7 Jun 2018

Good ideas from the allotments

Vintage, cobbled together, upcycled or just plain eccentric -there's lots to inspire on an English allotment!


By the end of the week I'll no longer be going to the allotments as the lady I help has decided to call it a day and give up her plot. So, after three full on days of clearing the plot and shed ready for the incoming tenant, I treated myself to a wander around this gorgeous site.  The allotments are on an incline looking down over the treetops of Hampstead Heath, giving the space a fantastic view.  I'll miss it, especially at the height of the summer when it's so peaceful to sit and watch the sun set beyond the trees after a day's gardening.

Walking on to the plot, I'd regularly see something that would make me stop and think, "Oh, that's clever" or "Ooh, I like that" or "Hmmm, ingenious".  Even sometimes, "What the ... ?!" but let's not dwell on that.

I find the plots really inspiring.  Sometimes it's deliberate creativity, as in building a greenhouse out of windows, sometimes it's a happy accident of allowing self seeded plants to grow companionably alongside other crops.  Occasionally, it's stumbling across a favourite but forgotten plant that's seeded itself into a crack between bricks or on a grass verge or, as happened last year, in the middle of one of the veg beds when mullein (wanted) appeared to replace the swathes of Good King Henry (unwanted).

I'm hoping that I'll be able to go back occasionally as a friend has just been given a new plot there and has said she would welcome my help.  For now, here are just a few of the good ideas that I saw there over the past few days.


Making the most of even the smallest space with companion planting.  This verge-side bed is on the boundary of the plot, behind a rosemary hedge.  This year it's filled with carrots, nasturtiums and a few marigolds (Tagetes).  If the marigolds survive the slugs, the bed will look so colourful when the nasturtiums flower plus there'll be two edible crops - three if the marigold's petals are added to salad.



Pigeons are a real problem but seem to be even more voracious this year; possibly the slow spring has left them very hungry to feed their chicks. Whatever.  Gardeners need to protect their crops and I liked this idea of using plastic balls (meant for a toddler's ball pit) to top canes under netting. Usually small plastic bottles are used and I've used discarded tennis balls before now but this is another colourful option that reuses plastic otherwise destined for the tip.



I'm not sure if this is an old security gate, window guard or bed frame. However, how many people would look at it and think, "perfect frame for my grape vine!"? A bit of lateral thinking goes a long way. Looks pretty good too, I think.



It's in the nature of things that certain objects in a garden are going to be untidy - canes, bottle cloches, for example.  This, though, is treated, tongue in cheek, as an art installation by the plotholders who fondly refer to it as 'The Turner Prize'.  I seriously doubt this is one for the private garden but think the use of an old bicycle wheel to keep canes in place ingenious.



Dotted throughout the plots, vintage and cobbled together pieces add charm and interest to a plot. I love the old coal scuttle used to grow herbs and this tiny wooden stool.  I was given an old galvanised metal watering can from the plot; it already had holes drilled in the bottom for drainage so I plan to plant it with nasturtiums or strawberries or, hmmm, maybe some dwarf cosmos, and it will look gorgeous!



It would take a very determined slug or snail to reach that mint. You don't see many old chimney pots being thrown out these days, more's the pity. You're far more likely to have to buy one from a salvage yard or vintage sale. And remember white china Butler sinks? They were always a good bet for a free planter ... until they became popular again in modern kitchens.  Worth keeping a look out though, you never know your luck!


And this I so admire ...


Over the past couple of years these apple trees have been painstakingly trained along wires to create a boundary fence for this plot.  It's not unusual to grow fruit along the edge of a plot but this plot is always immaculately maintained and this fence of espaliered apples suits it perfectly.  So much patience required! Why have just a fence when you can have an edible boundary?

What about your plot or garden - have you drawn inspiration from something creative you've seen?




10 comments:

  1. Have you thought of applying for a plot of your own?

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    1. Oh how I wish, Sue! Unfortunately the waiting lists for these wonderful plots have been closed for at least the past 10 years while they move people along. The incoming tenant to the plot I cleared has been waiting for 15 years so was slightly shocked when the call came! I've looked at other allotment sites nearby but it's the same story. Now if only there was an estate agent that concentrated on houses that were near available allotments rather than good schools!

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  2. Plenty of inspiration here, Caro - thank you. I love the inventiveness of gardeners, reusing stuff that would otherwise end up as landfill. There's the temptation to have everything shiny and new, but there's much more charm in repurposing something. We're lucky to have an old butler's sink in the garden left by the previous owners and I'm always on the look out for old metal buckets... Those espaliered apple trees are a thing of beauty and the use of the plastic balls is inspired. Hope you have a great weekend.

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    1. I love vintage tools and ephemera as they have much more character than new things. Just the fact that they've stood the test of time creates value. I also rescued two rusty metal crates; I was told they were milk crates but there are no dividers for bottles. They'll make lovely planters in the garden though!

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  3. A most enjoyable post and good pictures showing allotments in all their glory. I'm sorry to see that you'll no longer be plotting regularly.
    In answer to your question I really can't think of anything. xx

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    1. I'll be plotting in the veg patch at home, Flighty - still plenty to do there, especially now that I have to find space for all the veg I grew that was destined for the plot! I hope to get back to the allotments with my friend so that I can photograph some of the sheds and beautiful summer plots. Many plotholders have been there for decades so their plots are filled with creative touches. xx

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  4. I love meandering through peoples gardens and usually end up walking away with an inspirational thought or two. I'm also no stranger to peeking through fences (much to my husbands chagrin!), especially when I can see some veg growing :)

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    1. Oh me too, Margaret. I'm a fence peeker - some very good ideas can be sparked by looking over the wall to see plant combinations! There's a small front of house garden in my neighbourhood which is managed by a professional gardener and is always interesting - plus it's on the way to the best bread and cake shop! :o)

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  5. Ahhh, sorry you won't be sharing the allotment but what good news about your friend wanting your help, so you get to carry on....love the thought of you relaxing after a hard day there and enjoying the sunset and view. I really did enjoy all those insights from the plot, I just love how gardener's see items that can be useful in the garden, love that stool and the possible bed frame/grapevine support. A lovely post, I did enjoy it. I am always inspired by creative touches that gardeners come up with....xxx

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    1. It's a shame to see it go but I'm very glad of the extra time for my own gardens at home. There's so much creativity on individual plots - I love how some are carefree and messy, while other people have very neat beds and rows of veg and flowers. It was the wild flowers and hedgerows that always gave me greatest pleasure, so much to see as the seasons changed. But I think the right decision was made and I'm sure the next tenant will appreciate it just as much. xx

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