by Nicki Slater, owner of The Imagination Workshop, Edinburgh


After being on the waiting list for six years I’m so happy to finally have an allotment, two minutes from my house and in a beautiful sunny spot. Frustratingly I can’t start work in it until the current tenants leave on 30 April, but I’ve started planning and planting seeds in pots. Veggie gardening is a totally new experience for me so I’ll be learning as I go along, with a lot of help from my Big Girls Book of Allotment Gardening and from my neighbour Alan at allotment 64.

I started by measuring the six large, empty beds, currently growing a crop of weeds, and sketching a plan. I’ve also been thinking about what vegetables and fruit we actually all eat as well as looking at what other people are growing. I’m fortunate to have loads of fruit already established; raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, rhubarb and two lovely apple trees covered in blossom and bees. I don’t know if they are eaters or cookers, but hoping for cookers as we love apple crumble.

The variety of fruit, flowers and herbs in the other plots is astonishing. David, the chair of the allotment committee, has a poly tunnel in which he is growing grapes and figs! All the new gardeners make a commitment to be organic and there’s a biodiversity programme too. A communal pond was built a few years ago which has brought many frogs to the plots and there was a marked reduction in slugs last year.

I’ve decided to grow potatoes, onions, leeks, French and borlotti beans, peas, pumpkins, courgettes, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and carrots. Am I being too ambitious to start with so many different crops? Feeling slightly daunted. Everyone tells me that carrots are hard to grow, mainly due to the dreaded Carrot Fly, but I love a challenge and of course am now determined to produce fabulous carrots first off. Apparently Carrot Flies hate the smell of marigolds and onions so I’ll let those things share a bed.

Obviously I’m keeping all the fruit that’s already there. One of the first jobs will be to mend the net cage covering the fruit bed, which looks like it suffered in the heavy snow and is a bit lopsided.

I’ve planted bean, leek, pumpkin and courgette seeds in pots of compost and put them in the spare room to germinate. I’ll transplant them to the allotment as soon as I’ve dug the beds over and added some compost from the two brimming bins already on site. I also have to order manure.  After some discussion about whether it was better to get it from the Zoo or the City Farm, I’ve decided I quite fancy the idea of zebra poo, don’t you?