Meet the Plotholders - Francesca
If you've ever walked past the allotments and wondered what sort of people we are, this is for you. Now there are quite a few of us so as not to overwhelm you, we'll do it one by one. Going first is Francesca, Fran is also one of the brains behind the Halloween Pumpkin Walk on 29 October, so she a good person to start with.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a mum to Marianne (age 5), married to Alex, and we live 2 minutes away from the allotments. I’m 4ft10, a keen cook, love a good horror story, I work in subtitling for television, I’m fluent in British Sign Language, and I love my allotment.
How long have you had the allotment and were you on the waiting list for long?
I waited 4 years and I’ve had it for 19 months.
Why did you want an allotment?
I joined the waiting list when my daughter was born. We live in a social housing flat with no access to a garden or green space of our own and I wanted a place where we could grow and play together.
What’s the best thing about having the plot?
Having a space to be outside where we can get our hands dirty, and sense of pride from having transformed an overgrown plot into a productive and happy place. I had never gardened before and was surprised to find how much I love it – I love the meditation of digging, the joy of seeing a seedling peeking up through the earth, and the pride of picking produce we grew ourselves. I love seeing my city-living daughter pick a carrot out of the ground, wipe it off and eat it there and then. I love my little shed and the patio I laid myself. I love seeing the newly-woken bees go mad for the early anemones. I love the sudden peace and greenness after a day working in an office. I love belonging to a community of people who love these things too.
What’s the worst thing about having the plot?
Watering! We’re not allowed hoses so in dry times it can take up to two hours to give everything a proper drink, carrying heavy watering cans back and forth from the tanks. Hard work.
What’s your favourite thing to grow?
Sweetcorn and potatoes. I picked the sweetcorn, boiled it on a camping stove in my shed and ate it standing right there on my plot and it was the most incredible sweetcorn I’ve ever tasted. Seriously unbelievable. And while potatoes may be cheap in the shops, they are the most fun things to harvest – it is our favourite job to furtle (it’s a real word, look it up) through the soil finding potatoes. And they taste amazing.
What’s the thing that you’re most proud of having done on your plot?
When I got it, it looked like this:
A year later it looked like this:
Worst ever allotment disaster or fruit/vegetable you just can’t get to grow
Despite having had only one full growing season, I’ve managed to mess up tomatoes twice. The first time I lovingly grew them from seed and tended to them diligently. A bit too diligently – just as they were about to ripen I overwatered them and they all died sad, wilty deaths. The second time, I was under-diligent, didn’t pinch out unwanted growth and they turned into a jungle of unsupportable branches and the mice helped themselves. I did manage to rescue most of them though.
Top allotment tip to help other/new plotholders
Cover it. If you’re not directly cultivating or digging an area, cover it in tarp or weed-proof fabric. It will stop the weeds and help everything rot down so it’s nice and easy to tackle when you do get round to it. The entire back half of my plot was covered in tarp for the first 6 months I had it, and then I had a digging party – I invited lots of friends, gave them food, drink and spades and made them help me dig it all up. It was great!
And while it’s tempting to devote your whole plot to edible produce, having an area for flowers is totally worth – both for the wildlife and for the happiness it brings.