Southbourne Gardens

A slice of the good life.


The Big Allotment Challenge

Hot on the heels of The Great British Sewing Bee, this week saw the start of the BBC’s much publicised new gardening program The Big Allotment Challenge. Now I have to confess I was bit indifferent to it, so much hype can do that to you, and didn’t watch it when it aired on Tuesday evening, however browsing through social media yesterday I was so surprised at the mostly negative comment that I caved in and watched it last night instead.


Presented by Fern Britten the idea of the program is simple, nine pairs of gardeners are given an empty patch of ground and a greenhouse and whilst they are told what to grow, how they decide to plan their plot is up to them.  They then have four months to cultivate it from seed until ‘Show Day’ arrives when they compete in three different challenges under the banners of grow, make and eat.

This week they had to present three perfectly matched radishes, six stems of sweet peas, a hand tied bouquet, a fruit jam and a fruit curd. Very much along the lines of a traditional horticultural show.

Most of the criticism seems to be around the lack of authenticity, gorgeous location and almost Disneyesque presentation of the plots but really was it ever going to be about allotments as we all know them?  Even I have no interest in watching someone clearing up weeds and potting on for an hour and I’m mad keen.  Also with prime time scheduling of course they will be looking for viewing figures in the millions rather than the thousands, so it needs a wider appeal.

I also think a big part of the problem is that there’s such a lack of programs about gardens and gardening in general that when one comes along the weight of expectation is so huge that people are bound to be disappointed on some level.

To my mind the program was utterly charming and has great potential to encourage new gardeners.  With rain forecast for Sunday if your looking for an hour of light entertainment give it a go. It’s sunny and there’s not a slug in sight.


If you have watched it or decide to over the weekend I’d love to know your thoughts.

Available on BBC i Player here.

Get to know the contestants and read more about the show here.


Seed Tapes

Did I tell you that after writing this post about our many packets of seeds we found another bagful?  Well we did, actually I knew that I’d lost them but because we were hardly running short of things to sow it had gone to the back of my mind. Anyway, as normally happens, Derek found them when looking through cupboards for something else we’d mislaid.

Suttons Seed Tapes

Amongst them are were some ‘seed tapes’ and ‘seed mats’ where the seeds are sandwiched between two layers of tissue at regular intervals.  When I first saw these a couple of years ago I’d discounted them as being an expensive way to buy and couldn’t really see the point either, however one of our local garden centres reduces its seeds to fifty pence a packet at the end of August every year so we buy a load for the following season. On that basis I thought they’d be worth a try.

So after all this ado I’ve planted some of the beetroot ‘Boltardy’ this morning and the upshot is, they were so simple to use that I think I might be a convert even at full price.

Suttons Seed Tapes

The information on the packet says they’re good if you have difficulty handling small seeds but I also think they’d be really good for someone new to growing vegetables because you don’t have to think about spacing and thinning out is minimal, they’d also work well for children because they are so easy to handle.

Of course ultimately it’s the crop that’s important so watch this space and if you’ve used them It’d be great to know your thoughts.

Mine are from Suttons and the link is here and I’ve also found a company called Simple Sowing and the link to their site is here.


The Second Plot

Three weeks ago we found out that we could finally have the plot that is next to ours. This now means that we have two hundred square metres of growing space and therefore what is considered to be a ‘full plot’. It’s not been fully cultivated as long as we’ve been on the site, so we guessed it would only be a matter of time before it became available, on that basis  as soon as we got our plot we put our names straight back on the waiting list.  Having said that, I think it came as a bit of shock to both of us when it finally happened and the enormity of starting all over again finally hit home.

The Second Plot

As you can see there was also quite a lot debris, given this plus the fact that we are very busy with our own plot at the moment we decided that we would take the summer to clear it, dig it over in the autumn cover it in manure and do nothing else until next year. We want to use it primarily for soft fruit, so good preparation and all that.

The Second Plot

What happened I’m not quite sure because three weeks later this is what it looks like.

The Second Plot

I have to give all the credit to Derek because he’s spent just about every spare minute working on it and is at Wickes as I write buying wood for compost bins etc. and I’m putting together an order for five more rhubarb plants, early varieties this time*, to plant at the front so mirroring what we already have.

The Second Plot

I’d like to say that we’ll do no more than that but I guess now we’ve started we’ll just have to finish.  What’s that adage about best laid plans?


*All recommendations welcome.



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