Vegtopia in Suburbia

A Micro-allotment in the Street

My wife Barbara claims it was her idea but I know it was really mine. I’d read a newspaper article on the benefits of a vegetable garden facing the street to build neighbourly friendships, to learn about growing food and to share knowledge and produce – a vegtopia in suburbia!  So, in 2013, I (ably directed by B) stripped out the moss and weed-ridden lawn and unimpressive shrubs except for some roses given for an anniversary, built two raised beds and on two sides, we planted blackcurrent, redcurrant and gooseberry bushes, and raspberries.  Wires were strung up front of the house to train French beans and cordon tomatoes between the windows. A variety of old crates and boxes containing more tomatoes & beans filled in the gaps there.  Drain collection tanks plonked at two corners.

I’d longed to have an allotment and grown veg but B, right again, said I’d never have the time for one but this micro version (our plot is only 5m by 5m) could be tended just by stepping out the front door.  I could slug-whisper the pests off before going to bed and peep out in the morning to see if the tomatoes were going to stay green or develop that promising yellow blush. A minature plot can be intensively managed & productive. It has been a fantastic success for us – OK not feeding the world- but providing a few pounds of red currants & gooseberries in June, far more beans & courgettes than we could handle without giving some away some, and a steady stream of raspberries in the Autumn.  Children have marvelled (as have we – myself with over 6 decades ignorance of the plant world) at how corn on the cob forms, helped picked berries and watered while we have been away.  The only mystery to us is why no other neighbour (with similarly south-facing suntrap) has followed our example.  Do we just have to accept that we are the weird ones!? In the ‘lock-down’, our veg have been totally spoilt by regular watering (in between virtual work meetings) and look healthier than ever. Butterflies and bees circulate the lavender & orange flowers on the runner bean tower. Molluscs have their share at night and birds by day. Do it if you can.  Chard anyone?

Mark Hancock

1st August 2020