Starting an allotment – some tips! | Simply Marcia


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Starting an allotment – some tips!

Ok, so I’m not particularly known for being green-fingered or a natural gardener amongst my friends and family – which means I’m definitely not an expert horticulturist. But I do love food! I do love using fresh ingredients and creating new recipes, and I do come from a family of small-holders and grown-your-own’ers. So as far as I’m concerned that’s all the qualification I need!

I had an allotment a few years ago when my children were really little but to be honest, I didn’t really have a clue … I mean, I did actually grow stuff – but more by luck than proper planning – think too many courgettes, very scraggly, teeny-tiny carrots and, amazingly, an annual glut of berries! After a couple of year I sadly had to let it go – basically the combination of other commitments – work, children, logistics – and the fact that the allotment was a good 3 miles from my home at the time didn’t help…

Roll on a good 10 years: a new home in Cornwall, a new freelance working-from-home life and a close-to-home allotment means that 2018 is the year of the allotment for me. And in order to get it a bit more right than last time, I’ve been doing my homework and been plotting and planning and have come up with these ‘starting an allotment’ tips:

Do your research
Have a proper nose around your own allotment and the other allotments. What seems to grow well (obviously this will depend on the time of year)? More importantly, talk to and ask the locals – in my experience, other allotmenters are a friendly, helpful, super-knowledgeable bunch and will be the best source of local soil conditions, what grows well and what doesn’t.

Invest in a couple of allotment handbooks
I still have my allotment books from first time around and they’re still brilliant – full of useful advice and tips – great for complete beginners or more experienced gardeners. My go-to books are:

The Allotment Handbook by Caroline Foley
Grow Your Own Veg by Carol Klein

Both offer easy-to-understand advice on planning, weeding, sowing, planting out, the months/seasons and soil types as well as all you need to now about the likes and dislikes of individual plant families

Find online allotment bloggers to follow
For tips and topical, relevant allotment and growing advice, allotment bloggers are just brilliant – find some that you like. I find Twitter is the best source. I really enjoy the realistic and easy advice (and humour) from Richard Chivers’ Sharpen your Spades and Bohemian Raspberry.

As I have a large allotment plot, as well as growing fruit and vegetables, I also want to give a small patch to wild flower growing. Little Green Space is a wonderful Twitter account to follow for tips on green living and creating green spaces for nature and wildlife.

Get an allotment planner
This is essential for all your scribbles, plotting and planning. I have an A5 notebook. I jot planned as well as random, thoughts, ideas and drawings in it as well as sticking in snippets of advice or ideas I’ve found in the weekend papers or magazines – it’s a proper scrapbook i guess.

Grow what you like to eat
This time around, armed with local knowledge of the well-growing plants here, I’m going to start the allotment by focusing mostly on sowing seeds, planting seedlings and growing produce that we actually eat. I’m not going crazy as I don’t want to feel too overwhelmed – it’ll literally be an organic, rolling process. So for us, that means fruit, veg and herbs including:

– onions, garlic, leeks
– broccoli, kale, peas
– beetroot
– pumpkin, squash
– cucumber, courgette, lettuce
– berries
– rhubarb
– herbs: mint, rosemary, chives, thyme, sage

Although we eat plenty of them, this year I’m avoiding potatoes, most root veg e.g. carrots, and Mediterranean / greenhouse produce such as tomatoes and peppers. Partly because they’ve seemed so labour-intensive in the past, but haven’t grown too well, but also because we eat so much of them and actually, our local farming cooperative sells them at a ridiculously decent price.

Seeds
There are so many places to buy decent seeds or seedlings and plants now. One of my favourites is Dobies. They have loads of choice, a brilliant tips and advice-laden website and their prices are good.

Get equipped
You will need equipment to help you handle your allotment. Essentials include:
– decent gardening gloves
– wellies
– sturdy spade and fork
– hand trowel and hand fork
– trays and pots for seedlings
– rake
– secateurs
– watering can

What allotment tips or advice do you have?

Next time: Preparing an allotment


Pom-e-nutritious

If you ever need to pack in a massive punch of nutritious body-boosting loveliness, then head to your supermarket and grab youself some ruby-red pomegranate beauties. These Mediterranean (it’s that Med diet thing again!) fruits are not only a spectacular colour but they’re delicious and nutrient rich and are briliant for your overall health.

They’ve been medicinally used for thousands of years to help fight against heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation and some cancers, including prostate cancer. They’re also a good source of fibre and contain vitamins A, C and E, iron and other antioxidants – umm what’s not to love about these proper little nasties fighters?!

If you’re not sure how to deseed and collect the super-red pomegranate seeds and have a couple of mins to spare, check out this Youtube video clip of a very enthusiastic pomegranate deseederer!

For a good old nutrition boost, try adding pomegranate seeds to breakfast cereals and porridge (I’m thinking with overnight yoghurt-soaked oats), cold dishes and salads. They also work really well with lamb and Moroccon inspired dishes – in fact, check out Nigella’s warm shredded lamb salad with mint and pomegranate – delish 🙂

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A ripe old age …

There’s a cute little village (Acciaroli if you’re interested) in Southern Italy with more centenarians than anywhere else in the world! Lots of healthy old folk living a lovely long time and generally not suffereing many of the ills that befall the rest of us (think heart diesase and Alzheimer’s).

Apparently, these guys and gals put their longevity down to a mash-up of the following:

  • keeping active – walking is best for longevity according to these wise old birds – no gym bunnies here
  • physical pleasures – sex – and lots of it!
  • good sleep – but set that alarm early – this lot properly get up and go!
  • being sociable
  • fruit, veggies, fish, olive oil – think Mediterranean diet but no loading up your plate – these guys eat small portions
  • occasional fasting – apparently cutting back can help you live longer, and reduce the chances of developing nasties like heart disease and cancer
  • very little added salt and sugar in their diet – ditto processed foods – these guys and girls like to make their own – even in their 90’s!
  • red wine (no Friday night binge-drinking though) – think balance and moderation
  • simplify your life to reduce stress – no mod-cons or high-tech stuff for this lot – they like it pure and simple – and sloooooow – and it clearly works!
  • regular health-checks – think occasional check-ins with your GP.

I guess the message to take away from this is that we don’t have to be pounding away on the treadmill at every given opportunity, that fad diets may come and go and that actually, the key to a good, happy, healthy and (possibly) long life is probably about simplicity. Stripping back and cutting out (some of) the crap. Giving ourselves a bit of a break. Stepping away from the rat-race (when we can).

Instead, taking pleasure from life’s simple pleasures … and in the process, finding contentment (and good health!).

med

Caio! x