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Tess Bisson

Sidmouth, East Devon

I have always dabbled with fruit and veg growing in the garden, so when friends mentioned that they had a local allotment but they had neither the gardening knowledge or health now to use it fully, I asked if I could help them, with another friend, to start a group growing project.

In my own garden, I have used the “no-dig” method. My aim was to trial this method on the allotment, using local and free or cheap resources, to see what food we could grow together to share, using our pooled labour.Challenges included:

·     the plot being shaded for half the day in the summer as it is next to the Knapp Copse

·     Lots of top soil was removed from the beds by a previous tenant!

·     Grass and weeds had grown through plastic sheeting which was covering the beds

One year on, we have learned lots, had fun together and shared harvests including salads, beetroots, broad, French and runner beans, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, chard, radish, onions, garlic, courgettes, squash, leeks, herbs, rhubarb and raspberries. We are looking forward to finishing our wildlife pond, and picking winter salads, various brassicas, and early spring crops from our free cold frame!

Money saving methods have included:

·     Obtaining free woodchip (for paths) from local tree surgeons

·     Finding free stuff (frames, netting etc) on Freecycle and other sites

·     Sourcing excellent manure from a nearby local horse owner

·     Seed saving and swapping/sharing

·     Compost making - sourcing material from others’ gardens to make more of this

I would be happy to chat to anyone who is interested about using the no-dig method for growing fruit, veg or flowers, and would also recommend Stefan Drew’s website Bitesize Gardening, or Facebook page How to Dig for Victory (UK Sustainable Fruit and Vegetable Gardening) as great sources of information.

My email address is:

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