January 1st 2004

I took on the allotment in May last year. It is situated at Tangmere, near Chichester in sunny West Sussex and is about 5 miles from Bognor Regis on the South Coast.

If you click on the little photos, most will open larger so that you can see more detail.
The site is part of what used to be Tangmere Airfield, used by the RAF in WW2 and next to the allotments is Tangmere Aircraft Museum so you may see some of the static planes or a helicopter in the background of pictures from my plot.

  There are about 20 allotments of "full plot" or "half plot" size on the site. Mine is a half plot - supposedly 5 rods (haven't been able to find out exactly what that should equate to either in yards or metres). Actually it is about 28 x 45 feet.
  The site is not securely fenced and has a public footpath running along two sides. We are not allowed to have sheds on our plots, which would be a target for vandals anyway, but there is a double garage sized communal shed that is reasonably secure.


There is water supplied to 3 standpipes along one side of the site.
  The area is very flat, we have trees along one side of the site, a large aircraft hangar protects half of another side from winds, and a bramble hedge along a third side. Mine is not one of the more sheltered plots.

When I got the allotment last year my three sons were very excited and begged to have their own pieces of ground. I agreed and divided about a third of my space into 9 beds and gave them 3 each. After helping them to clear the ground for their beds and initial planting, their interest waned, with only one of them accompanying me fairly regularly to the site.
Of the remaining space I dug over and planted half, the rest which was more overgrown, I removed large weeds and the remains of the previous allotmenter's crops from, but it is still to have a really good sort out.

  My husband acquired 5 pallets and made me two compost "bays", one of which has been filled and is hopefully cooking away nicely. He made me a bench which is in the other bay. A welcome place to rest between jobs and some shelter from the wind. I would like to extend these bays across the side of the plot (another 3 bays) to house more compost and manure, and for the bit of wind protection they provide to the plot. I also have a water butt.

  When we started digging the boys' beds I had the idea that raised beds would be a good idea. They would look neater, discourage the boys from walking on the plants and be easier for them to maintain. As I didn't have anything to edge them with, after digging the area over and getting all of the weeds out we dug paths and piled the earth onto the beds, flattening the tops. This was mistake No.1. The plot gets quite severely blasted by wind and I had just raised the beds into the path of it!

  What we planted last year, with notes on our sucess and otherwise:
  • French and runner beans - from plants donated. Reasonable crop, not very popular with the family.

  • Sweetcorn - from bought young plants. Grew well but when harvested few of the kernels had grown, leaving them looking very "motheaten"

  • Tomatoes - from bought young plants, several varieties. Terrific crop!

  • Leeks - from bought young plants. Good crop.

  • Courgettes - from bought young plants. Courgettes coming out of our ears! Particularly liked the yellow variety.

  • Beetroot - from seed, sown direct. Poor crop and what there was very small and woody.

  • Peppers - from bought young plants. Reasonable crop, one son particularly enjoyed growing these.

  • Cabbages - from plants donated. Ok, but problems with bird damage.

  • Red Cabbage - from plants donated. Ok, but problems with bird damage.

  • Sunflowers - from seed, sown direct. Terrific!

  • Basil - from seed, sown direct. Few germinated, but the plants that did were good and had a great flavour.

  • Kohl Rabi - from seed, sown direct. Only one germinated!

  • Savoury - from bought young plants. Great, but I'm the only one who likes it!

  • Borage - from bought young plants. I bought this at a plant sale, nice flowers that attracted insects.

  • Comfrey - from bought young plant. Grew well and I had several cuttings of the leaves to make "comfrey tea" to use as a fertiliser.

  • Florence Fennel - from bought young plants. Good growth but very stringy.

  • Rocket - from bought young plants. Again great, but I'm the only one who likes it!

  • Brussel Sprouts - from plants donated. Problems with bird damage (they disappeared!).

  • Curly Kale - from plants donated. Good.

  • Lettuce - from seed, sown direct. Terrific, but bolted quickly.

  • Onions - from seed, sown direct. Did germinate sparsely and then vanished.

  • Spring Onions - from seed, sown direct. Germinated well but didn't grow very much, good for sandwiches though.

  • Carrots - from seed, sown direct. Poor germination, very small.

  • Broccoli - from seed. Didn't germinate.

  • Peas - from seed, sown direct. Pigeons had 'em before they got off the ground!

  • Potatoes - I thought I was too late to plant potatoes, but had some that had sprouted in the kitchen which I cut with one eye per piece and planted. Really great crop and very enjoyable to grow and harvest.

Like everyone last year (and probably every year), no doubt some of the failures could be put down to the weather.
The bird damage occured before I'd really realised that they were going to be a problem - I have a good supply of netting to use this year.

  I bought in small plants when I found them, mostly at reduced prices as it was quite late in the season. This year I hope to grow most things from seed.
I think that the wind and the raised beds would account for the poor results from growing from seed. The poor little seedlings really didn't stand much of a chance. I'm sowing most things at home this year and hoping this will give them a better chance.
Other poor results were solely down to my lack of knowledge and experience.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the allotment and we did have bumper crops of tomatoes, courgettes which kept us going for months (and we're still enjoying tomato chutney!) and the potatoes were wonderful.

  A period of ill health for the latter part of the year kept me away from the allotment so I haven't yet planted the onion sets, garlic and broad beans that I would have liked to get in the ground before winter set in. But, now recovered, they will be the first things I get in this year.

For 2004
I'm working on my plan for this year, basing it on things I know we'll like to eat, and getting the whole plot into production.

  I want to grow green manure whenever there is spare ground and to continue to grow organically. I do not use herbicides or insecticides or chemical fertilisers. I believe that it is possible to get good crops from careful soil management and returning plant waste, as compost and manure, to the ground.
I'm particularly going to try to reduce the watering, using mulches.

I hope that sharing my exploits this year will provide interesting reading and welcome your comments and suggestions on my efforts.
For first time allotment holders - or if you are just thinking of acquiring one - I hope you will see that if I can grow things, you can too.