IN a new column for the In Season platform I will be reporting once a month on The Journal’s shiny new allotment plot at Gibside. The plot will be cultivated by Sue Adamson, the kitchen gardener at Gibside, and her gardening buddy Judy Summerson, who shares the allotment. I will report on the highs and lows of this fruitful new venture as well as bringing you our top tips for allotment gardening.
I meet Sue, the kitchen gardener at Gibside, on a cold, frosty February morning.
We take a wander through the allotment plots in the historic Walled Garden which all look remarkably neat compared with my garden (which looked very pretty in the snow but once that had melted revealed a big mess that I’d failed to tidy up last autumn).
Sue has been preparing the plot for The Journal that she will cultivate over the year with her allotment buddy, Judy Summerson, while I report on the plot’s progress and also pass on top tips for allotment gardening.
The medium-sized plot, which is just over nine metres by four metres, is perfect for a family, Sue tells me. At the moment it looks very bare with only a few strawberry plants and some herbs, but throughout the course of the year, it will be turned into a hive of production where we’ll grow some delicious seasonal food.
If you’ve only tried your hand at growing a few bits of veg, or fancy giving it a go, but don’t have an allotment, don’t despair. You can grow seasonal food in your own garden – in the ground or in tubs – no matter what space you have. Even if you live in a flat and don’t have a garden, there are ways and means.
A couple of years ago the National Trust estimated that the North East’s 78,000 flats had 19 acres of growing space on their window sills – that’s a lot of window boxes which are perfect for growing salad leaves or herbs.
Preparing the soil
I’m at Gibside today to learn about the first steps of allotment gardening – preparing the soil and creating a compost bin.
Many people prepare the soil in autumn or early winter but it’s not too late to start now. Preparing the soil means enriching it with nutrients, so once you’ve allocated your growing area, get some muck down. Horse manure is the best or you can buy bags of manure from a garden centre.
Spread a layer a couple of inches thick on top of the soil and cover it with black plastic, taking care to secure the edges with pegs or stones. In the event of heavy rain the plastic stops the nutrients washing through the soil. It also keeps it dry and warm, ready for cultivation later.