Hello. My name is Emma. I live and work in London. Rent a small one bedroom flat with my boyfriend. Like many people our age we do not own our own home and have no outdoor space. And we are allotment holders.
I’m pretty sure were not alone. Allotments have seen a massive boom in past decade. Everyone wants to grow their own. Waiting lists across the UK are fit to burst. Our site alone has a closed waiting list with a predicted wait of at least 5 years. Things are changing fast. Allotment tending is no longer the preserve of the retired gent. With their rows of leeks and tatties. Much to the initial confusion of the ‘old boys’, younger people are taking over the neglected plots. It’s not easy, many drop out. Those that stick at it, like ourselves are head over hills with allotmenteering.
Working fulltime, weekends and snatched post-work summer evenings are all the quality time we get with our plot. Weather, commuting, transport problems and family commitment all get in the way. On an ideal weekend during the lighter months we put in around 12 hours work down 18a a weekend.
However the biggest obstacle we face is the logistics of indoor seed sowing. Our flat is on the ground floor in a block which has many mature trees and an east-west aspect. So most of the days light doesn’t enter our windows. A recipe for disaster! Cue the leggy weak seedlings. Although we have a coldframe down the plot it’s not always practical. I can’t control the temperatures or the elements whilst I’m at work. Can’t open first thing and close at night. A sudden change in weather to the sunny side can spell sudden death in the coldframe.
Our flat has has only 4 windows with narrow sills. So we have serious lack of space to sow seeds indoors. Add to that poor light and dark warm conditions and I’ve soon got leggy weak seedlings on my hands. Lack of access to plot during darker months of early spring is often frustrating especially with the wacky heat-waves we’ve had in March and April recently.
The last few months we’ve had a mental mix of Weather. Hail, torrential rain, gale-force winds and even a light frost! The cold-frame lid has been yo-yoing up a down. Fleece on fleece off. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! With night temperatures not unheard of dropping to below 5 and daytime bouncing back up to 15c. When the sun hits the cold-frame windows the Mercury can rise to 40c or more! If that wasn’t enough the pesky mice ate all my seeds I’d sow. Every last bean and sunflower seed.
With moving to a larger lighter flat and certainly the prospect of any garden space not on the horizon in the foreseeable future, what can we do to improve the situation?
As my dad always says “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” so chin up and keep calm and carry on! The main thing we can do to is to prevent rather than cure. That means more direct sowing to avoid some of the indoor sowing problems. Leaving my cucumbers, squashes and courgettes sowings until later in May, raising under clouche. We’ve made sowings in early June in the past that have caught up with their spring indoor sown sisters quickly enough in the past. Sowing in situ under cloches if need and hopefully a future investment in a greenhouse or poly tunnel all will help.
No one said it was easy growing your own. So fellow allotmenteers, how does your garden grow?