A novice's guide to producing his own food

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It may look greenish, but the allotment is essentially barren.

Winter is fast approaching, and my little allotment is starting to look a lot like it did when I took it over in March. Most of the ground is barren and unproductive. At its peak there were four or five crops on the go at one time, now there are only a couple – Brussel sprouts and winter lettuce. Both are coming along nicely, and I should have a mountain of sprouts to put on the Christmas table.  

In a small corner where the onions were, I’ve planted a couple of rows of turnips which seem to be taking off. Like the sprouts, they’re slow-growing, and I expect it’ll be spring before they’re big enough to eat.  

As for the other beds, they’re either empty, or covered in a blanket of clover and mustard plants, which I’m growing as green manure. They’ll be dug in over the next couple of weeks.  

Apart from that, it’s really a case of keeping on top of  the weeds and preparing for 2010. I have big plans for the spring, and if all goes well, I’ll be really busy. The biggest allotment on the site hasn’t been attended to for some time, and I’ve expressed an interest in it. It’s three times the size of my current plot, and has a shed too. It’d be absolutely ideal, and will keep me busy. At the moment, Janek and I go down to the allotment on average once a week. However, if I get this new space, we’ll need to put in two or three visits. I’m happy with that, but finding the time is causing a little bit of anxiety. Even Janek has expressed reservations, and thinks I’m a little mad.  

Should I keep the same allotment, then there will be big changes there too. There’s a small area of land adjacent to the plot proper, which I’ve covered in  weed fabric. Hopefully, I’ll be able to set up a small 6×4 greenhouse, that I got for free from Tesco using my Clubcard points, and the intention is to grow tomatoes and cucumbers.  

My plans for the top corner, are even bigger. I’ve cleared a space for beehives! This new venture of mine is probably worthy of a blog in itself. This time next year I hope to have about 30 or so jars of honey which I’ll either keep for my family, give away, or use to make mead.  

I’ve joined the East Of Scotland Beekeepers (, and have been given a couple of Smith hives. No bees yet, but the association should be addressing the issue of getting swarms to folk like me. Beekeeping has become as trendy as hell, as there are quite a few folk who want to take it up. Combine that with the diseases that a ravaging apiaries, and you have a distinct shortage of bees. Hopefully, it’ll all be sorted out in the spring.  

And that’s about it. I’ve come to the end of my first year as an allotmenteer, and I must admit it’s been fantastic. It is the first obsession to really grab hold of me since I got a PC in 1996, and there’s no sign of it abating. I can’t wait for spring, and to get cracking on growing stuff for 2010. Until then…

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