Time to Quit? Potato Harvest

This has been a pretty poor season on the plot. The weather started well, June was amazing with hot sunshine from cloudless skies. Then came July and monsoons, August was pretty wet too. We had a little flurry of sunshine at the beginning of September but not enough to recover.

At the same time, we caught Covid. That’s despite being vaccinated and on a high vitamin supplement regimen. We were pretty rough but more worryingly have been lacking in energy ever since. Friends who have suffered the same say it will past but can take months.

Now factor in that my back is, despite the best efforts of an excellent osteopath, still giving problems. Time to accept that it is not going to be what it was again. Tasks like hoeing and cultivation can be difficult.

Adding weather, Covid and my back problems has meant that things have got out of control on the plot. It’s heartbreaking and embarrassing to see the weeds beating me but we are where we are.

My Options

At points I’ve felt like just giving up. Selling up for a seaside flat and sitting on a balcony looking out at the sea has an appeal. It’s not realistic, for a start what about our cats? I know I’d be bored and growing something after a few weeks.

I don’t want to give up for many reasons but these are the top three.

Firstly, when I’m coping, I really enjoy growing my own.

It’s so satisfying providing wholesome food from the earth. Tiring and hard work at times, certainly, but nothing worthwhile comes without effort.

Second, safe provenance.

I know where our veggies are from and what has been used to produce them. The amount of chemicals that infiltrate our food is scary. It’s not just the herbicides in the growing process, much of those don’t come through to the shop shelf.

Cereals routinely sprayed with Glyphosate as a desiccant. Pesticides used to prevent insect damage and rot on fruit and veg in store. These linger on in the produce on our shop shelves. In the past we were told to cook and eat potatoes unpeeled. The vitamins are said to be there and the fibre content is highest.

The last advice I heard was not to eat potato skin due to the residues from the sprays used by non-organic farmers against blight. With our home-grown potatoes, not only am I happy to eat the skins but also to let my grandson eat them.

Thirdly, personal food security

I’m sure we are going to hit some serious supply problems with our food supplies in the future. I know some people think I’m a bit daft over this. When people as diverse as the UN, Barclays Bank and the World Bank talk of their concerns about food supplies, it may be foolish to ignore the threat.

We’re not ‘preppers’, stockpiling supplies to ride out the apocalypse. Although I will admit our store cupboards were filled to the brim just before the Covid pandemic got going. However, it’s good to have an insurance policy. If things get difficult we’ve a buffer. Not just the land we’re actively growing on, but land in fair condition that could easily be brought into production at short notice.

Just Cut Back?

I had thought to just cut back on my growing area but that’s not going to be enough. I need to consider my ongoing back problems. Getting down to ground level for cultivating is just too much.

Answer – raised beds.

If I’m to carry on growing I need to make it easy for me. The answer for me has to be to move mainly to raised beds.

I’ve always felt raised beds have their place although too often new growers jump into raised beds for no real reason. However, defined beds are psychologically easier to control. Rather than being daunted by a large area to weed, you can take it a bed at a time.

Raising the beds means hand cultivation is a lot easier with a bad back.

I’ve raised beds in the field plot but they’re needing repair and replacement. They’ve lasted fairly well for over 10 years but in hindsight I would have been better using thicker scaffold boards. At the time I couldn’t find a local supplier so it wasn’t an option.


2 wheelbarrows full of white Orla and red Sarpo Axona potatoes

Orla and Axona Potatoes ready for sorting and sacking up to store.

Happily for me, I was moaning to a pal about things. He came over and harvested the bulk of the potatoes for me. I’ve still got the Sarpo Mira to come up but we’ve got two full wheelbarrows of main crops.

The whites are Orla which are a versatile potato. They’re an early but can be left to just grow on and treated as an early maincrop. They have a level of blight resistance and store well. A pretty good yield, too. The odd tuber has some insect damage but only a few. Both varieties have had some damage by Benjamin Bunny and his pals. Annoying little divils.

The reds are Sarpo Axona. Oddly, they’ve got some blighted tubers unlike the Orla. I think the Orla haulm died off before the blight arrived which protected the tubers. I should have cut the haulm off the Axona when I saw they were getting blight but I didn’t. Not my finest year as I’ve said.

Sometimes people email me saying “You said Sarpo don’t get blight and mine did” The fact is that Sarpo resist blight better than many varieties but resistance is not immunity. Also, the specific strain of blight varies year to year. Like flu, some years it’s a bad one and other years hardly a bother.

Anyway, I think we’ve ended up with about 80 kg of maincrops and still have the Sarpo Mira to come and they’re very heavy croppers. This year I’ve definitely over-produced potatoes despite everything. Funny old world.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
57 comments on “Time to Quit? Potato Harvest
  1. Richard Sampson says:

    I’m approaching 77 and have had terrible sciatica for two years, it’s been better this year, I grow just about everything so that the two of us are pretty well self sufficient. I have a mixture of 6 wood edged raised beds and 7 6m x 1.5m beds in what we call the veg garden, plus two 8×12 greenhouses.
    I have to be careful with my back so although the end product of digging looks great in the autumn I now don’t dig but just spread compost on the beds with excellent results, just picking our second row of peas, Cadw fynd! Keep going
    I live on the very windy west coast of Wales

  2. Chris Ridgers says:

    It’s certainly been an odd growing season, although I do wonder if that is the indication of what we should expect in the future.
    Yes, the weeds have done extremely well even for those of us who don’t have health issues.
    On the plus side, the outdoor tomatoes (protected from prevailing winds by rigid clear plastic panels) have surpassed all expectations. After the loss, to sun and lack of rain, of the first crop of french beans the second crop have provided so many that the freezer bas should last until the end of the year. Likewise the sweet potatoes and sweetcorn have done well. By the way, if there is one crop which justifies allotment work, it must be eating lightly boiled corn on the cob within 30 minutes of its harvest. The flavour is excellent.
    Yes there are up and downs. However, being outside in nature, and producing produce which you have raised from seeds and knowing that no nasties have been applied to it make it all so worthwhile.
    So, John, please keep going. Your monthly newsletters are so informative. It’s great to learn that even the experts face the same types of challenges that we amateur allotment holders encounter.

    • Brian Rimmer says:

      Hi Chris. I’m looking for some advice on growing sweetcorn. This is the first year I’ve grown them and I seemed to be doing great. Tall strong plants . I didn’t realise that the cobs grew from lower down the central stem but never mind . Live and learn. Every plant has a 4-5 string tassel at the top which seem to be seeds(?). It’s now October and I have tried a couple of the bigger cobs but disappointingly, the swollen corns only extend about half the length of the cob. Any advice please. ( They are delicious though. ️) TIA. Brian

  3. Graeme Richards says:

    Good Morning.
    raised beds are great but a lot of work to create, i too have back problems after spending a lifetime picking plants off the floor as a nurseryman.
    My veg activities too are hampered so I have adapted, using long handled tools the range from Wolf are good and the extending handle enables hoeing and some raking. Planting I do from home grown modules and use a litter picker stick to plant. Seeds are sown using a pipe with a wheel on the end to draw through the row, dipping seed in cornflour helps visually. hope this helps a bit.

  4. Glenn says:

    Hello John,
    Well what can I say other that I really do hope you carry on, your advise really helps. I also had back problems, it cames from my ealy days with the parks department and lumping aroud very heavy mowewrs (especally the flail mowers). This has let to 2 prolasped discs that play up every now and then. I have had raised beds for a few years now and can recommend the recycled plastic one from Harrod horticulture, now if only I knew how to get a discount from them!!!
    Good luck and may your brassicias never wilt


  5. J Cook says:

    Dear John,

    So sorry to hear about your back problems and lack of energy due to COVID. Just wanted you to know how much I enjoy reading your e-mails – when I see them in my inbox, I go straight to them. It would be such a shame if you gave up gardening altogether, I am sure you would miss it, and I think raised beds is a sensible step (I have invested in some sleepers and will be making a raised bed this winter – proactive step as I get older and have the occasional twinge!)

    Of course you must do what you feel is right for you and your family but I really hope you carry on for a bit longer. If and when you decide to step down, I hope the website carries on.

    Very best wishes,

    J Cook

  6. Anne says:

    Hi John
    Like you I am having to reevaluate my garden, like you it embarresses me and depresses me to see my garden now and what it used to be like. I fell into a firepit and smashed my hip to smithereens and broke my femur so I really do struggle with the garden. I had already put in raised beds but I planted so much in pots to make up for not being able to plant up the raised beds but everything is now dying off so I need to think what I do from here on in because it depresses me the way it looks just now. So, I have every sympathy with how you are feeling at the moment.

  7. Judith Whitehouse says:

    good, don’t give up. I have had M.E. for about 37 years now at varying levels. I love to grow, just have to go with what I do manage. I grow stuff in pots on my earth so easier for me to access – I cannot afford raised beds, but one finds ways. And am sure you could find continual help for the digging etc. in return for some supplies!
    best wishes

  8. Stephen Cooke says:

    So sorry to hear that John. I’ve followed your website etc since taking on my allotment in 2016 and understand the feeling of almost being overwhelmed when the weeds do start to get out of hand. Raised beds sound like a good idea for you. Far be it from me to give you advice but I did pick up some tips about time on the plot from an RHS book called The half hour allotment. Maybe that might offer some ideas ?

  9. David watkinson says:

    You have my deepest sympathy. I am waiting for a hip replacement and in a similar situation. Its heartbreaking watching your land get taken over by weeds. Its been a lot of sitting down in between trying to do various jobs. Iv,e just managed to take up the last of my potatoes and I was suprised how well they have done without as much care as they would normally get. Nature has a way of making the best of what it gets thrown at it. No matter how hard it is, the great deal of pleasure will be worth it. When we sit down to reap the benefits of my toil. I will have forgotten the pain in growing it.

  10. Phil Gard says:

    With regard to the back problem, I don’t know if you’ve tried Pilates? It strengthens the core muscles around the spine and has certainly worked astonishingly well for me.
    If you do decide to dip a toe, I’d recommend a small class or one to one, at least initially. I’ve found big classes with a lack of personalised instructor advice left me as a beginner floundering.

  11. Alice Scanlon says:

    Hi John I fully identify with your recent blog regarding the poor season and your health issues.
    We are on the East Coast of Yorkshire, moved here from the city to retire. The bungalow, when we bought it had a large garden but not laid out as we wanted. So we were lucky enough to get an allotment, without much waiting. This we had for four years, whilst we were reorganising at home. We built raised beds for vegetables, had outbuildings demolished, a new potting/storage shed built and treated ourselves to a lovely red cedar greenhouse. Once all was completed, we gave the allotment up. We have ample room,with careful planning to grow most of the produce we need. Since we like to travel during the winter and early spring this suits us much better plus is easier for helpful neighbours to water. We installed an automatic watering system for beds and baskets and put Hoselock growbag watering trays in the greenhouse.
    Yes! This was all costly but it is our hobby,thankfully keeping us sane during the Covid19 Pandemic.
    I have health problems connected to my blood cancer so I can work when I feel able without having to travel too far.

  12. Liz Brynin says:

    I’m sorry to hear of your back problems, and I hope you get them sorted. I recommend you try supplementing the osteopathy with some homeopathy – this has worked wonders for me.

    With regard to your raised beds, go for them! I have not regretted it in my garden. I simply don’t have enough time to devote to my vegetables, but the raised beds really help. I keep a twice-yearly record of what I grow where and when, to help with rotation.
    Also, think of investing in recycled plastic raised beds. No maintenance, no rot, no need to line them with plastic as in the case of recycled railway sleepers and they look good. The soil warms up quicker in the spring with raised beds too.
    There are several options to look at, but I have never regretted it. Before investing in them, I phoned one of the big organic organisations (Henry Doubleday? Not sure now) who gave me a glowing recommendation.
    Good luck with your project!

  13. Roseann Parker says:

    Reading this is exactly parallel to my own situation now with hubby 84 and myself 81 and with arthritis our garden which is quite large is now put over to raised beds as I can never envisage not growing my own produce which is all organic. My hubby does the heavy digging and I do the rest. However we have another problem at the back of us we have a oak tree in the house backing on to us which has grown so much it overshadows half my vegetable garden and the leaves and acorns are just too much for us to deal with now. Although they have promised for years to take down this tree nothing has happened and it’s now a monstrous tree shading the top of the vegetable garden but what can you do but make the best of a bad situation. Well that’s my rant for the day and I hope you return to full health and look forward to your tips on raised bed growing as this is a first for mr.

  14. Potato House says:

    Well done on the Potato Harvest! Looks really good. Good for you for thinking about your overall health, mental and physical, it seems like a good conclusion to come to.

  15. Norman Olley says:

    We (Wife and self) aged in a week when I hit the 80 years in September.
    Two days up at the Allotment we found all the problems with keeping it.
    All set to hand back to the council, phoned them to say may and when to hand back.
    We went up to lift potatoes, and would you believe it we found so many things we can still do, we even loved the Mears tail (it’s green).
    It is what we can do in life, not what we cannot do that keeps us happy in life, so if it’s safe for your health and pocket sprinkle some flower seeds in the gaps for the bees and do what you can, and never, never look at your neighbour’s plot.
    Norman Olley and Mrs. told you so!!

  16. judith coley says:

    I am really sorry to hear that your health problems are making it difficult to do so much work growing fruit and vegetables. My hips are wearing out and my legs ache, but I don’t want to stop gardening, it is great for my wellbeing.
    Our allotment has always had bindweed but we do grow good food as well, and it has never been tidy. Raised beds sounds like a great idea, and Pilates helps me keep going. My husband helps much more now, perhaps you could find someone to share both the work and the produce. Have a rest this winter although I know jobs on an allotment never stop. I really appreciate your website and newsletters.

  17. Caroline Duchet says:

    Sorry that you have got to this point.
    I got Covid in July 2022 and am only just back to normal. It affected my balance so taking care of my allotment was a struggle and like you I looked at a mass of weeds. My strength only began to return in March this year so I have been playing catch-up ever since. I am determined to get weed control fabric on any unused beds this autumn to avoid unnecessary weeding in the spring.
    In terms of your back – I would suggest lying on the floor and lifting weights up and down and from side to side on a short bar – nothing too heavy combined weight no more than 8kg.I had back problems in my 40s and this exercise regime really helped. I’m now 72 and don’t suffer with my back nowadays.
    Best wishes.

  18. David Webster says:

    Look after yourself, your health comes first,you may end up having to buy vegetables but it is not the end of the world. I read your blog and get good tips and from your books. Best wishes for the future

  19. H Miles says:

    I will miss your advice, should you finish, which I have used for over 12 years when I got my small allotment just as I retired. I treated myself to plastic raised beds from LINKABORD and it was the best money I ever spent. I knew I could not cope with the weight of wooden boards or sleepers nor the construction/DIY required. But these weigh nothing and fit together like lego and are moveable. I chose small beds 2m by 1m. and now have 12. Weeding per bed is 30min max and often 5! They are still like new and having now developed angina they enable me to continue.

  20. BRIAN CHEER says:

    Dear John. I know how painful backs can be I had to give up my allotment 8 years ago as I suffered knee, back and shoulder pain from arthritis. I’m now 90 and I built a twenty foot by five foot waist high trough soil depth 14 inches which keeps the two of us supplied with carrots spring onions radish lettuce a few spring cabbages. I also had to cover my two lawns with gravel leaving just a border for flowers as I can’t mow them now, I’ve had several falls but I am very reluctant to stop all together. I love reading your weekly advice and hope if you reduce your gardening you will still keep us enjoying your excellent newsletters. I take 8 paracetamols a day and find this helps the pain for around an hour afterwards.
    Very best wishes.


  21. Linda Gunn says:

    Having started my allotment in2015 I so look forward to getting your emails acting on your treasured knowledge and advice and would be so sorry if you gave up. Is there someone nearby who would be happy to share your plot with you, it would be such a pity to give up it is so good for mental health as well.

  22. Jackie Jackson p says:

    Sorry to hear you are finding the allotment a struggle with your health problems. We have a large area of our sons garden as an allotment and are self sufficient in potatoes and most veg. It can be depressing with bugs and diseases. We had a bumper crop last year of Rocket and Picasso and had to give lots away but this year the picasso got blight and we had to cut the tops off early July which has reduced the crop considerably. One thing we can’t control is whitefly. Even covered in insect netting it doesn’t look like we will get any sprouts this year and organic spray doesn’t touch the thousands of whitefly we get. It takes us much longer to do things but we would be lost without the garden. Hope you can find a way to continue and many thanks for your emails, we really look forward to reading them.

  23. Rosie Frost says:

    So sorry you are feeling like quitting I’m 78 and had Covid plus two flu bouts (long Covid?) lasting from last October to March, a cataract op that left me with awful light sensitivity which means a hat and sunglasses outside and an inner ear problem in the summer that made me dizzy enough to fall into a window and a trip to a and e. Add long term neck, shoulder and knee problems and bad weather…and my one acre garden, including allotment sized veg garden all turned into a jungle. I felt so depressed and useless. But a couple of months ago I got a little bit of energy back and managed a half hours weeding etc every morning and afternoon. And my muscles are building up again and now it’s hard for my family to stop me! Except I have to be careful not to overdo it ! I’m trying different new ways to make it easier to garden and prevent the weeds. I do hope you find your energy again..IM SURE IT WILL DO .just don’t quit!

  24. toby lockwood says:

    a difficult choice to make;
    and the thought of never getting soil under your finger nails ever again I would think a sad one;
    lots of supporting advice from your readers and I must say it’s very encouraging to hear how so many people even with physical difficulties find strength and wellbeing in tending their plot;
    I personally am a bit of a messy gardiner with things growing willy nilly all over the place;
    but even though I have to wade through the tall flowers and whatever else is amongst them to harvest the fruits and veg the feeling I get I get nowhere else;
    so maybe it’s not just about pulling weeds and getting the best harvest;
    maybe it’s just about growing and being amongst the growing;
    and of corse just sitting with a cuppa 🙂

  25. Patrick Drennan says:

    Have completely gone over to the no dig method a la Charles Dowding, and paths covered by shredding with no raised beds, for several years now since my back problems got worse. Bending over at any height, including the kitchen sink, creases me! Would suggest you try kneeling with a straight back for any digging you still think is necessary. My wife ( senior nurse) thought me mad and gave me grief, but it’s proved the best thing for me. Don’t let one disappointing year get you down and wait and see how things pan out. I’m writing this as a retired GP with more Orthopod and Physical Medicine experience than most. Gardening still helps to keep me sane.

  26. SAL says:

    Sympathies John, but there’s no reason to lie down and let life take over.
    We all have a choice to be pro active in our lives.
    Just stop digging!
    I’ve been following Charles Dowding to manage the workload on my 2 plots. I’m 74 now and constantly reassessing how I can reduce the effort, but still get the many benefits of being outside in nature. Digging disturbs the natural eco system and ultimately affects wider nature. We gardeners owe it to the planet and our backs to let nature help itself and us.

  27. Carol King says:

    Sorry to read about your bad back John, I’ve learned to do short spells of digging then something else for a while. Once after heavy digging, back was suddenly agony, luckily fork was there to lever myself up, went home bent at 90deg!
    This year I’ve mulched a lot of stuff with sheep fleece, saved a lot of time and effort weeding/slugging, and best crops I’ve had for years.
    Had cancer in 2019, it’s amazing how quick healthy docks, nettles etc took over, and now only 9 out of 16 beds (4x15ft) are producing, I WILL get them sorted this winter :-).
    Good luck with the allotment and growing, hope you find a solution to your back problems, and get over that farmer vivid soon.
    I agree 100% about our food security and safety, Been going on about the food shortages myself to friends.

  28. John Goode says:

    I returned to having a veg garden patch after 30 years without when a friend and her husband offered me half of their kitchen garden on an isolated farm in the middle of Kent. March 2020 saw my first attempts at what I knew I had to do. During Covid, on the farm, I worked and enjoyed it and have the bounty from the soil. Also I had the pleasure of no human company, no constant overflight air traffic from Gatwick, so many varied birds visiting, insects in profusion, 24 cows and their calves, BLISS. During that early phase I was diagnosed with 1 type of arthritis in my right shoulder, 2 types in my left shoulder. It can be bloody painful at times but I carry on regardless and reap the rewards. Easy to say ‘carry on’ but you said yourself that you would miss out on it all. Yes 2022 and 2023 have created their problems for our hobby but what do we do?? WE ‘carry on regardless’. Best wishes in the new raised bed venture. It will be for the best. Keep the page going. It is of immense help to us all

  29. Annie says:

    Hi John. I had the same problem as you last year and had to give up my 2 allotments which I had had for 30 years. I now grow a small amount of veg at home in tubs and troughs as well as my greenhouse. It’s been a funny year but productive and far less worry. I wish you all the best and please keep up the newsletter if you can – they are very enjoyable and informative.

  30. Philip gosling says:

    I find it a very big struggle every day since 2018. Well, it’s a long story 2018 had a heart operation and having to take lots of pills
    And spent nearly a year recuperating
    And hardly nothing done that year on my Allotment, which had no raised beds, just open ground
    The next year 2019, had to change had no strength or energy so had to put in raised beds, mainly from pallets which I got from neighbours got back into the swing of things and did quite well, but then came a boat out of the blue two days before Christmas Got a telephone call from Hospital O you have got cancer? Great presents for Christmas and for 2021
    I think the only thing that kept me going was the Allotment spent as much time as possible over there couldn’t have an operation because of my heart problem, so has to be chemotherapy and radiotherapy
    Then in that year April, had to have a ICD put in, which is similar to a pacemaker, but more sophisticated, so cannot go near any magnets
    Matt kept on going over Allotment and building more raised beds during the summer of that year. Had the chemotherapy and radiotherapy bloody knackered. Couldn’t do anything not a good or nice thing to have but have to keep going
    Even this year over the Allotment as many times in a week as I can even if it’s an hour which a lot of times it is no strength at all. Just have to listen to my body, but even though I struggle a hell of a lot still love going over there if I do too much one day, I have the next day off, but have to rest I suppose if I give up what the hell am I gonna do just sit there and watch TV I suppose all day that’s not me

  31. Kate Upcraft says:

    I agree with Linda Gunn – I started allotmenting about 2015 and love it. I too look forward to your newsletter and have been grateful for the excellent advice. One possibility is to get a co-worker. I’ve been working on a neighbour’s allotment for over a year now and it’s going well. Basically, we both share a love of growing. I hope you find a way forward that’s right for you and I wish you (and your back) all the best.

  32. Alison says:

    I’ve just read your email John and feel your pain.
    I must admit I’ve had similar feelings this year, but after being at the allotment weeding and being with nature, I just couldn’t imagine not having this wonderful place to go to.
    I’ve too had a very difficult year.
    In January I had major surgery on my leg and in extreme pain.
    I’m still not out of the woods yet, but I’m so grateful that I decided to go No Dig a few years ago.
    I’ve created bed’s with shed panelling, and will be making paths from woodchip next year.
    This week it took me 3 hours to weed a bed (they are 5m long) as it’d got out of hand.
    But the story is, if I can do this with leg/knee/back pain, I urge you to keep going John.
    Maybe consider No Dig?

    Thank you so much for your weekly emails. They are inspiring. Even “pick you up”!

    Keep Calm and Carry on.

  33. Roberta G says:

    Hi John
    Sorry to hear that things seem to be getting on top of you. I love reading your newsletters and learning from your experience.

  34. gwyn evans says:

    Sorry to hear about our problems ,I also have similar problems, I get round by having a stool that is light to carry with me every were on the allotment, I even manage the tiller sitting down, my tools are now long handled so less bending, my wife also helps with planting, this year we had a bumper crop of toms and onions, my runner beans were our biggest disappointment, just been making some Quince jelly and liquors today, sitting down job I can do with a little help, hope you don’t quit, there’s a lot of people who really like you blog, just do what you can its not a competition to produce the most.

  35. Colin Harrison says:

    All the best, John. I am sure that whatever decision you eventually arrive at, you will do your best to make it work.
    Best wishes

  36. Linda pegler says:

    I went over to raised beds 4yrs ago best thing I did for my back, I now sit down to do all my gardening, I just got some extendable hand tools so can reach across the beds without effort, so don’t give up you will be lost without your garden,hope you feeling better soon

  37. Alison Parsons says:

    Sorry to hear about your back problem John. Last December I injured my back lifting my shopping trolly!! It wasn’t until mid April that I got it diagnosed as a compression fracture of my spine. As I was only being treated for a back strain injury I pushed myself. to work on my allottment. I have had a Wolf backsaver spade for years and find it invaluable now. I planted my potatoes with a litter picker and use a hoe regularly to keep weeds down. I walk to and from my allottment in hilly Torquay (25 minutes each way)and cannot envisage not having a plot . Hope you can find a solution that will help you keep going. Alison parsons

  38. jim says:

    Hi John,

    sorry to hear about your health problems. Dont give up….Take a break. But try and stay active, short walks that progress to longer ones, plan for next spring and the new season.

    Best wishes for the future and keep up the regular newsletters.

    Jim, Waterford,Ireland

  39. Peggy Ayers says:

    I too was preparing to give up some of my allotment . To make life easier I have invested in membrane which I spread over the land. Superb crops of courgettes and squashes this year by cutting squares in the membrane and popping the plants into them. Also using this methods for Purple Sprouting Broccoli. I obviously can’t do this for potatoes My big money saver has been the raspberries. My grandchildren love them and they would not have had so many if I didn’t have the allotment. They are very willing helpers when it comes to picking the raspberries. They really enjoy being on the allotment and I am pleased that it is a pleasure for them to join me there . . Ages 11 ,9, and 5 They come with their mother who is a really great help to me .

  40. Richard Jackson says:

    Hello John,
    Terribly sad that you’re thinking of giving up ‘growing on the land’. You will be sorely missed. I too had to give it up but not for health reasons but simply from a lack of time. I am in my mid 70’s and still working and live halfway up a mountain in southern Tasmania with a climate more akin to Wales and the Western Highlands.
    I made the decision to move to HYDROPONICS several years ago and am amazed at the productivity. Once set up it needs no more than a few minutes per day. I commenced it outdoors but now have it in an enclosed greenhouse which has resulted in even greater yields.
    Advantages :
    1. little time required to maintain
    2. no weeding, manuring or composting
    3. everything at waist height
    4. no pathogens
    5. my costs for a fairly large system is GBP 0.80 per week
    Can’t recommend it highly enough and an excellent source of information is https://www.youtube.com/@Hoocho

    All the best on whatever you decide.

  41. Ray Hulm says:

    Don’t give up, adapt. I’m 81 now and a lifetime of physical work plus a lifetime hobby of physical training including weightlifting have taken their toll but I’m going to keep the plot for as long as possible. I went through a bad patch a couple of years ago with recurring back problems and severe sciatica however I discovered the McGill method and my back is now the best it has been for years. There is an excelent book- Back Mechanic by Suart McGill.
    Raised beds? Don’t get me started!

  42. Diane says:

    Hello John.
    Firstly a thank you; you’ve been there helping with thoughts and advice since the beginning of my allotment journey many years ago now.

    I am so sorry to hear you’ve been struggling. Can I help you now? I wish I could. But I can empathise a little.

    Covid stinks. Back pain stinks. Weeding stinks. But for me, what is worse is feeling low when I have been unwell or when previous problems have resurfaced from time to time.

    The aftermath of Covid did result in me feeling very fed up, well more than fed up to be honest, for months. Lack of energy and back pain “aged me” 10 years all last winter and this spring.

    BUT my allotment lets me breathe, makes me smile, is my peace.
    AND I know the joy on Christmas Day of eating my own strawberry jam and roasting my own potatoes. Eating my own butter nut squash soup is fabulous, this was always and remains my simple goal.
    I know eating my own unsprayed veg and fruit is so worthwhile, even the wonky mis shaped ones!
    I know my grandchildren love to pick the raspberries. My 8 year old granddaughter loves to pick some of the flowers and watch the bees.

    I have thought of walking away and giving back the keys to my allotment. But that’s exactly why I haven’t , right there in the words “my allotment”.
    I know I am not ready to give up just yet really.

    A wise person said leave plenty of time between thinking and taking a big decision.
    Rest up, don’t beat yourself up and take time.
    You’ll get there.
    With fondest regards.

  43. Lesley Jones says:

    I sincerely hope your back problems improve, nothing worse than a bad back it affects so much. Please don’t give up, from a rather selfish perspective, I love receiving your emails. I sit with a cuppa and take some time out to read through your news and sound inspirational advice about the trials and tribulations we often face with gardening as well as all the joys of it too. You have taught me a great deal and shown me the way through with all sorts of ideas, especially when it’s gone a bit wrong! You have the experience and the solutions I’ve come to rely on. Thank you doesn’t seem to be enough but thank you. I wish you all the very best I really do and sincerely hope you will find the way to continue that works best for you.

  44. Chris Hannaford says:

    Yes, it is depressing when the plot takes over you, rather than you taking over the plot. But there are ways round the problem, as your many emails have shown. No Dig by Charles Dowding is definitely worth a look. During a bad year I covered a lot of my out of control allotment with leaves, cardboard then a semi permeable membrane. This was left over winter and in the spring I was amazed at the transformation! Lovely soil, masses of worms and largely weed free. It gave me a good breather when I couldn’t get to my plot. I also put in three raised beds and they do make life easier. Do try other alternatives John, before you throw on the towel. You have an appreciative audience willing you on!

  45. Carol Benson says:

    I’m in a similar position, but please don’t give up and don’t despair. The following have all helped me:

    1. My Consultant told me to take regular breaks, garden in short bursts and vary the tasks so that I am not putting constant strain on my back.
    2. I went over to No-dig with good results.
    3. I already had some raised beds made from Link-A-Bord (shallow, stony soil) but they were too low. I have now converted to metal raised beds. They are higher, light and easy to assemble and will last for years and years. They won’t rot like wood or attract colonies of snails, slugs and wood lice. They are expensive to fill initially but I use the Hulgur Kultur approach and that works well with good results. They are very versatile in the size and shapes you can create. Harrod Horticultural only stock the 4-in-1 type but Huw Richards does 6-in1, 9-in-1,10-in1 and circular types https://huwsgarden.com/en-gb

    4. I use a kneeler with sides so that I can easily lever myself up with a straight back and there are some good tools available now for people with problems.
    5. If I have spells when I’m out of action and I miss the window for sowing seed, I buy plug plants. I’ve ditched the guilt. Growing something is always better than not growing anything.
    6. For unavoidable heavy jobs I ask for help and if I have to pay someone I do – e.g.cutting an overgrown hedge/tree etc.

    Hope this helps. I agree with all of your reasons for keeping going and trust me giving up would just make you depressed.

  46. Carol Benson says:

    Just to add to my suggestions above. In recent years I have built up a collection of containers with self-watering/feeding reservoirs, which cuts down a lot of trudging about with a heavy watering can. Depending on the weather they can last 2 weeks. A couple of years ago I saw a sturdy bench/table discounted at a garden centre as it was end of season. They had 3 left and I negotiated a further discount for taking the lot. I now put all my self-watering containers on these benches which means I tend them at near waist height so no bending/strain on my back and very few pests.

  47. Astrid Morgan says:

    I have scoliosis which causes all sorts of weird pains and aches, and knees, wrists, hands and feet have arthritis but manage to keep going with glucosamine+chondroitin, a tens machine, massage and liberal applications of ibuprofen gel (voltarol is better but very pricey). Take it steady and you will last for years x

  48. Michael Carmel says:

    See what a lot of support you have from all round the globe.
    All I can add is don’t make a big decision while you are still post-covid. It will affect your judgement. Also, bear in mind spuds are just about the hardest work of the lot, especially main crop.
    Don’t forget the value of low-maintenance crops like asparagus and raspberries.
    I have been downsizing on my (not very big anyway) allotment to make space for a much younger tenant. But I’m well into my eighties now and preparing for times ahead Downsizing can be hard work, too.

  49. Sue A says:

    Hi John
    I’m a maintenance gardener and have helped people with their allotments when they are recovering from surgery or another reason related to their health. There’s nothing wrong with getting some help a few hours a week whilst you focus on planning and making changes to your plot. It’s no different from making changes to your home. Just see it as a period of transition into a new chapter of gardening adventures. Wolf tools are really good as suggested by another reader. I work in a community garden and without raised beds and no dig we would not be able to include so many volunteers in what we do, as many struggle with balance, bending etc. so please don’t give up, hopefully with some well thought adaptations, some advice from a physio and perhaps some. Help for a while you will soon be back up and running. Perhaps visit some community gardens to get some inspiration and take on some help for a while. All the best.

  50. Anne says:

    Hi John

    Sorry to hear of you health problems. I had covid in May 2020 and then developed long covid, I’m still not fully recovered. You have my sympathy with the frustrations of not being able to carry on as previously, I had to learn how to feel positive about what I was able to do and try not to think about what I couldn’t. Being active in short bouts and getting plenty of rest in between should help energy recovery and don’t be tempted to push yourself too hard as that is depleting of energy reserves. Be kind to yourself physically and mentally. You deserve it.

    I like others hope you find some way of continuing. I’m still able to grow food and this year has been better than previously. Your advice and the copious information on the website is a great source from which I continue to learn much. Like others I look forward to each email. The Darwinian survival of the fittest and the abi!ity to adapt to circumstances is one of our strengths as humans and there is plenty of support and advice from others. I hope you continue and wish you well whatever your decision

    Best wishes

  51. mike wilding says:

    Hi John. You sound like so many on here including myself….we’re all cracking up with age and ailments! I’m 77 now..bad back/bad right leg. My garden plot is 4m x 15m and is getting harder each year. At the moment it’s all covered with weeds. So I’ve just sent off for some plastic sheeting to cover the whole plot. I shall chop the biggest weeds down then cover with the plastic. Some peace till next spring!! Regards to you and all.

  52. Irene Bensinger says:

    John, I write to you from the western foothills of Mount Rainier, Washington state, usa. I first want to thank you for many years of enjoying your kind, friendly and information-rich newsletters. I’m so pleased to be able to count myself among your legions of fans and followers.
    I’ll be 85 next month. I’d like to share some things that have kept me happily gardening in these, my (?) golden years.

    Starting in my 70s I started to plant less of everything, no big change, just a small cutting back, but ongoing over the years. I gave myself permission to be realistic about my limitations. By now my garden is about half its original size, half veg, half wild flowers and clovers for birds, pollinators, and for those billions of tiny creatures who manage things underground.

    I do things a bit more slowly, more mindfully than I did in my younger days. It gives me time to watch things like the tiny toads, no bigger than the tip of my finger, as they make their way from somewhere to somewhere else. I don’t pile more tasks on myself than I can comfortably manage, and I sit down for a bit when I feel the need.

    I have unapologetically learned my limits on how much I can carry. I’m not in competition with my younger self, or anyone else. I count my many blessings, your newsletters among them!
    Thank you, John. Please stay in touch!
    ~ irene

Leave a Comment Here on Time to Quit? Potato Harvest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


May 2024

What to do now on your plot!

Monthly Free Newsletter

Allotment Photo History

Our Books – A Growing Offer!

Our bestselling books for growing success!
More Information


Allotment & Garden Online Planning

Free Trial - Allotment Planner
Personal Planting Updates & Tips
by email twice a month
Allotment Garden Planning Software