The allotment

Through ways that are too convoluted to bother detailing, I’ve got access to part of an allotment at the moment. Have done for a couple of months, but didn’t get around to writing about it here. Needless to say, someone was struggling to keep their allotment up to the standards of the rest of the members (because a whole allotment plot is absolutely enormous), and had to do something about it – so they’ve kind-of sublet it.

This is good, because this year, I decided to plant far more than would actually fit into my garden. I had runner beans, sunflowers and sweetcorn growing in pots, with absolutely nowhere to put them. Then suddenly, I did.

Growing in an allotment is quite different to growing in my garden. Obviously there’s more room, but despite how this section apparently was very untidy, it wasn’t that difficult to put right. For one, unlike my garden, you don’t need a pick-axe to dig a hole. You don’t pull up bricks every 2 minutes, and there’s no clay really.

So what was planted?


‘Giant’ sunflowers
‘Dwarf’ sunflowers
1 courgette plant
4-5 runner bean plants
4 sweetcorn plants
4 French bean plants

How are they doing?

These things were all planted on 3rd July (2 months ago). That means the stuff growing in my allotment plot has only been there for 2 months.

The plants and sunflowers had been sat in pots in my garden for a bit too long. The ‘giant’ sunflowers didn’t grow very tall. The French beans had hardly been watered, and didn’t survive.

Aside from that, they’ve all done spectacularly well. When you consider that I can’t just go outside and check on stuff, it’s quite incredible the difference planting in actual soil makes. This seems like the time for a few photographic examples.

‘Dwarf’ Sunflowers

All these were grown from seed (of course), and all started at the same time. They were all growing in pots at home, and I took two of these to the allotment and re-planted them in the ground.


23rd July - at home
7th August - at allotment
7th August - at allotment

The two plants I took thrived, in their new soil. While the ones at home are fine, the ones I planted in the ground grew greener, and had a lot more flowers (the ones at home grew 2-3 flowers maximum).

Runner Beans

The “Lady Di” variety, referred to as “the people’s runner bean” (but probably only by me) was all planted in trays, then transplanted into bigger pots. Some went into my garden in quite a lot of compost (around 30cm of compost depth), with 4-5 plants sharing that. I did a second lot in a large pot, then ran out of space (and pots), and left some of them in tiny pots for ages. Too long. Some of these were then relocated to the allotment and planted in actual soil.

4th September - at home (set A)
4th September - at home (set B)
3rd September - at allotment

So set A aren’t dead yet, set B are OK, but the allotment ones have clearly done best. The plants are greener, have flowered more, grown more beans, and those beans are larger. The ones at the allotment are still flowering and producing more, whereas the ones at home look like they’re on the way out. Having cooked some last night, in comparison to some from the garden cooked a few days ago, I’d also say the allotment ones taste nicer too.


I didn’t plant either of these, but it’s essentially the same as the ones above. Grown from seed (planted at the same time), the one at home in the pot has gone from trays, to larger and larger pots. The one plant at the allotment was sharing the pot the home one is currently in, and chucked into some soil.

4th September - at home
7th August - at allotment

Now before you say “ah but those pictures were taken a month apart”, I should add that the plant at the allotment is probably now 50% larger than that picture, and showing no signs of stopping growing.

The plant at home has produced one reasonable-sized courgettes. The plant at the allotment had produced one, then two a few weeks after that, then yesterday (about another three weeks after) another three – two at normal supermarket size, and one absolute whopper. See:

3rd September - harvested from allotment

The rest of the allotment?

The carrots are nearly there. Picked two yesterday and they were very nice. They might be slightly small, but the fact that there was any after two months (when I had none at home for at least three months), is quite impressive.

The pea plants have peas on. Again, in just two months. At home, I propped the plants up with twigs and bean canes. At the allotment, I hadn’t built any structure for them to grow up. Despite that, there were a small number of pods ready for picking yesterday.

The sweetcorn plants at the allotment were much the same as the rest above. That is, grown in tiny pots too long, and taken to the allotment when they were looking half dead. While it’s a bit shorter than the stuff at home, it has the same amount of sweetcorn on it at similar sizes. In fact, the allotment stuff is looking like it might be ready to be picked, sooner. The stuff at home is growing in a mixture of soil, compost, and well rotted manure. The stuff at the allotment is growing in whatever was already in the existing soil.

The other people on the allotment I’m subletting have been occasionally watering my plants, but not obsessively. Because I can’t just open the back door and see what things are growing like, the stuff at home probably gets watered quicker, when it’s drying out.

The soil at the allotment is definitely different. Maybe it has had compost worked into it every year by a previous tenant. I just don’t know. Weeds certainly grow a lot quicker. There’s more thistles to remove on every visit (am visiting it about once a fortnight). The things growing at home in pots have been grown in a variety of different peat-free composts (and several of them are not much more than tree bark), mixed with a tiny amount of garden soil (because my garden soil is mostly breeze blocks and clay). Some of my garden has been dug up, and some plants gone directly into the soil. Even in clay, the results seem to be generally better than is produced from potted plants. Maybe it’s a lack of nutrients or water (or they need more depth than my faux terracotta containers can give), but growing stuff in pots is much more work.

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