So you want to take on an allotment to grow vegetables in the U.K?
Sounds like a simple enough concept, but there is a catch. The allotment world is a world in itself, with its own allotment society, complete with finicky rules and regulations and odd characters that look like they’ve popped out of an old ‘Famous Five’ book.
The competition is fierce, maybe even fiercer than formula one teams competing with each other. If you happen to grow a prize vegetable, be prepared to be under the glare of envious eyes. Even worse, if you happen to be a newbie, it’s like strolling into a prison yard as a new ‘fish’. You’ll have to pick your side, pedigree cow fertiliser or non-pedigree cow fertiliser gangs? You’ll be sized up by weather beaten allotment dwellers who are seasoned veterans, squinting at you whilst silently chewing on a matchstick and resting their chins on spade handles . . . just waiting to tell you just what you should be doing and what you’re doing wrong.
However, there is good news. Alan & Juliette Baker, who are seasoned vegetable allotment keepers have agreed to step out from behind the rows of cabbages and allotment red tape to present some down-to-earth, no nonsense, real world advice to anyone daring to enter the strange and bizarre world of ‘The Allotment’.
1) Never listen to the expert. There is always one, sometimes more.
2) Don’t light a bonfire and then leave the site. The wind will almost certainly change direction and annoy someone.
3) Never place a Buddhist statue on your plot as everyone will consider you to be a bit strange and they are probably correct.
4) Ignore the “one season wonders”, people who, despite great enthusiasm never last more than one season.
5) Never borrow someone else’s equipment, e.g. a spade, as you are bound to break the handle.
6) Try not to laugh at plot holders who grow thousands of potatoes, but be quietly amused and wonder what they do with them all.
7) If you plant rows of veg in the opposite direction from other plot holders be prepared for funny looks.
8 ) Should you decide to grow unusual crops, for instance grape vines, be prepared to be told it is not possible. Just go ahead and prove the critics wrong,
9) Deciding to grow flowers instead of vegetables can be dangerous! Someone will spread the rumour that you are supplying flower shops for cash and avoiding V.A.T and taxes.
10) Avoid all disputes and never say that manure from pedigree cows is better than non pedigree cows. Someone will always take it seriously.
We have experienced all 10 of the above points. In conclusion, stay friendly with all your fellow gardeners, even the experts and the occasional genius and “whatever you say, say nothing.”
Alan & Juliette Baker