If you saw my previous post this month, you’ll know I recently got an allotment plot and have begun to clear up its neglect with help from my other half. But what I haven’t revealed is why I chose to take on an allotment, and […]
As you may have read previously, I’ve just been allocated an allotment about a 15-minute drive away from our new home. I’m over the moon with this, as I haven’t had my own space to garden for several years now. I’m itching to get designing, growing and harvesting. As part of the excitement and preparation, I’ve been looking into articles on sorting your new veg plot. Pickings seem slim. A lot of people seem to begin sharing after they’ve cleared their site. Well, to help the newby along, here’s my selection of the top seven webpages for beginner allotmenteers.
(1) ‘Starting a vegetable garden from scratch’: Sarah Raven
Not strictly about allotments, but it’s a clear walkthrough of setting up your veg plot. Whether that be in your garden or on an allotment site, this article is an overview which includes siting your plot (if able to choose position), how to clear ground and using mulch. It links to other related posts such as ‘how to structure the space’. To top it off, it’s wonderfully written.
(2)‘Ten Tips for Grow Your Own Beginners’: Real Men Sow
Agai, whether you’re growing at home or an allotment, this simple post contains some true gems of insight. Reflecting on several seasons of experience growing his own, author Jono Stevens picks out 10 top tips. Things to be aware of include refraining from removing all leftover items, just getting on with things rather than delaying through planning, and growing food that’s expensive to buy in shops.
‘Your kitchen garden enables you to enjoy food and flavours beyond what you can find in the shops’ – Mark Diacono, The New Kitchen Garden p.43
(3) ‘How to clear an allotment, Day one!’: Mr Sam the Allotment Man
Here’s a video entry to the list. Mr Sam and his father go through clearing a new allotment plot from scratch. It shows just how much physical work is involved, but also how pleasant working on it with someone else could be. That’s not to mention how much easier and quicker the process would go with two of you either. Tips include working on specific areas of the plot, not just launching a “random attack” and advising against grass paths (they need maintenance!). There’s also a scene involving careful removal of dreaded bindweed!
(4) ’13 tips to help allotment newbies… by an allotment newbie’ : Jack Wallington
Well known for his dahlia sharing and love of exotics, Jack here looks back on his first year allotmenting. It’s a personal overview of 13 points that will aid anyone taking on their new plot. He mentions the importance of removing old equipment ASAP, avoiding stocking up on a broad range of tools, and planning for all seasons. Especially interesting to note is how some of Jack’s advice contradicts that of Jono Stevens, such as hoarding vs. scrapping or planning vs. just planting away. As with most things in life, it seems how you approach grow-your-own is a matter of taste. What makes you feel most comfortable? Go with your gut instinct after listening to others. Then, tweak as you go along.
(5) ‘Beginners Guide to Allotment Gardening’: My Allotment Garden
Another more personal point-of-view post, with one important message: little and often. The key to success, from the author’s own observation and efforts, is be committed and consistent.
(6) ‘Start no dig’: Charles Dowding
I have a couple of Charles Dowding’s publications and watch his YouTube videos with relish. The No Dig methodology will no doubt seem lazy to some, but it resonates deeply with me. I love the sense of disturbing the soil and therefore natural balance as little as possible from day one. I’m a passionate nature lover and this practice fits in neatly with my views. It feels a more archaic and authentic way of doing things too. Not overwrought. I can imagine Early Farmers going about their survival just this way. It’s the approach I plan to employ myself this year.
(7) ‘Getting started’: digmyplot.co.uk
Despite looking much like primary school websites did at the dawn of the internet, this is full of useful tidbits. Advice includes pest and weed information, how long to spend at your plot each week ideally, and items you’ll need (which also refers to manure!).
While these may be my top seven webpages for beginner allotmenteers, it’s in no way exhaustive. Get on social media, use Google and join forums. While few people chart their very beginnings on a plot, what is shared afterwards is still invaluable. From the mistakes and lessons of others, new allotmenteers can avoid problems from the start.
Additionally, as ever, I’d recommend hitting bookshops too. I have plenty of grow-your-own and gardening books already, and they all play their part as well.
If you know of any other beginning allotment articles or vlogs not included here, please do share in the comments below. I’d love to expand my reading lists!
I buy so many books – usually on gardening and grow-your-own – it’s unbelievable. So I thought to myself: why not share some book reviews online? Kicking off our bookworming is the RHS ‘Botany for Gardeners’, which I purchased for £14.99 from Waterstones along with […]
If you read my last post, you’ll recall I mentioned visiting the marvellous Hunte’s Gardens during our two-night stay on Barbados in November. In actuality, marvellous just doesn’t cover how awe-inspiring this sunken space is.
While the entrance fee doesn’t seem cheap – 30 Barbadian dollars to be exact – this is in fact just about £11 at the moment. It’s worth every penny, without a doubt. If you head over to Barbados, I implore you to go and see this magnificent place.
The gardens are the vision and realisation of one man, Anthony Hunte. What foresight he has. Join to this an expert understanding of tropical plants and you end up with Hunte’s Gardens.
Anthony lives up in the converted old stable block at the top of this ancient sinkhole. He ran a garden nursery for many years, explaining some of his plant knowledge. The rest of it, plus his passion for plants, was acquired from an early age, through his family.
He achieved this extraordinary feat of horticultural pizazz over just two years, assisted by just one other person.
Anthony’s family arrived in Barbados back in the 1600s and has never left. He is rooted to this place, and in the heart of the island, in what feels like the middle of nowhere, he’s created a cultivated form of rainforest paradise.
Anthony himself is hugely personable and makes a great effort to speak with visitors when possible. He wandered down to the garden just as Matt and I were about to leave. A Germanophone tour group had arrived, and they were his mission. However, he had more time for us than I could have hoped. After enjoying some rum and a beer in his home with some friendly fellow Brits, Anthony had his photo taken with us and spent 15 minutes or so chatting. I am truly thankful for the insight he gave us into his gardening.
When you first reach the gates to the property, you’d be forgiven for wondering where you’d bothered going. It’s understated. You see palm trees – plentiful around Barbados – and a vibrant sign squashed beneath heavy black power lines.
Step over the threshold and the sense of something special begins to wash over you. There are industrial-looking, forlorn barns to your right, for sure, but to your left there’s a large taiche bowl (formerly for sugar production) used as a water feature. A colonial statue stands at its side. Anthony has created a small bed in the centre of the path – half-cobbled, half-gravel by the way – in which stands a narrow palm tree adored by more exotics at its feet. Already at this point, before paying, the abundance of “foreign” foliage is striking.
You take a left turn to pay the entrance fee, and are ushered first of all, guide sheet in hand, down the steep stone steps to the sinkhole below. Forget the guide for now – take in the breathtaking view before you.
Remember those commonplace palm trees you see from outside the boundaries? Well, they’re gigantic. They’re over 100 years old and go up and up. Even looking straight out from the top of the steps, all you see is their bare trunks. You still have to look upwards to find their leaves.
One of the best bits of this garden? No, not the classical music floating down from the house, although this does bring in an even greater sense of the surreal. For me, it’s the myriad little seating spaces Anthony has selected amongst the planting. There are a couple of spots as you descend the stairs. It’s permissible to bring a book and lose yourself in it and the garden for as long as it’s open. Thinking back, I could see myself doing just that. It’s imperative you walk along to each seating area. An excellent designer – which Anthony must be, naturally – positions these spaces with great intent. They highlight a view or a focal point. A specific feature such as a stream or waterfall may lend its soft melody to the space. As a keen plantsman, like Anthony, the designer may have used the seating area to showcase a particular range of notable plants.
As with other great gardens, pathways are marked out for you, and yet there are many routes to take. The garden conceals its secrets until you’ve explored every nook and cranny.
Much of the spectacle of Hunte’s Garden derives from the dazzling and well-blended array of foliage forms. This is the greatest aspect to take away. We can achieve so much splendour before even bringing in flowers. It’s a fact tropical plants really do underline boldly. The scale varies from tremendous, variegated begonia leaves down to spreading Adiantum cuneatum (Maidenhair fern).
Nevertheless, Anthony weaves in fantastic specimens that should be admired singly. What’s even more amazing about this, for someone from cooler climes, is just what plants are growing outside all year round. There are so many reds, oranges and yellows, really heating up the exoticness of the place.
- Hibicus rosa-sinensis – a red-flowered variety here which can reach up to 3 metres in height
- Justicia brandegreeana – “Shrimp plant” – here having yellowish bracts with white flowers, although the RHS says bracts should usually be ‘shrimp-pink’
- Anthurium – Anthony has hundreds, and informed us that he was awaiting a shipment of a couple of thousand more! He even grows a wonderful purple variety, found up near the house
- Guzmania musaica – a beautifully red-and-yellow bromeliad, like a beacon blazing out of dark green corners
- Dendrobium orchids can be found in lilac and pink, flitting above the beds and pots like exotic butterflies
- Nelumbo nucifera – Sacred lotus – another softly coloured flower, set in small container pools, waiting to be discovered by the roving eye
There were other species I found magnificent but have been unable to identify as yet, so won’t try sharing incorrect information!
The ancient soaring palm trees are testament to Anthony Hunte’s aesthetic eye, and the idea that we should work with what we’ve got, primarily. We could all acquire some land and, money-permitting, begin to tear down the trees and features which define the space. But that’s just it – such elements do define a place. If they don’t cause us problems, then they should be retained and cleverly incorporated into our new plans for our gardens.
The palms at Hunte’s Gardens couldn’t be replaced or replicated in any way; that’s often the case with the Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea) at the end of our driveway, or the Oak (Quercus robur) over the bottom of the garden wall.
Even the steep banking at the end of the garden is a unique feature. I’ve read books where gardeners have simply turned it into a woodland banking, or an alpine garden if rocky.
Never overlook the existing elements of your garden. Instead consider them as a source of inspiration and as historical links.
Which other gardens can you visit and find yourself walking leisurely from one country to another? Biddulph Grange is that garden. Of course, all gardens in modern times are a journey across continents. Even our most pedestrian suburban plots probably have several international guests. Rudbeckia […]