Allotments first appeared in the 18th century, places provided for the poor to grow their own food. Then, in the first and second world wars, every scrap of common ground turned into one; now they are enjoying a renaissance and are increasingly being colonized by the middle classes, enthusiasts of things organic, office workers who like to put their hands in the soil at weekends – stress relief through the cultivation of runner beans.
Caroline Foley takes you from site assessment through bed planning, soil preparation and planting to harvesting. She addresses important issues – grass paths or paving paths, the blocks-or-rows dilemma – and then takes you alphabetically through the vegetables from Abelmoschus esculentus to Zea mays.
That is okra to sweet corn for the non-Latin speakers. There are handy tips on humus, mulches and manure, and on how to avoid gall mites, scab, soft rot and blight. And she tells you how to get the bad bugs – so you don’t need to employ the sort of chemical weaponry that might get your plot put on to George Bush’s axis of evil.
There are pictures too – of crimson cabbages, asparagus bursting through the soil, a pair of ripened aubergines … blimey, time to jump into the water butt, I think. Is it my imagination, or have gardening books ever cottoned on to the fact that when it comes to publishing, sex sells? And we haven’t even got to the fruit section.
A PLOT TO DIY FOR…