Bryan McEleney

Allotment Vegetable Growing for Desk Jockies

I lived in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary for one year, beside an “ecovillage” that was under construction. The “ecovillage” is a group of about 100 houses with self-contained and sustainable sources of energy and food. I got one of their allotments and spent about 5 hours a week to see what kind of fruit and vegetables I could grow. This was my first attempt at allotment growing. It was some hard work to manually remove the grass and weeds that covered the plot, but after that, the allotment required just some weeding and some reading and planning what to grow.

It was a good reason to go outside after a day sitting at a desk, to get some exercise and some fresh vegetables at the same time. We got enough produce for about half of our needs, during the summer months. I am sure that after the steep learning curve and many failures during the first year, the second year would have seen more produce for less effort.

Here is the list of things I tried to grow:

Tomato - not successful, requires a polytunnel in Ireland I think
Kale - It grew OK, a few caterpillars had a go but it survived. We didn’t hang around until winter to harvest it.
Chard - Grew really nicely, nice alternative to spinach. Good steady supply of leaves.
Spinach - Grew very nicely, but will go to seed after a while so you need to plant a bit every few weeks.
Onion - I got some onion sets in the spring at the Cloughjordan Saturday market, put them in the ground and they came up nicely.
Garlic - I got some garlic from the market and planted the teeth in November, got some nice garlic
Cabbage - Slugs or caterpillars got most of my cabbages, the only one that survived got eaten by a stray horse!
Peas - lots of tasty peas. Planted from March onwards.
Lettuce - small lettuces, overwhelmed by slugs really
Spring Onions - didn’t seem to germinate when thrown at the ground, could be my technique
Turnip - grew solidly and gave us both leaves and roots to eat
Beans - got mauled by the slugs - the peas fared better.
Beetroot - Another no nonsense vegetable for roots and leaves
Broad bean - Grew nicely but not tasty really, prefer peas
Carrot - nice carrots
Lambs lettuce - Grows outside the main season so an good alternative supply of leaves
Rhubarb - I divided some crowns and planted them around the common areas in the allotments. Welcome in the spring.
Gooseberry, blackcurrant, strawberry and raspberry. The common areas of the allotments are being filled with these. The blackcurrants provided the most fruit and we put a few kilos of these in the freezer.

Here are some relevant links:

Bruce Darrell’s Videos about growing vegetables in the same allotments online discussion forum in the UK. This one has a lot of information.

Irish Gardeners online discussion forum about allotment growing in Ireland.

Here are some photos of the allotment in the middle of the summer, 2011.




Swiss Chard




Broad Bean, Yuk