Farmer Liz: Tell me about your garden and climate
It can also rain here – a lot. Though it’s mainly the winter months that are the wettest, last summer was a complete washout for all of Britain. Heavy flooding and continuous rain kept many people indoors and our allotment was pretty much abandoned from June onwards. There are places in the world where rain is seen as a blessing and a chance to fill reservoirs and tanks but here you just hope it drains from the land and makes its way to the sea quickly. The positive side to all this precipitation is that our predominantly clay soil latches on to the moisture and if your plants are mulched well you never have to water them, even after long days of summer sunshine. Being this far north means that in the summer the sun can rise before 5am and set close to 10pm.
|Tanya's allotment garden beds ready for planting|
FL: When and why did you start growing your own?
T: Having a garden was always something we had at home growing up. Though my mother’s efforts weren’t the most successful, both my Grandmothers and my Great Grandfather had fabulous gardens overflowing with peas, beetroot, potatoes, Swiss Chard, and the rest of the usual suspects. Children might not seem like they’re learning much from digging up new potatoes or helping weed (i.e. destroy) the onions but these experiences really do sink in. After nearly two decades of avoiding getting dirt under my manicured fingernails I was drawn back and have been passionately growing for the past five years. For me, growing is both an interest as well as a way to ensure that our produce is organic, clean, and has low food miles.
T: As the secretary of our allotment association I’ve seen more than a few enthusiastic people start up work only to give up and toss in the spade after only a few months. I think it’s because a lot of beginners don’t anticipate how much hard work it is combined with setting up unrealistic expectations for their first year. The glut of gardening programmes showing perfectly weeded and productive gardens with Alan Titchmarsh or Monty Don effortlessly plucking raspberries in freshly pressed Chinos doesn’t help the matter. My recommendation is to get stuck in to a small area and grow veggies that are easy, that produce quickly, are resistant to disease, and that you enjoy eating. If you have the opportunity to grow on a larger piece of land it will also give you the opportunity to observe it for a year to see what opportunities and challenges you might have to contend with when you eventually start growing there.
FL: What are your top 5 favourite easy and productive plants for beginners to grow?
T: Lettuce – it’s dead easy to grow from seed and will give you produce you can take home to the table in no time. In winter you can even grow ‘Cut and Come Again’ lettuce in seed trays in the house.
New potatoes – don’t mess around with maincrops in your first year if your area is known to suffer from blight. New potatoes crop before blight becomes an issue so are both delicious and something to count on.
|Jerusalem artichoke shoots - beware!|
Gavin of the Greening of Gavin
Ohio Farmgirl from Adventures in the Goodland
Emma from Craving Fresh