A novice's guide to producing his own food

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Finally … we start

With no firm plans about how to lay out the allotment, let alone what to plant, I nonetheless felt I had to do something positive.  My excitement over the past few days was getting on the entire family’s nerves, and I was itching to get going. 

But what? I decided that despite my complete lack of allotment knowledge, there was one thing I could do – dig. Surely I couldn’t go wrong with that. It’s a given that every allotment owner spends most of their time sinking a spade into the ground, and turning over soil. 

So I set off with three of the kids – Kurt, Janek and Anya – and an assortment of spades and rakes. Everyone (not just me) seemed enthusiastic, and all were keen to do a spot of hard graft. 

Despite appearances, Anya, Janek and Kurt were keen to get involved

Despite appearances, Anya, Janek and Kurt were keen to get involved


I decided (wrongly, as I would discover later) that we would dig two long strip-like beds to plant potatoes. Each would run the entire width of the plot (about five metres). 

Kurt and Janek eagerly grabbed a spade each, and started turning over the soil according to my master plan, while Anya busied herself pulling up weeds wherever she could find them. As for me? Well, I would occasionally commandeer a spade to hurry the process along, but apart from that, I was basically the “gaffer”. Brilliant! It was almost as if I planned it that way. 

Within an hour, the work was done, and we stood back to admire our handiwork. The beds were dug, but they were so crooked, I felt slightly ashamed. What would my fellow, infinitely-more-experienced allotment-growers say when they saw our efforts? 

“Ach, what-the-heck, if they don’t like it, that’s their problem,” I said to myself by way of reassurance. At least the soil’s turned over ready for some spuds. 

Our two skinny beds were ready in an hour

Our two skinny beds were ready in an hour

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Size isn’t everything …

So, I’ve taken charge of a new allotment. Well, to be honest, it’s half an allotment, not the full deal at all. But let me explain.  

I was painting over a pen mark on my gable end (grrrr!) and shooting the breeze with Roy, a neighbour of mine in Monifieth, who’d just retired. He told me he’d just been given an allotment. Wowser, I thought, I’ve been after one of those bad boys for a while. The idea had appealed to me for years (before they became extremely trendy, I hasted to add), and I’d made all the correct official moves, but to no avail. I was told the waiting list was very long. But here was Roy who had just been handed one. Just like that. Minimum effort required! 

Just as this fact was starting to gnaw its way into the part of my brain labelled “Jealous Feelings”, Roy said, “Why don’t you have half of mine? It’s too much for me.” I couldn’t believe my luck! He offered to drive me down, and I’d almost jumped into his car still holding the paintbrush. 

This is how I found my allotment. Not too bad. Could have been much worse.

This is how I found my allotment. Not too bad. Could have been much worse.


The allotments are on the edge of Monifieth, about half a mile from my gaff. And I must admit, I couldn’t contain my excitement at finally getting a plot. There was a joyous post on Facebook within the hour. 

As you can see, it ain’t huge, there’s no greenhouse, no shed, no compost heaps, just a an irregular plot. But it was mine! All mine! 

And then almost immediately, another thought, started to creep into my cerebellum – what do I do next? How do I go about turning this blank canvas into something green and productive? Time to get my thinking cap on, and start asking questions

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Before we begin …

Hi, I recently took charge of an allotment, and I’m going chart my progress here.

If you know anything about this subject, I can already hear you groaning – “Jesus wept. Not another pseudo-guru banging on about the best way to grow veg.”

Well, you’d be wrong. This blog is different for one reason only. I know sod(!)-all about the subject, I’m a complete novice, and never planted anything in my life. In fact, I think I even missed school on the day my class sprinkled seeds on wet kitchen roll.

And I’m hoping to turn this to my advantage. Allotments are now all the rage, and there are dozens of experts out there who tell us green is the new black, and how to go about making the most of our gardens. (if I sound a tad angry, just check out Gardener’s World, BBC2, Friday. Plenty of helpful info, but squirmingly presented.)

I, however, intend to present a diary of someone who starts of as a complete novice and blooms (geddit?) into yet another know-it-all.