I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
Published January 6th 2015
Keep fit, make friends and enjoy fresh produce
Why not resolve to make 2015 the year you spend your weekends and evenings growing your own fruit, vegetables and flowers on an allotment?
To see what can be achieved take a look at the TV show The Big Allotment Challenge, currently airing on BBC2 every Friday at 9pm. The programme features keen gardeners competing to grow the best crops, make the tasiest jams and preserves and present the most imaginative flower arrangements.
Plotting: Jo Wesley and Avril Rogers on their allotment
I met Birmingham gardeners Avril Rogers and Jo Wesley, who took part in the first series of the programme, to ask their advice about allotment gardening.
''Start small. If you take on too big a plot you'll give up,'' says Jo. ''Try to begin with half a plot or just help out on a friend's allotment before committing to taking one on yourself.''
''Be prepared for hard work,'' adds Avril before showing me armfuls of tasty vegetables she had just picked, proving that all the effort is worthwhile.
Prizewinning: You could grow vegetables like these, displayed at Malvern Autumn Show
Birmingham has the largest number of allotments of any local authority in the UK with 115 sites and nearly 7,000 plots. There are a range of sizes available, from a mini plot up to 100 sq yards to a large which measures 401 – 600 sq yards. Annual rents range from £21.50 to £97.
Jo says one of the advantages of having an allotment is gardening alongside other enthusiasts.
''Allotmenteers are happy to share their knowledge. You learn so much and you wouldn't necessarily get that knowledge gardening in your own back garden.
''Some of my best friends are on this allotment. They're happy to help on the plot if you're ill or on holiday. We're like a family.''
Jo and Avril's wise words are echoed by Birmingham city council's allotment team.
''Allotment gardening is fun, it's healthy and it's a great way to meet people. So the most important thing is to enjoy your allotment.''
They provide some additional advice to new gardeners.
''When you get your first allotment don't try and do it all at once. Cultivate a portion of the land that you feel comfortable with. If you haven't dug over the plot in the autumn do it in early spring.
''Buy good quality seeds and plants and pick crops quickly, early and often. Enjoy the food whilst it's fresh.
''Compost green material and kitchen waste in the bin at your allotment. It's better for the environment than burning it and the compost is great for your plants as well.''
So what are you waiting for? Act now and by the summer you could be enjoying your own carrots, cucumbers, courgettes and cabbage.