Zephyrine Barbarachild answers the question: Why keep an allotment journal?


I keep two allotment journals – one is a notebook and one is a photo-journal. I enjoy  recording the passing seasons and looking back on the year and what I did on a particular  day. I love taking photos on visits to my plot – it’s the perfect ‘mental-health gym’, even on  difficult days.

My new allotment photo-journal starts as close as possible to New Year’s day; capturing  before-and-after photos of the annual ceremony of placing a large ‘forcing-pot’ over my  rhubarb. I also log the moment in the notebook, and look forward to February’s bright-pink  forced stems.

After each visit to the allotment, temperature and hours worked are logged in the notebook. Both journals enable me to compare one year’s productivity with another: everything picked is logged after each visit and is added up at the end of the season. I can proudly say (even if no-one’s listening) that in a given year I picked twenty-five pounds of raspberries, fifteen pounds of tomatoes, seven pounds of runner beans and forty-five gladioli!

Keeping records also helps with forward-planning.

After the quiet months of January and February, in March I crack on with clearing away dead plants and preparing areas for planting vegetable crops in May. In the meantime, I note down when I sow beans and peas at home in February, and start looking forward to the spring.

After the frosts, May is the main summer planting month. As the days lengthen, crops and weeds grow exponentially.

June brings strawberries and raspberries, beans and peas. And by mid-July, after the longest day of the year, the pace slackens a little – offering time enough to sit on the bench with a brew, looking out across Morecambe Bay. Its then back to work again – clearing weeds, collecting seed, cutting the grass, and watering crops if it’s been hot and sunny for a few days.

Plums, apples, autumn raspberries and blackberries ripen in the early autumn, offering a glut for chutney, jam and cordial making.

An allotment is time-consuming during the summer months: weeding, watering, picking and filling the store-cupboard with summer goodness to be enjoyed throughout the winter. Autumn brings gladioli, dahlias and late sweet-peas for the house and to give to friends. By late October’s autumn storms and short days, all the apples have been picked, and the plot is visited less frequently. In late November, once the garlic is planted, I’m ready for a rest. It’s time to decide who gets which jam for Christmas! And then it’s only a week until New Year, when it’s time to put the forcing-pot over the rhubarb again…

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