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  It’s a constant
battle against
pests and the
weather - but
so rewarding
Jane Crick (pictured above) on keeping an allotment
What interested you in having an allotment?
My partner Adrian’s dad was always an allotment holder, he maintained a double plot in Bury St Edmunds for many years and I come from a farming background so I guess it's always been in our blood. We tried to grow a few tomatoes and bits in our garden - but the resulting produce was always variable. We thought that by having a larger space to grow we would get better results. When we took our plot on it was literally just a hedge of brambles! It was quite a project.
Adrian does any construction, strimming, mowing and watering. I do the planning, planting, growing and weeding. It's a team effort.
Where is it?
Our allotment is behind the church in Felsham.
What kind of soil are you working with?
Heavy clay - good 'ole Suffolk soil. We put on lots of manure each year and rotovate it in to improve this. We also buy mushroom compost as an allotment community and divide up the bulk delivery - it's been really good for the squash, pumpkins and tomatoes.
What are your favourite things to grow?
I love growing everything for different reasons. I like growing the giant sunflowers because when I see them in full bloom they always make me smile - and I know that the villagers love to walk past and see them too.
I enjoy growing pumpkins because it's always an achievement to get a decent sized one, and of course the children always love carving them at Halloween. Elsewhere I love the climbing beans because they produce so much for such a small space and I like the satisfaction of knowing I've grown them so close to home and that they've not been flown in miles and miles from Kenya.
I also love picking a huge bunches of flowers to fill every room in the house.
Are you more fruit and vegetables than flowers . . . or a bit of both?
We grow both! It varies a little year on year and I
always like to try to grow something a bit different each season as it's a bit of a challenge!
Currently we have French and runner beans, sweetcorn, leek, courgettes, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroot, peas and salad crops - alongside Dahlias and three types of sunflowers, Giant, Harlequinn and a dwarf variety called Teddy Bears which are super fluffy yellow pom poms!
This year I have melon plants, which I was given by a neighbour - I'm super proud that I have two watermelon fruits swelling nicely! Plus I'm trying out a heritage variety of French bean called Selma Zebra, a mottled purple pod which turns completely green on cooking.
I am also a floral greeting card and giftwrap designer - so I love growing flowers and using them in my designs.
What have been the challenges?
It is a constant battle against pests and weather. We have massive slugs and also a bit of a rabbit issue.
Adrian has fenced the allotment with garden shading mesh which works well to keep out the rabbits. Slugs can be more tricky, we have tried coffee grinds, sawdust and even nematodes in the past - but usually it's not too much of an issue and there is enough food for them and us! The weather can be tricky - you need to rotovate the soil early in the year to prevent the clay from setting solid before planting.
Watering plants can be time consuming - but we are lucky as we have access to a tap. Our shed roof is too tiny to catch much water in a water butt. This year it has also been very challenging with the cold early in the year when nothing really germinated - so the crops are about 3-4 weeks behind normal.
And more recently we have had all the heavy rain so our tomatoes developed blight and all had to be completely removed which was very disappointing. But we have now reset the area with dwarf beans so hopefully they will crop well into the autumn. You just have to be flexible.
Do you share the fruit or vegetables you grow, or is it just for you and Adrian?
Our plot provides way too many vegetables for us to eat alone - unless you plan it out with strict precision and grow all year around you will always get gluts of one thing or another. This is part of the joy of allotmenting. Sharing our produce, and seedlings and plants, with our neighbours, family and friends is the very best part of having an allotment.
Taking them on is actually a huge privilege, to become caretaker of a plot of soil which may have produced food for many generations. You are part of a micro community with many different people of all ages and walks of life. You share stories, plants and produce - laugh together and work together.
It's a place to escape from the stress of daily life, to get your hands dirty and connect with the earth. A place to be responsible for the food you eat and to fully appreciate how it grows.
 You can find Jane Crick's range of cards, giftwrap and art prints at Lion House Gallery in Lavenham, The Handmade Shop & Gallery in Bury St Edmunds, The Brett Gallery in Monks Eleigh and online at Folksy.com
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