Early days . . .  a picture of our allotment as it is now. We built the greenhouse and installed the compost bin just before I started this diary.

The Joy of Allotmenteering

The ongoing story of our allotment

We live in an apartment in the centre of our town and consequently have no garden. We got interested in growing our own food. This was partly for the hell of it and partly because we could become self-reliant and less dependent on a food industry that seems to be doing its level best to poison us. 

Plus we wanted to set a good example. We believe in the ethical husbandry of our planet and the need of the human community to transition to more all-round environmentally and personally healthy habits in terms of growing and eating food (among other  things) so  it seemed to us that we should stir ourselves to get busy and practice what we preach. So we became allotmenteers.

BACK STORY (Scroll down for ourallotmenteering diary, with the latest entry topmost)

A couple of years ago, we joined with some very fine like-minded people to form a collective that grows its own food on land kindly donated by a local farmer in exchange for a very reasonable percentage of our produce.

The collective was committed to permaculture principles and 100% organic, chemical-free husbandry.

Over the ensuing two years things went well and we learned a lot - including how to erect deer fencing and shovel horse manure.

We experienced the fulfillment of being closer to the living dynamics of our planet, of successfully growing and eating our own food.

The land we were using was poor quality but we proved  that if you know what you are doing - or  take advice from someone who does, or avail yourself of the internet to research what you need to - you  can grow food virtually anywhere. Certainly urban farming is entirely feasible and with the right, very simple know-how any space can be turned into a food growing space,  even something like a disused car park or tennis court!

We learned too that the food we were able to produce 100% organically, without ANY chemicals whatsoever and with a near-zero carbon footprint tastes so much better than anything we can find in the shops.

And not  only our morale took a boost, our health improved too.

But none of this took what we would consider arduous work. Food is very easy to grow and the project consumed on average and hour or two a week. And remember we were using poor quality un-utilised land that had never before been farmed. This was something I had to experience before I believed it because, city  boy that I am, I always imagined food-growing was terribly arcane and terribly hard.

Be all that it may, after two years we left the project because we wanted something not quite so far away from where we lived.

As chance would have it, we have at this writing just acquired an allotment right close to home in our town.

At this writing - March 2024 - we've had it for about a month and have been getting it ready for planting. We built a small greenhouse for the seedlings and have started planting these. We've planted a few bushes and our first batch of strawberries. We have installed a composter plus found a local resource for free horse manure and have a very nice pile of horse shit ready to spread!

Horse manure by the way is very highly recommended- and there's a sentence I never thought I'd write!

We'll keep you posted as the project develops and maybe add some photos, so please check back here for updates, with the most recent update first.

Thursday April 4th 2024

A brief visit today. We prepared a warm bed in the greenhouse using horse manure then lay some seed boxes over it. The manure provides extra warmth generated by its ongoing decomposition.

Dominque planted two rows of onion sets (a set is a bit more grown than a seed) beside the radishes. Hopefully the onions will help keep pests at bay.

Something has been  noshing our radishes (we suspect slugs - but who doesn't?) so we strengthened the fleece defenses around the radish bed as it had broken in a few places due to the wind blowing the fleece about.

We did some weeding and tidying then went home.

Many of our seeds are now starting to sprout, which is always encouraging.

Below is my sketch (not to scale) of our allotment showing the layout and where things are and will be planted. There's science behind what-to-plant where as various plants help each other which Dominique has been researching. Similarly there's Reason behind out planting in beds rather than rows and so forth which I'll write up at some point once I've fully gotten my head around it and seen what works and what doesn't.

 Saturday March 30th 2024

Looks like Spring has started for real. It was nice to feel the warm sun on one's skin and only having to wear a t-shirt.

We were there for a couple  of hours today.

Dominique planted onion and carrot seeds in their allotted bed. We had to break up the surface soil a bit as this helps the carrots (as we are doing no-dig permaculture, we avoid turning over the underlying layers which upsets the soil's natural ecology), spread manure, plant the seeds, spread a thin layer of soil then cover the bed with cotton fleece to protect against pests and frosts.

Dominique then went foraging to collect wild dandelions (the heads make vinegar, the leaves are good in salads and the roots can be dried and used to make a tea) and nettles (can be dried to make a tea, and also makes a nice soup).

She also planted asparagus seeds in the greenhouse after first soaking them overnight.

A few things are starting to come through slowly now: cabbage, leeks, lettuce while the strawberries seem to be doing fine. 

We are not so sure about the peas we planted as they are not yet showing signs of life so perhaps we planted them too early. We'll see. Worst case scenario is we'll have to plant some more.

In case you were wondering whether I was loafing about whilst all this was happening, I was actually busy removing the three growing frames for raised beds left by the previous occupant. We may have another use for  them later but we don't actually need raised beds. I then "dug" and weeded that section of the allotment plus did more work straightening out the edges of our plot and also laid some paths between the beds. The mere fact of tidying up the plot seems to create much more space in which to grow crops.

I was intimidated by an enormous centipede of some kind. It was at least half an inch long.

So, bit by bit, things are taking shape.

See the latest photos 

Monday March 25th 2024

Spent an hour or so  today getting the area shipshape and ready for planting.  Dominique planted a lot of seeds in their little pot thingies in the greenhouse, then planted some spinach and onions in their designated plot outside and I covered them with a protective cotton fleece. She also planted in the strawberry bed the extra strawberries I picked up on Saturday (see below).  I marked out the last of the designated beds. Then I spent a while tidying up the outer edges to our allotment where the  grass pathway that skirts the allotment has overgrown over the years and encroached on the allotment itself. All along one side the encroachment has been such that I discovered we'd lost about a foot. So I marked out the proper line of the pathway and dug away the encroaching grass and sod. I reckon we gained the equivalent of an entire l metre square seed bed just through routine maintenance. Dominique is planning the use the reclaimed strip to plant medicinal herbs.  Next time I'm there, I will work on the remaining three sides and see how much area we can reclaim. Hope to have some more pics soon.


We spent a couple of hours this afternoon doing more preparation. This included removing the last of the tarpaulins  and preparing the ground underneath, marking out more beds, preparing the space that will be our seating/picnic spot.

We also acquired a free plastic storage trunk that someone was giving away in which to put our tarpaulins, tools and sundries an this enabled us to make the whole space a lot tidier.

Dominique prepared and potted a sweet potato in the greenhouse so hopefully when it shoots - in hopefully a few weeks - we'll be able to start making a sweet potato bed. She also put woolen fleece around some lettuces she had planted last week plus around the chard we have already growing which has already been got at by slugs. Apparently the woollen fleece is good for keeping slugs at bay so we'll see how it works over the next week or so.

I forgot to mention that in the morning we picked up about ten bags of free horse manure from our contact who runs a stables in Ashurst Wood and this we spread over our beds with the remainder going into the manure storage "bin"  (see below).

At the risk of elevating the excitement to fever pitch I should also mention that  talking to a neighbouring allotmenteer I was told good things about chicken manure which he reckons is even better than horse  manure (hard to believe, I know) so we'll be trying chicken manure as soon as we can acquire some.

We were a bit pressed for time so didn't get everything done we wanted to but we'll be back hopefully on Monday.

Oh, and through Dominique's Facebook contacts we acquired five free strawberry plants which I collected and potted in the greenhouse this evening.


The last day of Winter!

We spent the afternoon at the allotment getting it ready for Spring planting. This involved a fair bit of further measuring and marking out the beds where we will be growing a broad range of crops. Dominique, very much the brains of our operation, has done a lot of valuable research into what to plant where and when, which plants  work as companions and which should ideally not be near one another, which (such as garlic) help protect from pests, ward off vampires etc.

As a result, she has what will be going where and when well planned out so the size and location of our beds, the access thereto and so forth is being done according to a well formulated strategy.

We've been lucky with the weeding in that the previous tenant had much of the plot covered with tarpaulins (according to a neighbour, for the past couple of years) so this has kept the weeds down considerably, prevented the ground getting waterlogged, reduced how much prep work we've had to do and bequeathed us some free tarpaulins for use in protecting the ground next winter. Not only that, we also ended up with a free pair of scissors which I found when I lifted a tarpaulin. Must have been there a few years but well protected so still in good nick, considering. 

Yours truly, who is our manure-in-charge, spent some time spreading the last of our horse manure. We'll be picking up another load of horse poo on Saturday, such is the rich pageant of experience that comprises the life we live.

Dominique spent time planting seeds of lambs lettuce, radishes and peas (and then we covered them with non-woollen fleece to protect them from pests and  cold. as we're thinking that killer frosts are not very likely now and these are hardy plants in any case and should be all right. Maybe we've jumped the gun a bit but we'll see over the next few weeks. It is a learning process and worst-case scenario is that we'll have to plant some more seeds and try again.

Strawberries we planted a few weeks ago are doing well. Just as an aside, we use the woolen fleece that some of our deliveries come packed in to put around things like strawberries to protect them.

As chance would have it, we acquired a new large composting bin for free. The lady from a neighouring allotment came over and said she was looking for somebody strong to help her and her dad do some heavy lifting, which they were struggling with. I told them that the wife would be right over. 

Unfortunately, the wife was busy so I had to go. 

It turned out the lifting wasn't that heavy. It just involved lifting a full large composting bin similar to the one in the pic off of its compost pile (see  what a glamorous swashbuckling life I live?) as they were reorganising and getting rid of the bin. They then asked me if Iwould ike to have the bin. Never one to turn down something for free I accepted their kind offer even though I'd just built our second bin out of pallets. What will do now is use our new bin for compost and the one I just built will now be used for storing horse  manure. You can imagine how ecstatic I was at this alotmenter's version of a lottery win.

Anyway, that's enough ecstasy for now. We'll be back on the weekend for another round of preparatory work as the planting window swings open. 

And here finally, in, no particular order,  are some pictures I took with the wife's  phone (mine doesn't do pictures - in fact it barely does phone calls) and I trust they will suitably enrich all your lives.

SATURDAY 16th March 2024

I was only able to get to the allotment briefly during the week - just enough time to water the seedlings in the greenhouse - but I was able  spend a couple of hours there this afternoon. During that time I watered the seedling trays in the greenhouse and was pleased to see the first few tiny green  shoots appearing.

I then spent some time marking out the main beds with string and removing  the tarpaulins the previous tenant of the allotment had put down to inhibit weed growth and keep the soil warm during winter. The tarps also prevented the ground getting waterlogged during the winter's heavy rains.

Under the tarpaulin the soil was almost weed-free so there was only a bit of weeding to do. The soil however was quite compacted so I spent a couple of hours on my hands and knees with a trowel breaking up the  surface to let the air and nutrients in. As we are  doing no-dig permaculture there is no massive turning over of the soil, which destroys the integrity of the natural  subsurface layers - I was careful just to break up the compacted surface. After that, I spread horse manure and compost in a thin layer over the surface to give the soil nourishment ahead of us starting to do the planting.

The soil looks to be good quality as far as I can tell, with plenty of living worms in it and  the horse manure was also rich in living worms, so that bodes well for the prospects of whatever crops we plant.

It was nice being out in the fresh air and winter sunlight, getting lots of gentle exercise without, most importantly, being rained on.

I ran out of manure with only about a fifth of the land  area covered so we'll be  picking up lots  more horse manure, hopefully during the coming week.

Although I didn't quite get as much done as I'd hoped, the  allotment is starting to take shape.

I'll be back tomorrow if it doesn't chuck it down to get more prep done.

SATURDAY 9th March 2024

Spent a couple of hours today tending to the seedlings in the greenhouse, then building a new composting enclosure out of pallets I picked up for free locally. Hope to start posting  photos soon. Also today looks like we have the chance of a free greenhouse, so fingers crossed.  We already have one greenhouse which we installed  about three weeks ago but a second one would come in handy as we are very interested in greenhouse technology to extend the growing season. Had planned to collect more free horse manure but we don't need it right away so postponed that until next week. If you are growing stuff chemical-free as we are then horse manure is fantastic and there are  farms and stables etc all over the place with mountains of the stuff they are itching to get rid of.  With spring immanent, it looks lke we are going to be planting in earnest soon. So far we have just seedlings planted in the greenhouse and some new fruit bushes (raspberry etc). This morning we were given a laurel bush by our lovely neighbour Sandra.  My wonderful wife is continuing her research into the do's and don'ts of growing stuff and compiling an absolutely priceless data base.