Hello! Here we are in the height of the growing season excited at being able to share our experiences and adventures with a brand-new audience!

Let’s get into introductions; we are Elaine and Julia – also known as ‘The Potty Plotters’. Two Derbyshire women who are bonkers about everything ‘allotmenty’, including anything to do with growing flowers, fruit or vegetables.

If you’re a listener of local BBC radio you may be familiar with us already, where we get unleashed from our plots on Ashbourne Road and District Allotments (sited on the outskirts of Derby city centre) every Sunday afternoon to chat. And oh, we are never short of words!

There are also those who might recognise us from our weekly Plotcast podcasts of growing advice and chatterings. Others might recognise us from talks and demonstrations from around the area.

Never heard of us? Well, it doesn’t matter, but each month we will explain (in simple terms) what you can be doing on the plot or in the garden as well as what we have been up to in the community.

No Latin, no complications, just plain English! No faff, just an unpretentious explanation of how to grow things successfully. Added to the mix, we will be dropping in hints and tips and maybe a few pictures of our escapades too.

So, let’s get started!

To say it seems we have endured endless months of rain this year is no exaggeration. Throw cold temperatures into the mix and it’s easy to see why we have moved into the greenhouses and polytunnel to start off our season with the seeds and plants.

We are never short of jobs up the plots and in March we found time to redesign one of our plots, introducing new, substantial, raised beds to combat the weather changes.

Structure-wise, we took time out to demolish an old building on Julia’s plot which was collapsing and beyond repair. We redesigned the area and are working out how to replace it with some sort of new allotment accommodation capable of supporting all members of the ‘Tuesday Tea Group’!

Great British Life: Introducing the Potty Plotters - Elaine (left) and Julia Introducing the Potty Plotters - Elaine (left) and Julia (Image: The Potty Plotters)

Water-wise, our butts are full to bursting. Our site sits on a high-water table, obviously invaluable in the summer months as we have no direct water supply to the site, but is that such a bad thing?

We take it for granted nowadays to turn on a tap for instant water. Not having that direct supply teaches us all as plot holders the importance (and value) of creating substantial year-round water collections.

As the summer sun now begins to warm the soil, it is a relief to feel some much needed heat on our faces.

Looking round the plots,the poor draining and lack of sunshine has definitely slowed and stunted the growth of our first early potatoes.

Generally in the ground for around 12 weeks, this year’s crop might have to stay a little bit longer before being tested… hold back the chip pan!.

Find more from Elaine and Julia online at pottyplotters.co.uk.

Find them on social media @pottyplotters and search Potty Plotters Plotcast for the podcast.


Great British Life: Why not try growing 'surprise' sunflowers? Why not try growing 'surprise' sunflowers? (Image: The Potty Plotters)

Grow ‘surprise’ sunflowers!

Smash a fat ball (bought as bird food) with your hands or hammer

Pick out the sunflower seeds – large, flat black or striped seeds

Wash the seeds to remove residue suet and give the remaining suet to the birds (a ready meal)

Fill a 4-inch pot with compost or soil

Lay each seed on its side in individual pots. Set ½ inch below the soil surface. Water them!

Keep the plants growing in the pots until they are about 8 inches high 

Plant in the garden and stake each with a cane – but protect from slugs!

Great British Life: Julia with broad beans in the poly tunnel Julia with broad beans in the poly tunnel (Image: The Potty Plotters)


Broad beans are, by their nature, a broad (large) bean seed – easy to handle and very easy to grow!

We set all our varieties in March in exactly the same way – into cell trays full of compost rather than direct into the ground (to protect them from pests).

The trays are then placed carefully onto the shelving in the roof of the polytunnel – out of reach of pests.

Beans are quick to germinate. As our plants reach around three inches in height, they are hardened off (placed outside in cold frames to acclimatise to the colder weather) before being planted into their different final growing spaces.

In the poly tunnel is the ‘Crimson Flowered’ variety. The heavy scent from the small, red flowers is overwhelming in the early evenings and are a huge attraction to pollinators.

Quick to get established, multiple beans have already emerged on the lower level of each stalk ready to be harvested within the next few weeks.

A picture to behold, this variety is definitely worth growing just for the stunning flowers, even if you don’t like the beans!

In comparison, outside in the raised beds are rows of ‘Green Piece Master Long Pod’ - tall stalks growing slowly and steadily and needing meticulous support mechanisms to avoid any stalk breakages. This variety produces perfect, long, green pods – great beans for freezing!

Finally, we have the dwarf broad beans growing in the soil-filled wheelbarrow - ‘The Sutton’. This is a small, stocky plant currently planted adjacent to dwarf peas in the abandoned wheelbarrow nicknamed ‘The Meal-Barrow’. Not only can you eat these beans inside the pods, but the whole pod with beans is edible too!

Great British Life: Lettuce basket Lettuce basket (Image: The Potty Plotters)


Trying to grow your own lettuce? Instead of buying bedding plants for a hanging basket, buy a packet of lettuce seeds like ‘Cut & Come Again’ - hundreds of seeds to keep you in lettuce for months!

Line a basket with something like an old compost bag cut to fit the basket

Make plenty of holes in the plastic and fill with compost or soil

Water so that the soil is damp

Sprinkle a few seeds on the top of the soil

Cover with a thin layer of soil

As the lettuces grow, cut the leaves and they will grow again!

Great British Life: Peas - just watch the pigeons!Peas - just watch the pigeons! (Image: The Potty Plotters)


These last few weeks we have planted peas – not one type but three varieties. Not bad for saying Elaine hates them!

Tall ones, ‘Alderman’, dwarf ones, ‘Half Pint’ and main crop (imagined in rows by so many readers of Enid Blyton stories), ‘Onward’.

The main thing to remember with peas is they don’t like to be hot, instead preferring shade to full-on sunshine.

If you fancy a go at growing them, try a dwarf variety that doesn’t need any fuss and are happy to grow completely unsupported. However, remember that whilst Elaine hates them, pigeons love them!