‘Joe’s Allotment: planning and planting a productive plot’ by Joe Swift


I really enjoyed reading this book. Joe writes with such an easy style that for the most part it feels as though you’re in conversation with him as he takes you on his allotment journey. There’s something really reassuring about Joe’s nervousness and insecurities about being a new plot holder. These feelings are universal and affect us all, even, it seems, people who already have great gardening experience. I think Joe felt the extra pressure of the Gardeners’ World spotlight on him. I’ve dug around the Internet to see what episodes I could find as we didn’t own a T.V. in the days it was screened, and discovered on various message boards that Joe gave up his allotment in 2010, a year after the book was published. In a way, this feels a little disappointing as he gave the impression he loved his plot and allotment community and wished to continue. I think work commitments may have been a factor.

This knowledge, however, doesn’t deter from the quality of the book. It’s full of useful gems and advice from seasoned allotment gardeners. He admits to not having tried and tested all the methods mentioned, but he does talk about the successes of his neighbours. There’s plenty of colour photographs in the book, including some introducing these neighbours so you really do get the feeling of friendliness from his allotment community. His journey though, and therefore ours by proxy, starts at the very beginning of his quest to find a plot – and it’s another book which demonstrates how difficult it is to get a plot in London (see Kay Sexton’s ‘Minding My Peas and Cucumbers’). Joe’s plot then, secured I assume with the help of the BBC, is a couple of boroughs away from his home and quite a commute.

His plot’s soil condition are very similar to our own and he grows organically, so we’ll be able to take on much of the advice given. Thankfully, though, we do not have the dreaded horsetail he has. (I’ve heard it makes an interesting tea).

There were quite a few pages I bookmarked to come back to at a later date. These include:

  • Crop rotation
  • Companion planting
  • Preparing and freezing gluts
  • How to string onions
  • Pea and bean trench recipe
  • Aminopyralid contamination of manure
  • Crop directory with useful notes
  • Composting advice

We’ve already started to action his advice about pallet compost bays and maintaining their heat by lining them with cardboard.

So, in the grand scheme of things, this book was extremely helpful and I would definitely recommend it, especially to the novice allotment gardener.

Publisher: BBC Books (18 Mar. 2009)


Available to buy from many bookshops including Amazon, Penguin, and Abe Books.

This post does not contain any affiliate links.