My name is Ionuț and I’ve been growing food on my allotment in southern England since June 2016.
In the first year we only had a third of a full plot, which is around 8 metres by 10 metres. During that year I built several raised beds and grew a few crops, but mainly tried to understand how the amount of sun and the weather affected the plants over the year.
In February 2017, I took over another half of a full plot of roughly 14 metres by 8 metres. This one had several raised beds already, and a few trees, strawberries and gooseberry plants. In the small space of the allotments, I have noticed there’s variation in the amount of sun a certain areas get, frost pockets in the winter, and wind — strong winds — come from the most exposed side.
Before I even had our allotments, I came across the term ‘permaculture’, and started to learn more about and apply some of the principles. The main idea that stuck in my mind was that, for the garden to give us plenty of healthy food, we need to build and maintain a healthy soil as our most precious resource. I try to improve our soil by:
- growing nitrogen fixing plants like peas, beans, broad beans, fenugreek, clovers, sea buckthorn shrubs.
- rotating crops
- growing companion plants: sweet corn with lentils or beans, peas with beetroot, potatoes with horseradish and dwarf beans and fenugreek, tomatoes and basil.
- adding composted horse manure
- and mulching around with cardboard and pulled weeds or comfrey leaves as much as possible.
The allotments are very important for me and my family, especially for our two little children who like to come along and help with watering and harvesting certain crops , with strawberries and raspberries on the top as their favourite ones!
In March 2018, I enrolled GROW’s online course on Future Learn - Citizen Science: Living Soils, Growing Food. I learned many new things and really appreciated the opportunity we have had to improve our understanding of our soils. The material we had to study was good and the educators promptly answered our enquiries.
It was soon after that I joined the Great GROW Experiment, and enjoyed it very much. The thing that I enjoyed the most was that we had the opportunity to meet the other growers, compare our achievements (or failures), and be inspired by them. The monthly online meetings we had as part of participating in the Experiment were stimulating because we could discuss our achievements and difficulties, and maybe find out how to address them.
The GROW Observatory mission to help growers like me all over the Europe to improve our growing practices resonates with my personal hope that we can all benefit from more sustainable agriculture.
My way of gardening was a bit chaotic, but with GROW and the Great GROW Experiment my methods have improved, and now I pay more attention to details and tend to weigh all my harvest and take notes.
I use the GROW Observatory app and find it very useful. By all of us sharing our planting and harvest dates, on the Share My Calendars Facebook Group, we can have a better understanding of when to plant our crops, rather than the general instructions we get on our seed packets. The time we can sow many tender crops is different in the south of the U.K. to the north and the rest of Europe.
Better Growing and Helping Science — Introducing the GROW App
Imagine being able to access — and help build — a database of what to plant in your exact location, including what…
I am looking forward to see how this year’s polyculture experiment with the Permaculture Association will go, and I am glad that I can take part in the research.
I would like to thank all the team from GROW Observatory for all the support we had over the last year.
You can download free infosheets on Regenerative Food Growing Practices for soil, ecosystems and polycultures by clicking the link below.