This year we decided to consolidate a lot of our growing and seedling starting at home. That meant creating a new grow room in the conservatory and new grow lights in the garage and conservatory too. It’s been a bit of a learning experience, but Debbie and I are very happy with the results. I’m really looking forward to spending a year really fine tuning how to grow with lights and to use them to push the boundaries.
Spider Farmer kindly gifted us the lights we have in the conservatory (Spider Farmer Grow Light, SF-1000), Mars Hydro gifted is the ones that are in the garage (SP 150 Led Grow Lights Full Spectrum). If you are interested in them, you can find the links in the FAQ document as well as links to the seed suppliers we use, the Bluetooth thermometers and the temperature controlled plug socket.
If you have questions, we have a FAQ document and video, which you can find here: https://steves.seasidelife.com/2020/01/20/allotmentfaq/
If you are new to my allotment videos you might find a bit of context useful. We live in the north west of England, in Lytham St Annes, which I believe is the equivalent of USA Zone 8. Fairly mild, but very windy.
For more details on the databases that I use to manage my allotment, check out these two blog posts https://steves.seasidelife.com/category/airtable/
We have three allotments in my family, mine (Steve), my wife’s (Debbie) and my middle daughter’s (Jennie). We also have a small kitchen garden at home. They are all managed in an integrated fashion, so don’t expect to see the usual mix of veg on each plot. I do most of the planning and seed starting. We each have our own plots, but we all help each other out.
Jennie’s plot has been designed as a traditional allotment, but we put a lot of focus on minimising the work we do there. It’s basically a plant and forget it plot, full of garlic, leeks, onions, beetroot, brassicas, squash, beans and fruit trees. It’s heavily mulched to reduce weeds and to reduce the need water.
Debbie’s plot is mostly full of perennials, it’s an ornemental plot. Again we did a lot of work to keep the weeds down and Debbie’s approach is inspired by the TV programme The Ornamental Kitchen garden.
My plot is all about experimental growing, maximum productivity and year round abundance. As with all of the other plots I did a lot of work to control the weeds, but it’s a high maintenance plot. I’m always planting, harvesting, experimenting and generally having a great time.
Collectively the plots deliver an amazing abundance of fruit and veg all year round. Debbie, Jennie, Jon and I are effectively self sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit for much of the year. During winter we sometimes have enough surplus to feed our local family. During the rest of the year when the surplus from our house garden comes on stream we have surpluses in some crops for quite a few friends as well.
This video provides an overview:
I do an update of the allotments, roughly twice a month, you can find the tours here:
Our approach to allotment life is to: grow as much as we possibly can, to be self-sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit in season, to give away our surplus to friends and family, and to have as much fun as possible. For more on self sufficiency check out these videos:
We are not slaves to gardening though, I spend about 14 hours a week on the plots (on average) Debbie and Jennie a lot less. We keep nudging that down as we eliminate non-productive work: like grass cutting, weeding and watering as much as practical. We are both newbie gardeners, only starting the allotments in 2016.
I’m a bit obsessive about the nutrient density of the veg that we grow and making the plots easy to work because it’s through this allotment lifestyle and food that I’ve overcome a debilitating auto-immune disease.
I’m always aware though that it might not last so I make sure that I don’t work too hard, eat as much organic fruit and veg I can and design the plots so that I can still work them when I flare up.