Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Zero food miles

Being vegan, our meals are generally composed of vegetables, grains and either nuts/seeds or pulses. Since we're trying to cut down on grains we're eating even more vegetables and fruit than we used to. As a result, we buy a lot of veg, some of which we buy organic from Abel & Cole and the rest of which we buy at the supermarket. We used to get locally grown veg delivered, but the quality was very poor and we got sick of throwing half of it away.

We've always wanted to grow our own food, but have struggled with vegetables due to a lack of space in the garden. Not that our garden is small, but it's full of perennials and I've always been loathe to give up my flowers to make space for veg. We've been on the allotment waiting list since Ian moved to Exeter and last Friday we got one. It's on Hospital Lane - just across the main road from our house and only a three minute walk away.

It's the perfect time of year to get an allotment, especially one that needs a lot of clearing as ours does. Currently it's full of grass and brambles (we cleared most of the ragwort, teasels, nettles and dock last weekend) and the ground is extremely uneven, but the soil is beautiful. At home we have heavy clay soil and that is indeed the underlying soil at the allotment (we can tell because Hospital Lane is much lower down than the allotments and the 3 m banks on each side of the lane are clay), but there's a lovely thick layer of crumbly brown soil on top. I'm not sure if it's simply from repeated use of the allotment or from decaying leaves from the nearby trees, but whatever the reason we're not complaining. It's so much easier to get a spade in than our garden it's going to make it much easier to clear than we had originally anticipated.

We've seen lots of wildlife at the allotments already. It makes us feel rather guilty for clearing ours, but we'll have to come up with a plan to provide shelter for things. At least the edges of all the allotments provide a refuge for wildlife and there are quite a few long grassy areas about too. So far we've seen two species of dragonfly, several species of butterfly, grasshoppers, a frog, several slow worms and on Monday Ian unearthed a huge toad. I couldn't resist picking him up.

According to our neighbour the foxes that we see on Hospital Lane also come up to the allotments (and keep them free of rabbits). 

We're really looking forward to growing lots of fruit, herbs and especially vegetables on our plot. It'll be great experience for us (we've always dreamed of growing our own food) and good for the environment too.


  1. My immediate reaction was that if this allotment was in such a parlous state why was it not re-allocated earlier. Then I remembered that (in the days when I dealt with allotment law in Liverpool in the sixties) there were only, I think, two days of the year on which notice to quit could be served. It certainly looks as if you have your work cut out but I recall my childhood on my Dad's allotment with great affection. Happy cultivating.

  2. Thanks GB. According to the allotment rules over 50% of the allotment has to be in cultivation when they inspect the plots every year and there's only one warning letter before you're out, but in reality several of the allotments in our area only have a few patches of crops and the odd apple tree on. The clearing is going well, but we've just reached a rather large old raspberry patch. I do dislike digging up raspberries. Every time I think I've got them up they grow back.

  3. How could you dig up raspberries? They are my favourite fruit (possibly apart from cherries).

  4. I like raspberries too GB, but these ones are in a very sorry state (I believe you're supposed to replace canes every few years and suspect that these are very old). I also don't like how many bugs we get on the fruit here in Devon (Mum doesn't seem to have any trouble in Formby so it may be temperature-related).

  5. I'd forgotten that raspberry canes need replacing although I can't remember my Grandmother replacing hers and she had beautiful raspberries and gooseberries (and rhubarb which I have had no success with so far).