Girl Conquers the Earth!

by Tara Sinclair,

Well technically a woman embarks on some extreme allotment gardening, which doesn’t sound quite as interesting or exciting. But believe me it is.

I know nothing about gardening, but last year had a little go at growing vegetables at home- just a few random bits and bobs in the back garden. Thanks largely to the love and care that was lavished on the soil by its previous owners , my tomatoes and runner beans went bananas, and the mint was enough to supply mojitos for the whole summer. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory by the brassicas - I was only told to keep butterflies off, not snails out – but I don’t talk about those.

Nevertheless, buoyed up by my success, I decided that the very thing would be to get an allotment so that I could provide my family of five with lovely, fresh organic veg and fruit all year round. Grow your own veg!! Easy! I don’t know why everyone isn’t doing it!! Except it turned out that everyone is doing it. In my little village alone, the list for allotment is years long. Y.e.a.r.s.

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But then, as if by magic, the lady who keeps chickens up the road announced in the local paper that she was going to turn over some of her land for allotments. A sign, surely! So I grabbed one.

Oh oh. The first thing I learned is that just because grass grows in abundance, the ground is not ready for planting. There were huge heavy clods of baked earth (in England! Where is the rain?) and a ton of stones but worse – far worse – more able gardeners for neighbours that had rotovated and installed water butts by the time I had my first visit.

So I got some gardening books from the library, but I took an age to read them because with a full time job, a husband that also works and three kids, the only get time to sit down and read is in the evening. For the same reason, gardening classes just weren’t an option. I went to online forums to have a look around but everyone seemed to be in agreement that I had left it a bit too late to plant anything - and no one seemed to have a wilderness of an allotment to tame. How was I going to get to grips with the basics, fast? And how was I going to stick to such a daunting task, come rain or shine?

To solve the first problem I signed up for ‘Edible Gardening Made Easy’ with Alex Mitchell. I am just one tutorial in but I already got a compost bin, and have done my homework and discovered that my earth is predominantly clay. I am looking into suitable things I can plant. My kids are really excited to be helping out – especially with my homework – and my eldest Sam actually said that I don’t have to make helping out on the allotment part of his pocket money because he loves it and he’d do it for free. I could not make this up.

To solve the second problem – sticking with it – I have decided to write this blog and post regular updates and pictures. It will keep me honest. I am actually very nervous about this because a. I am not an expert, b. I think I really have left it a bit too late to plant things,’s a daunting task and d. I am having to make time in an already busy life to conquer the allotment.

But I must admit that I am excited by this daunting challenge. Not only because my kids are so very keen to take part but also because I think it will be a hugely satisfying to take this little careworn plot of land and turn it into a well-loved, productive allotment. I hope I’m not eating my words before I’m eating my vegetables.

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