The Big Allotment Challenge - Shirley | Love The Garden

The Big Allotment Challenge - Shirley & Victoria

Geoff Hodge's picture
By Geoff Hodge, Botanical Expert (BSc, MCIHort)
Big Allotment Challenge Shirley & Victoria

We asked Shirley and Victoria about their time on The Big Allotment Challenge:

Q: What did you enjoy the most about being in the competition? And what did you enjoy the least?

Being on the show was a once in a lifetime experience, we loved every bit of it. We really enjoyed learning about how to present vegetables for show, and we learned a lot about growing and arranging flowers, which was something we’d never done before. We also enjoyed getting to know the other contestants. The competition itself could get quite nerve-wracking at times, because we had to prepare our recipes, learn about flower arranging and how to present the perfect vegetable, and also make sure that everything was growing the way it should in time for the show. Also, while the allotment was a beautiful paradise on sunny days, it wasn’t so nice to be out digging when it was cold and rainy!

Q: What do you think was your biggest mistake? And what would you have done differently?

We made a few mistakes during the flower arranging challenges - cutting the rose stem too short was one, because otherwise we would have stood a real chance of winning. I think we should also have grown more carrots. We did have some growing in drainpipes and they looked fantastic, however we only had 4 pipes, and while 2 of our carrots were perfect, the other 2 were not the same length. If we were doing the show again, we would definitely have grown the carrots in 8 or more pipes for a better chance of success.

Q: Which individual challenge/challenges did you like the best?

We favour using raised beds, and have recently discovered the wonders of mulching. A good mulch helps to keep the soil moist, and provides the plant with the nutrients they need to grow. If you mulch, you don’t need to water quite so regularly, and it makes the soil much easier to dig once spring comes round again.

Find out more about mulching

Q: Has this put you off allotment gardening – or spurred you on to do better?

Our experience on the show has definitely spurred us on to better things! In our allotment this year, we’re more focused on growing flowers as well as vegetables, as we loved watching them grow, and it turns an allotment into a beautiful garden. We have also learnt new methods of growing, such as the sweet pea cordon method, which we would love to try this year.

Q: Do you have one handy tip you can give us on how to get the best from a particular vegetable or flower or from an allotment generally?

It’s best to focus on improving the soil. Make sure that you incorporate lots of matured, organic compost prior to planting, and feed them when or if it's appropriate, as each plant has different needs.

Find out about soil improving and great products for your soil

Find out about feeding your plants and Miracle-Gro plant feeds

Q: What are your favourite vegetable and flower and why?

Our favourite vegetable is kale - it’s a great plant that you can harvest throughout the year, and is jam-packed with nutrients. We love to make crispy kale chips with it, by dehydrating the leaves to make a tasty snack. Our favourite flower is cosmos - it comes in all sorts of colours, is really easy to grow, and it’s nice to see them swaying in the breeze. They also flower for a very long time, and make great cut flowers.

Shirley and Victoria have to leave the allotmentQ: What were the first things that went through your minds when Fern announced you were leaving?

I think we knew that we were going to be leaving before Fern announced the winners. We hadn’t won a best in show since the second episode, so it seemed that we were the most likely to go. That didn’t stop us from being sad when we realised we were going, though. We really grew attached to our plot and the location, and it was a shame to have to say goodbye to all that, as well as having to leave the other contestants. Over the months building up to the competition, we had made friends with everyone there, and it was like a genuine allotment community. We were very sad to leave all that behind.

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