Chatting allotments with Southbourne Gardens

This week we caught up with Victoria, avid allotment-grower and the mind behind Southbourne Gardens. We talk about all the benefits and advice for starting up an allotment, as well as a delicious insight into some great ideas on storing fresh produce! Have a read of our interview below.

Our interview with Southbourne Gardens

1. What made you decide that you wanted to run your own allotment having had no previous gardening experience?

When I was a growing up in Weston-super-Mare, we used to drive past a local allotment site and I was always fascinated by it. This came back to me later in life and suddenly I found myself with the time so it seemed ideal. My mother was also quite a keen gardener, mainly growing soft fruit. We had strawberries for tea every summer evening and our sideboard at home was always full of bottled blackcurrants, jams and chutneys to keep us going through the winter. I was keen to carry this on.

2. What advice could you give to someone who is thinking of owning their own allotment?

Plan, plan and plan some more! Think about how much time you have available and what you want to get out of it. Being close to the site is important and don’t be afraid to start small - my first premise was that I’d grow some herbs to cook with but now, six years on, we grow ten varieties of fruit, lots of summer vegetables and flowers for cutting.

3. How much planning and maintenance goes into owning an allotment?

I’d turn this around and say only take on what you can reasonably manage. Most sites will be able to offer quarter or half plots so if you only have a couple of hours at the weekend this is ideal. Also, some crops take far less maintenance than others in terms of protection and watering and this is really worth thinking about if you can’t easily get there during the week.

4. You grow flowers, herbs, fruit, and vegetables on your allotment. How much of what you grow goes into homemade recipes?

We don’t have a huge freezer so what we pick is eaten quite quickly. We roast or griddle a lot of vegetables, either to eat on their own or go in salads. Soups are also a favourite, as are pasta sauces and then with fruit it’s likely to be a compote or jam if we’re not eating it fresh.

5. Do you have a favourite recipe using the produce from your plot?

If I’m bringing a lot of produce back from the plot it has to be something quick and simple - a fruit compote fits the brief perfectly. Washed fruit into a pan with a little sugar heated gently until cooked. Store in the fridge in clean glass jars. I love this on yoghurt for breakfast or in a crumble or pie.

6. What do you do with leftover crops that you can’t use?

Despite careful planning, at some point in the growing season you’ll end up with more produce than you can reasonably use. This is especially true of things like courgettes and lettuce that cannot be frozen or easily preserved. Other plot holders are normally in the same position so we give any surplus to friends and neighbours.

7. Do you have any tips or tricks for getting the most out of allotments?

It takes time and effort to run a successful allotment, if you’re making that investment it’s important to enjoy it. The best advice we were given when starting out is ‘little and often’, so it doesn’t become a chore. Also, be involved, get to know your fellow allotment holders. We’ve made some great friends and there’s usually barbecues and plants swaps throughout the season that you can take part in.

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