Review: RHS The Half-Hour Allotment by Lia Leendertz

I was lucky enough to win The Half-Hour Allotment in a competition in the first months of starting work on my own new allotment – perfect timing! It’s a brilliant small hardback with beautiful presentation and photos throughout.

Although I have grown various ornamental plants for years and I have dabbled in veg and fruit, that’s all it’s been. Dabbling. I was desperate for an allotment to grow my own organic food at scale and to further push my gardening knowledge.

For beginners, The Half-Hour Allotment contains all of the info you need to get started, from the rotation bed system, assessing and digging soil, readying plant supports and protection etc. All of this is covered in a lovely clear way. It’s the perfect intro.

Essential practical information

A problem with general veg growing advice, and in fact all other books I’ve seen on the subject, is that they’re missing the everyday “this is how you really do it” advice. Advice written by someone like you, with a job, kids etc rather than a professional horticulturalist who can turn their plots into an industrial style mini-farm. I.e. your allotment is meant to be a fun hobby, not a second job.

This is where The Half-Hour Allotment steps in. It comes into its own with the overriding practicalness of it all: what other allotmenteers will be like when you get there, things to sit on, a ‘to do list’ style schedule for each season, how to save time.

Absolutely key for me, which takes this book from good to great, is the advice on what veg and fruit to grow and the big question on every food production amateur’s lips: how much of it! All written by Lia who has grown it all herself on her own allotment.

Planning what to eat and what to do with it

I found the large section detailing how certain plants grow and how much a typical household needs invaluable when planning my plot, ordering seeds and then planning the propagation (or simply ordering plug plants instead). I haven’t seen this useful advice anywhere else.

Equally, the advice on harvesting, cooking and storing is the thing I am turning back to again and again now my little plants are all off to a growing start. Thanks to this book I am currently growing 8 celeriac seedlings (rather than a million of the things) and can look forward to eating with mash. Having never done this before I needed someone to guide me and in this book I have that guidance.

Other chapters cover wildlife plots, allotments for children, managing pests and diseases and more.

Half hour a day keeps the snails at bay

At the start of the book there is the heart stopping moment when I realised the ‘half hour’ theme is little and often – half an hour a day in the week to leave your weekend free – which is the opposite of what I can do because my allotment is quite far away. Uh oh. I soon recovered when I read a couple of pages in that the time can be chunked up, it’s more about regularity – phew! I do a couple of hours on Sat mornings which works for me.

Summary: The Half-Hour Allotment

There’s no getting away from the fact that while taking on an allotment is exciting, the reality can be scary for first timers like me. You don’t know what to expect, visualise ‘grow your own’ failure on the horizon and dread rejection from the other people on the plot.

The Half-Hour Allotment combats all of that with wisdom from someone who’s done it.  It is the essential guide for new allotmenteers wrapped in an easy to read format full of lovely photos and easy to understand tips. All with the RHS stamp of approval. Five months in to my plot and I am still using it for reassurance, so a stamp of approval from me too.

Score: 5/5

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