Our first year on plot 25 was a strange one. We were so lucky to space to visit & grow in the midst of a global pandemic in 2020. It gave me a sanctuary to escape to when I needed a break from the chaos that is homeschooling four primary aged children. It gave us all a space to escape to, and enjoy in the warm summer months, when lots of bugs and insects were to be found and lots of fruit and vegetables were waiting to be harvested. The children loved the fruits, the strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. They also loved picking the flowers, digging up the potatoes and harvesting the green beans.

Even though we have had an allotment previously, I learnt lots this year, here are some of the changes I want to make for the 2021 growing season.

Eating for sustainability.

2020 sustainability achievements.

One of the many, many goals I had in mind when starting an allotment was to provide a way for our family to eat more sustainably.

The sad truth is that a packet of biscuits costs less than cabbage in the supermarket, and that’s a bog-standard cabbage, not an organic cabbage. Our Sunday dinners usually comprise of around 4-5 different veg, and the cost quickly adds up. Our allotment provided most of our Sunday dinner veg from June right through until November and is still supplementing us (and our 7 happy hens) with some of our 5-a-day in January.

Eating from our allotment cut down our recycling in the 2020 season, and we found ways to reuse our recycling too. From growing seedlings in old brown mushroom trays to collecting raspberries and strawberries in ice cream tubs.

The only food miles our crops did, was the journey through the post to our home in their seed packets and the journey home from my allotment in my wheelbarrow Furthermore, and perhaps best of all, they are all grown as organically, without any added chemicals.

2021 sustainability aims.

I think the one big thing I learnt from our first season, is that to produce more of our own food we need to change the way we eat. I walk around supermarkets, wearing my face mask (a sign of the times) and when I see a cucumber in December I realise that we really do take for granted the food we see in the shops, and the amount of damage that does to the environment. Supply and demand, being met at any cost for financial gain. Having four young and picky eaters, I have always been grateful for the choice offered in supermarkets, and cucumbers have been practically a staple in our lunchboxes throughout the year. To change the way we eat this will involve some creativity in the kitchen as well as the allotment – and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog.

This year I have added lots more seasonal veg to our ‘to try’ list, especially during the winter months to make the most of the second growing season. We are very guilty in previous shop-bought years to stick to cheaper, more well know vegetables and to shun the more expensive, lesser know vegetables, partly for financial reasons. More unusual stars of the allotment in 2020 have been Crown Prince squash, Uchiki Kuri squash, celeriac (given by a plot neighbour) and beetroot. I have a list of things to try this year including

pak choi
callaloo
chicory
more kale
sorrel
salsify
spinach
wild garlic
turnip
fennel
kohlrabi
borlotti beans
Jerusalem artichokes
oca
asparagus (will be a long wait)

The first challenge will be growing them, the second will be to make them the stars of the show in the kitchen.

Grow what you eat.

This is the advice I read the most before starting my plot and I am slowly beginning to translate it. In 2020 I grew lots of smaller pumpkins for the children. I thought they would be nice to decorate with around Halloween and then eat in the colder months. Then I tasted Crown Prince and Uchiki Kuri squash, and the flavour just isn’t comparable. This year, I want to grow more squash, but for flavour & size rather than looks.

I also plan to preserve more (and less) than I did last year. We made lots of Jam, but we have barely touched the supply we have made, so I plan to freeze more fruit and make into something different this year. We grew enough green beans to freeze a few portions, but ate these so quickly that by October we were back to buying green beans. This year I want to grow enough to supply us for the full year, and also expand on variety so I have some to dry/freeze for the winter.

Growing for the community

The other big plan for this year was to take on some allotment space from our local community charity plot that was completely overgrown last year. I want to care for the space and to see if I could provide some fresh vegetables and flowers for the charity to sell to our local community, as well as provide a little extra habitat for the bees and pollinators and a little more veg for our family. As it stands now at the end of January, how well that happens depends on homeschooling and also my health, but I am hopeful I can make a difference, however small.

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