What inspired you to become an allotment gardener? Was it your parents, money, or maybe just a spontaneous idea?
For me it was an illness.
I am Hazel, and I am a coeliac and have been since diagnosed back in 2003.
When I was diagnosed many did still not know coeliac disease, the gluten free diet I had to follow was confused with the F-plan diet and “low carb” crazes. It was a diet that many didn’t realise was keeping me from being very ill.
Gluten free food wasn’t easily available, I was told by my dietician “you can no longer eat bread, cakes, pasta and cereal but eat plenty of fruit and vegetables with some meat, fish and dairy, and then the golden rules;
(1) "Food shouldn’t be boring or tasteless," and (2) "cook and bake your own" and (3) 'Grow your own”.
I have always from a very early age grown plants and flowers and I have been lucky to be brought up with access to a garden and allotment so when I was faced with cooking lots of fresh foods the obvious and cheapest way was to grow my own.
I needed space, greenhouse, patience and love and I was lucky because I had them. I had a garden with fruit trees and enough space to dig a patch big enough to grow vegetables. I considered getting an allotment alongside my dad’s, but for a start I kept the new challenge close to home with ‘My plot’
I started with herbs for flavour then salad leaves progressing through the years to roots, alliums, brassicas and legumes and more recently to soft fruit canes.
Each year I set myself a challenge of growing something different.
Gardeners need to be patient enough to practise, as not all years are the same. One has to be prepared for crop failure due to climate or disease but on the brighter side come late summer you are picking your crops in abundance and the freezing and cooking duties take over.
Besides eating fresh, I grow tomatoes for puree, chutneys, soup and sauce
I grow beetroot, courgettes and sweet potato for baking in cakes.
I grow pears, apples, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries for jams, tarts, and pies.
And of course the herbs are grown to use both fresh, and dried to add to root vegetables grown for stews casseroles and soups.
At the end of the season when my freezer is well stocked. Being a true Yorkshire lass I look back at the cost and find the outlay is considerably less for me to grow all these vegetables and fruit full of vitamins and taste.
I hate seeing high priced vegetables in the supermarkets.
My personal advice to any new gardener is to start on a small scale even if it is in pots, tubs or growbags or miniature plastic greenhouse/cloches and to start with salad vegetables and herbs.
Follow the advice and videos of what Jerry and Phyll get up to on the 'allotment gardener' and soon you should be telling them where they went wrong. Trial and error in the garden is rewarding so don’t be afraid to try it your way too.