147. VegPlotter | Growing an Allotment Plot | Richard Lewis | United Kingdom

I am just thrilled to introduce my guest from across the ocean! My guest today is going to tell us about an app called VegPlotter! He’ll also share secrets for using those squash we all wonder what to do with to reduce weeds!!

Richard Lewis and Daughter from Vegplotter

Tell us a little about yourself.

So I live in the UK, sort of the middle of the UK, in a place called Rugby, which is where the game of Rugby came from. We moved here about 10 years ago, here I decided to get an allotment, I have had an allotment for about 3 years. I am struggling to get it in order because it’s quite large. 

Veg Plotter Allottments

30 meters by 20 meters.

That is large! A meter is about a yard, so 30 meters by 20 meters is about 30 yards by 20 yards and that’s pretty big!

only managed to turn over the soil on about 1/3 of it, the rest of lawn

that’s what

used to have chickens when I was a kid.

because I have this allotment

I was having struggle managing it, so that’s why I built the Veg Plotter app to help me manage it!

So do you want to tell everyone what the VegPlotter  is?

VegPlotterWebsite

VegPlotter app

So it’s a website, works on a mobile, desktop, pc or mac. So it allows you to plan out your vegetable.! 

you can map out where your beds are gonna be! And your sheds and greenhouses are , your water system and cold-frames

  • beds

  • sheds

  • greenhouses

  • water

  • cold-frames

Then on a month-by-month basis, your gonna map out and plan what you want to plant, so the unique thing about VegPlotter  is that it shows you whats in the garden. So as you move through the months you can see where there are gaps and you can decide to put a cover crop in, or where you could put some quick crops like radish or lettuce to fill your land so you can make the best use of your land!

Awesome! You can use it on a desktop or on your mobile! So what do you do? You enter data? From what you are planning, or a catalog? or how does it work?

You need to measure out your garden

What I suggest you do is you use a bamboo cane or if you have a long tape measure. Once you’ve got the measurement and how you want your beds, you simply 

when you open the app, you create a new plot…

It’s basically just a blank canvas where you can drag on beds, or sheds, you drag out the corners of those beds, make them the right size, then you move them into position. So in one particular month, say you move to March or April when there’s a lot of planting going on, you can move tot hose months, and drag on a 

let’s say you want to plant a

row of beets, you can quickly from the menu on the right, drag it onto your plot and put it where you want it to go, and drop it down and the plotter does is it makes out a schedule for that plant

if your planting, when you a couple of months prior when you should have sowed the seeds in your greenhouse or windowsill and when you should expect to harvest…show you that there’s space to plant else if your season allows.

VegPlotter Chart

I know people might be like, when am I gonna do this? I don’t need to do this because I’m out there, and this is gonna take a lot of time, but you know when this is going to help, what I see is the biggest benefit is this is gonna help with record keeping and as the years go by, you’re gonna be able to figure out when did I plant that, should I start earlier, what should I put. A lot of people talk about data is the key to success, I really think this is gonna help people really know data. I know I have bene known as a data junky at school, cause I love to analyze that, but… I think this will really help people be more effective in their garden….

say you planted cabbages, they should really go in the ground, the season after…

Brussels sprouts

they shouldn’t go in the ground

the season afterwards

if you drag out a cabbage it will tell you if you previously, so maybe you probably shouldn’t plant them, it will give you a warning. 

I love the way it’s easy to drop and drag it !

keeps an accurate record

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I didn’t grow up in Rugby, I grew up on the south coast, in the SW part of England. There are 2 counties called Devin and Cornwall, I grew up by Devin… in a place called Totnes they call it the English Rivera, they have palm trees and such, stays quite warm don’t get quite so many frosts…

parents had quite a big garden at the back. We had a small vegetable patch, you could only have a couple of rows of lettuce and the odd few cabbage. It was enough to get us interested and the best part of it was the chickens, they would roam around the garden and they would chase the cat…

How did you learn how to garden organically?

Learning how to garden organic, basically is just me being frugal … I didn’t really grow organic until I started my allotment, one of the things when you grow organic if you buy the food in the shops it’s more expensive, if you garden organic it’s cheaper, you don’t have to buy expensive fertilizer there are 

Manure to spread at VegPlotter Allotment site

gardening hacks

  • beer traps for catching your slugs,
  • netting for stopping things for getting

People on allotments, tend to garden organically. The advice is always an organic answer when you ask your neighbors, they give you natural advice.

Do you have to pay for that?

There are different models. Our allotment is probably 50 allotments on our site, it’s owned by a local charity,  a local wealthy gentleman, when he died, he left a load of land in trust to a charity as long as they make it available to local people. 

Since that day, this has been hundreds of years back, there have always been allotments on that sight, I pay 16 pounds a year which is about $25 for that size of it. There are others in the UK, pay $100 lbs for the whole year.

Allotments are a good way to start growing, and getting into gardening if you don’t have space at home. Often your family would maybe not want a vegetable garden, your family would much prefer lawn and they want to kick a football around.

If you are wanting to be having some land to grow crops….

Now how far is it from your house?

I can walk it in about 10 minutes but I can drive in just a few minutes.

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

My butternut squashes. They’re always a good one, I planted loads because I wanted to use them as a cover crop to keep weeds down… I like to use them in soups.

To keep them while I get caught up, I thought what I could do is plant some butternut squash because the leaves are quite big and they cover a lot of ground, so they would cover the smaller weeds, so any of the smaller weeds, and the self-seeded annuals would struggle to grow

And did that work?

I think so, it worked quite well, they take a lot of ground, especially, the climbing or vine based ones…bush ones maybe not so much but if you get the trailing ones train them around the actual vegetable bed. They shade the bed so the seeds don’t grow so much! It seemed to work quite well.

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I am gonna do the same thing this year because they worked so well.

I have this long term view to grow grape vines

put an apple tree in

this is the first year I have elected to grow fruit.

it was fairly pot bound…. so last year I diligently watered it so I took the fruit off so it would get established. It was in a pot before we bought it. It wasn’t pot bound strictly speaking,  tree roots tend to grow a little bit slower… especially if they’ve been in a pot for a while. Tree roots grow a little slower. 

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

probably

I’ve had a challenge this year

I planted 2 rows of beet root and 2 rows of chard, I don’t know if it was pigeons, or magpies. Basically destroyed the crops. I went on Saturday and there were 3 rows of seasons of seedlings. It was the start of the season and then I went on Sunday, they were all gone. As you can imagine I was a bit angry. There was a pigeon up in the tree, and some magpies cackling in the distance.

I usually net the brassicas. I never had that problem with the beets chard and beetroot, nor the slugs

this year for some reason, they haven’t got any of the brassicas going, I had the beets. 

Do you know did any of your neighbors in the allotment have that problem. 

No, my neighbors, they were fine, and we were chatting, there’s

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

I hate mowing, I hate g

because some of my allotment is long. It’s the easiest way to keep weeds down. When I go to the garden I like to  plant things… I quite like hoeing, feel like I am moving forward…

  • plant
  • hoe
  • be productive

Mowing just feels like I’m wasting time, I’ve only got a little push mower, what do you call it, a hand-mower not a powered one. The wheels push it, It takes about an hour, I only have so much time at the allotment, so just mowing grates on my nerves….

I have to do that

How does that work? Do you rent tools? Do you have to bring things down?

You can put whatever you like on your plot

  • shed
  • compost bins
  • cold frames
  • eventually like to have a greenhouse

I keep all of my things locked up, although most of the time it’s not locked up

use older tools so they don’t get stolen… 

I wouldn’t keep a petrol lawnmower there because it would get stolen, but I don’t worry about the push mower, no one really wants want

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

Relaxing of an evening, if I get time after work, quickly pop down, 1 hour 1/2 hour

no one around really relaxing chance to unwind after a bit of work, I don’t mind hoeing. 

I think my favorite activity is sitting down and having a cup of tea. 

That is absolutely allowed, siting in the garden, having coffee looking around! 

Especially when I’ve done a bed out, feel like I’ve done some work sit down have a cup of tea and relax. 

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

I would say, the term

little or nothing

a little bit each day, a little bit as often as you can, over time you’ll see the most progress

if you try to do everything at once, you’l hate it because your bones hurt muscles

bite

esp with the hoe, if you quickly go down for 20 minutes pick up the hoe, you can have hoed a bed and a half in that time, then it’s done and there’s no weeds in that bed and in a few days, it’s all done…admittedly you’d have to start again in a week … 

But you’d have to do it again in a week, even if you did it all in one day so you wouldn’t be so sore.

You’re not so overwhelmed it’s gonna take me hours…

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

Probably would be a hoe to be honest because… The thing I’ve found, I’ve had to take over the allotment, so I spend a lot of time making new plots and so the hoe is probably the most useful

  • can take over the earth
  • will help you keep weeds down

One of the best tips I heard, was if you need to prepare a seed bed, rather then using a rake use a hoe because it will

  • break up the soil better
  • a hoe can bash the clods
  • shimmy over the top, makes a better tilth over the top.

creates a special… depending on the soil you have…

jacket potato

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

Ooooo! I like…

I’m a celiac, I can’t have any sort of bread or wheat

I love potatoes, jacket potato probably my favorite meal. One of the other ones zucchini done in garlic, fry it in pan with butter and garlic

Jacket Potato 

just a potato roasted put in the oven, skin and all, do a cross on the top, butter, cheese, baked beans… It’s lovely…

Baked beans, in America, are Pinto beans cooked like in a tomato paste! And I love zucchini sautéed in olive oil… mmmm…

A favorite internet resource?

VegPlotter app…I would recommend that to others…

Royal Horticultural Society

RHS in the UK, Royal Horticulture Society,

They have a great website where you can put in a plant and all the info you need about that plant….

You have a similar thing in the U.S. Don’t you?

The extension service….

RHS is like the extension service

useful resource to use, being a member

get magazines useful…

you can put your location

it will predict based on your local weather

useful for those people who are not really sure what your doing

as you learn you’ll find as you grow stuff

next time

you don’t have remembers…

Curtis Stone the Urban FarmerI was just reading Curtis Stone’s book the Urban Farmer… He talks about using land in the suburbs and connecting with other people. He talks a lot about what you would grow and what you would get from a a CSA…

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

There are so many blogs I read! I know what I’ll do, a service that most people in the UK use, you may be more familiar it’s more from the US

Reddit -gardening very useful

post a question

answer it…

it’s a sort of forum way of asking questions in a much more open way, i found it very useful. I used it a lot, it helped me out a lot, toy around ideas f

people have

free

not one that

a lot of people for the younger generation… but I found it very useful for gardening, especially allotment gardening. 

I can’t say I’ve spent a lot of time there… when I first started blogging I started a running blog and so I was there for running but I thought it was older people I thought kids were more into snap chat?

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

I would say, a lot of time thinking about doingVegPlotter before I started, get started, sooner you start sooner you will finish. So just get on with it!

It took me probably about 18 months to build it and  to develop

The sooner start the sooner you finish…

VegPlotter is free

enjoy the feedback

We have a lot of schools using it! We receive lots of emails from class children who plan out their gardens! I do like that part of it. 

How did you find a developer?

I developed it myself. If your struggling to find a developer, I would say have a look on google, see how coding works… it’s different then what you’re used to.. but once you get the hang of it, it’s not that hard. 

There are always these learn to code for kids… and there were these kids in school in Eureka at this site, code.org to learn how to code and it looked pretty simple. 

kids are able to work out new tech

they’re interested in it, if your interested in learning how to code, and you explore how it works, it would 

I have wanted to build this app, when I was teaching kindergartner and first grade, we were teaching the kids to count to 100, and it was the best math app, and the problem was it was in Korean or Chinese or something the kids couldn’t understand. I had kids who couldn’t write their numbers, we had started in mid kindergarten and still at the end of first grade weren’t doing it and then after 2 weeks of using that app, they were doing it, it was so helpful and I just wanted one that worked in English! It was really nice because it would drop 10 numbers at a time. There are ones like it, but they have to pic out of all 100 numbers instead of just 10 at a time!

Is there anything else you want to say about Vegplotter?

The only thing that I would say, it’s free if you are interested in something that will help plan 

give vegplotter a try,

i won’t spam you with info, it really is there to help you. 

Are you gonna monetize it down the line? You just wanted it for yourself and are happy to share it. 

eventually, it depends how busy it gets, if it got really busy, then I will have to pay for it somehow

If we can grow a certain amount, till I need extra servers. I don’t ever intend to charge for it, but we might have to put some affiliate schemes to pay for the service… but no it’s free enjoy it and I hope it works for you!

Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

I would say, getting the kids, excited about gardening, growing their own, the environment in general, the kids are the key we’re trying to get the kids involved, plan out their school garden, it’s really about getting them interested and excited, so when they grow up they take on their own allotments, grow their own food, they reduce the loads that are moving leaves of salad around the country and the world!

Are you a millennial?

What’s a millennial?

Someone born between 1980-2015?

I still think there’s something special about people between the ages of 30-40 right now who are just rocking this world doing environmentally socially conscious things. And developing an app over 2 years just to help people.

I enjoyed the process, it helped me in my career, so don’t think I didn’t get anything out of it!

Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

That’s a hard one!

I thought you would say “Just start!”

That is essentially it, dig a hole in the ground, dig up some turf

lettuce is covered in chemicals or pesticides in small bags

small cost  lettuce

amazed… how much better it is if you grow it yourself.

Somehow this year, I’ve grown lettuce! 

Home grown lettuce is so much better then shop bought. They say the same thing with tomatoes. I would say that but lettuce is easier.

Yeah, it lasts pretty long. I can usually have lettuce from spring until fall…

How do we connect with you?

VegPlotter is just VegPlotter.com and then I blog at the overgrown plot blog

twitter

Richard Lewis Twitter Page

@veg-plotter or @overgrown plot

twitter is the place I’m most prolific probably the place I spend most of my time. 

facebook page….

Google+and facebook and all that sort of stuff! 

Thank you!

Thank you it’s been brilliant!!!

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