a week to tending the plot. The soil quality is poor, and I found that it was tricky to get seeds to germinate. It’s also impossible to stay on top of the weeds. I suspect our neighbouring allotmenteers use herbicides and pesticides as they don’t seem to have the same issues. These challenges are discouraging.

Another huge factor is that Wilbur hates the allotment. We knew when we took on the allotment that it would be a challenge with a puppy. We were hopeful that he wouldn’t mind hanging out digging in the dirt for a hour or so, but that just isn’t the case. He barks constantly when we aren’t giving him attention and it just isn’t an enjoyable experience. Lucy and I agree that we would much rather spend our Sunday doing an activity we all enjoy as a family, such as a nice long walk.

Wilbur biting his leash
Wilbur biting his leash while Lucy tries to water.
Allotment Growing Challenges and Limitations

Lastly, and most disappointingly, not much is growing considering the large space. It’s a losing battle trying to protect the crops from the snails, slugs, and rabbits. Most of the seeds/seedlings I planted didn’t germinate or were soon decimated. It seems that the allotment is only good for a few select crops, and it now makes sense why so many people have rows and rows of potatoes and berry bushes. The environment just isn’t suitable for the variety and types of produce I’d like to grow. We also can’t eat that many potatoes! I know this post is negative in tone, but I wanted to be honest with my readers, particularly if you are thinking about getting an allotment. The allotment isn’t bringing me joy. I’m happier growing vegetables in my small container garden on the patio, but I’m glad nonetheless that we tried allotment gardening!

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