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The Perfect Plot - Devon Life talks to the green-fingered residents at Cornworthy Allotments

PUBLISHED: 16:52 31 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:15 20 February 2013

The Perfect Plot - Devon Life talks to the green-fingered residents at Cornworthy Allotments

The Perfect Plot - Devon Life talks to the green-fingered residents at Cornworthy Allotments

Green-fingered residents at Cornworthy allotments reflect on the ups and downs of the season and prepare for next year with fresh enthusiasm

The Perfect Plot - Devon Life talks to the green-fingered residents at Cornworthy Allotments



Green-fingered residents at Cornworthy allotments reflect on the ups and downs of the season and prepare for next year with fresh enthusiasm

Unpredictable weather has created havoc for gardeners and growers this year, as the owners of Cornworthy allotments know only too well. Set high above the village of Cornworthy in the Dart valley, these plots are particularly exposed to the changes in the weather. Too dry and little sun in the spring and too wet in the summer made for a challenging season for the plot holders. The lack of sun and ample water seemed to favour the deep rooted weeds and meanwhile suppressed germination for both flowers and vegetables whilst the high winds stunted climbing plants as they clung to their canes. As winter approaches, plot holders look back at what they have learnt this year and prepare for the coming season.

I would have thought twice about retiring if I hadnt had an allotment, says Paul Henderson, twice winner of the allotment prize. Next year Paul plans to plant traditional seeds from The Old English Seed Company with hopes of achieving huge vegetables.

Thats the joy of gardening, says Dawn Williams, whose plot, like so many others suffered from wind and rain. This winter Im going to raise my strawberry beds, plant in spring and pray for some sunshine.

Some plot holders have a more philosophical approach. Take the weather as it comes, says Phil Green, this years winner for best allotment who is amazed by the resilience of plants in a difficult year. It was too wet to dig or weed and I tried planting peas three times before they took and when they did, the mice arrived. Phils advice when it comes to mice is to cover plants with fleece as a deterrent. He created an effective windbreak with Jerusalem artichokes to shield his plot, and this winter he will be netting the cabbages and sprouts against pigeons.

With all that hard work, the villagers who meet up at the allotments still see the positives. The best bits are the breathtaking views from our allotments on a clear day and talking to people in a quiet environment, says Anne Shepherd who shares an allotment with Jenny Hawkes.

A little and often is always the best approach to managing an allotment, says John Sharland who is busy digging in farmyard manure, liming the ground and sowing some overwintering green manure crops to be spread in the spring.

This year, even after such unpredictable weather, the commitment has not deserted the allotment holders. A visit to the Cornworthy allotments is like entering another world and it is impossible to be down-hearted for long. You can clear your mind from the everyday stress and strain and enjoy the conundrum of growing plants, allowing yourself time to embrace the scenery and breathe in the fresh air. Who knows what the next growing season will bring?


Green-fingered residents at Cornworthy allotments reflect on the ups and downs of the season and prepare for next year with fresh enthusiasm


Unpredictable weather has created havoc for gardeners and growers this year, as the owners of Cornworthy allotments know only too well. Set high above the village of Cornworthy in the Dart valley, these plots are particularly exposed to the changes in the weather. Too dry and little sun in the spring and too wet in the summer made for a challenging season for the plot holders. The lack of sun and ample water seemed to favour the deep rooted weeds and meanwhile suppressed germination for both flowers and vegetables whilst the high winds stunted climbing plants as they clung to their canes.


A visit to the Cornworthy allotments is like entering another world

As winter approaches, plot holders look back at what they have learnt this year and prepare for the coming season.
I would have thought twice about retiring if I hadnt had an allotment, says Paul Henderson, twice winner of the allotment prize. Next year Paul plans to plant traditional seeds from The Old English Seed Company with hopes of achieving huge vegetables.
Thats the joy of gardening, says Dawn Williams, whose plot, like so many others suffered from wind and rain. This winter Im going to raise my strawberry beds, plant in spring and pray for some sunshine.
Some plot holders have a more philosophical approach. Take the weather as it comes, says Phil Green, this years winner for best allotment who is amazed by the resilience of plants in a difficult year. It was too wet to dig or weed and I tried planting peas three times before they took and when they did, the mice arrived. Phils advice when it comes to mice is to cover plants with fleece as a deterrent. He created an effective windbreak with Jerusalem artichokes to shield his plot, and this winter he will be netting the cabbages and sprouts against pigeons. With all that hard work, the villagers who meet up at the allotments still see the positives. The best bits are the breathtaking views from our allotments on a clear day and talking to people in a quiet environment, says Anne Shepherd who shares an allotment with Jenny Hawkes.A little and often is always the best approach to managing an allotment, says John Sharland who is busy digging in farmyard manure, liming the ground and sowing some overwintering green manure crops to be spread in the spring.
This year, even after such unpredictable weather, the commitment has not deserted the allotment holders. A visit to the Cornworthy allotments is like entering another world and it is impossible to be down-hearted for long. You can clear your mind from the everyday stress and strain and enjoy the conundrum of growing plants, allowing yourself time to embrace the scenery and breathe in the fresh air. Who knows what the next growing season will bring?


Allotmenteers can add water to dry plants but its almost impossible to take it away once it has fallen from the sky

Steve Hunt is the allotments site manager, an experienced countryman who has grown plants all his life. Theres always next year, he says with a wry smile. Slugs and snails have had a field day and the soil stayed so wet it was difficult to hoe or sow seeds and stay on top of the weeds. Soft fruits struggled with rotting and apple yields are half of other years. Finally in July we had ten dry days, some with plenty of sunshine, when the surviving plants started to grow and the allotments began to look like allotments, not mud pools! Squashes, carrots and runner beans took off and yields were pretty good.
For Steve and the other plot holders, autumn and early winter is a busy time. November is a time to clear old plants and dig the ground before it becomes waterlogged or frozen, he says. Our dilemma this winter is whether to add farmyard manure to improve water retention for next year in case of drought, or are we likely to have another wet year? Next year, Steve hopes the weather will be more in keeping with the seasons. Allotmenteers can add water to dry plants but its almost impossible to take it away once it has fallen from the sky.

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