Allotment Diary

The day I met Joe Swift

The other day, I found another absolute gem in the hard drive from the old radio days, which I’m hoping you’ll enjoy.

A bit of background…

Back in 2012, I was a roving reporter for my local radio station, (the great Radio Jackie) and around that time I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Swift at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton about gardening and his first entry in the Chelsea Flower Show 2012.

The garden designer and Gardener’s World presenter and had joined forces with Homebase to produce the Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden.

To raise awareness and in support of the trust, Joe Swift held a closed gardening workshop for previous patients at the hospital to come along and learn how to plant a variety of seeds, plants, bulbs and vegetables and learn about the benefits of gardening.

Date:20/04/2012 Rep:Sophia Sleigh Ref:SU65881 Contact Name/Number:Sophia Address:Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital, Downs Road, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5PT Job Details:Title: gardening marsden gardening at royal marsden for past patient –

This is the discussion we had and the edited audio – I can’t believe that this was nearly ten years ago now! How time flies.



Joe: I’m going to be talking to some of the cancer patients for the Teenage Cancer Trust, about gardening really, how wonderful it is to plant some seeds, watch them grow, get a bit colour into your life, and how easy a lot of gardening is really, and here, we’re just going to be planting a few tomato seeds and planting a few bedding plants and creating a bit of colour.

Adam: Now, I’m 22 and I have my own allotment, now why do you think it’s so important for young people to get out there and get stuck in?

Joe: You know, I just think so many kids and young people like yourself are sitting around, playing video games and watching TV and stuff – and it’s really up to us to create the opportunity to get kids out there, get younger people into gardening, it’s great for the environment, but as you know yourself the rewards can’t really be gained by anything else, in a funny sort of way. There are no down sides to gardening, none that I’ve found yet, and I’ve been doing it for years. Everything is so positive about it.

Adam: How is the garden doing at Chelsea, has it got a long way to go?

Joe: Well yeah, we started the build on May 1st, so I’ve different parts of the garden all over the country at the moment. I’ve got these huge timber frames which are down in Kent, I’ve got my boulders which are up in Yorkshire, I’ve got my plants which are in Hampshire – I desperately want to get them all together and get building because the process before is great, it’s exciting but now I just want to get on with it.

Adam: This is your first garden you said earlier – you must be nervous, I mean you’re going up against people that have been there for years – not that I’m trying to put you off or anything.

Joe: I know, I know…I know them all pretty well, I’m right next door to Cleve West who is one of my best mates and basically won best in show last year. He won a gold and best in show and has got six golds at Chelsea and I’m right next door to him. I have set myself off having slagged of many peoples gardens on TV, so I’m waiting for it all to come back on me, but I’m really enjoying it so far, and you know, it’s a dream garden – you don’t get to do these sorts of gardens for clients.

Adam: What would say to young people who want to get an allotment but feel it’s not really cool, it’s not very trendy…

Joe: Hang on, hang on – Allotments are cool. They are cool! Honestly! I live in Hackney, just up the road from Dalston, which apparently is the coolest place on earth and everyone is growing their own down there in any little space, balcony, roof garden, if they can get part of an allotment or even get an allotment and divide it up between four or five of you. A big allotment is quite a responsibility, I mean there’s nothing more fun than four or five of you going down there, growing a bit, getting a BBQ, getting some salads and getting some beers out. In the summer, it’s just a wonderful space, you can kind of do whatever you want and that’s what gardening is about. If you’ve got your garden then great, but if you haven’t then get somewhere you can grow together.

Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden 2012

Pictures of Joe’s first garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012, can be found here.

He won gold and was presented with the award by none other than Roger Daltrey, Who you may have heard of from a well known four piece. The Who front man is a patron of the trust.

How time flies. Allotments were cool and still are (in my opinion). Do you think the number of young people getting into gardening has increased over the last ten years? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Ask Adam

Ask Adam #13: Filling a raised bed

Kav from Scotland has written in with the following question regarding some new raised beds:

I’m filling our raised beds and wondered what you suggest we fill them with? (They will be used for vegetables). I’ve read conflicting information about rocks, branches and gravel! Our raised beds are on top of soil – we dug out all the grass.

Kav, Scotland
Allotment Stories

Then and now

Summer 2018
Allotment Stories

Before the clocks spring forward

March 2021...
Stormy twilight and birdsong
Allotment Diary

Celebrating the gardening books! #WorldBookDay

Another year and there’s a new batch of gardening books on the shelf to celebrate. Put the kettle on, sit back and take a look at these.

This the third year I’ve taken a look at the books acquired in a 12 month period, and you can see the others here and here.

Grow Food For Free
– Huw Richards

The easy, sustainable, zero-cost way to a plentiful harvest

Huw Richards goes into the ins and outs of growing fruit and veg for free for a whole year.

This book will make you look at the food already in the pantry, pallets and would be recycled materials completely differently, and provides some fantastic ideas that will make you think much more sustainability.

Huw also has a YouTube channel which is packed full of more know how.

Take a look inside here.

Giving up too soon is the one thing that will prevent you enjoying free food in abundance.

Huw Richards

Charles Dowding’s Veg Course
– Charles Dowding

Beginners and experienced growers alike find that his refreshingly different ideas highly effective methods open their minds to new possibilities.

This book distills 35 years of Charles Dowding’s gardening experience from Lower Farm in Somerset into just over 200 pages. No Dig is now one of the most popular methods of growing your own – especially with those with busy lifestyles.

This book is illustrated with images directly from the farm and has been (no pun intended) ground breaking when it comes to changing garden practices for the better. Charles too has a website here you can also dive into.

Take a look inside here.

The usual recommendation is to dig or even double dig the soil for growing vegetables. Because this is repeated so many times, most gardeners accept the task without wondering if it is really necessary.

Charles Dowding

The Almanac 2021
– Lia Leendertz

A seasonal guide to 2021

This is the first year I’ve had the pleasure of an Lia’s Almanac and I have to say, what a breath of fresh air this is. This book doesn’t just go into gardening, but also takes into account the seasons, lunar patterns, migrations and traditions.

Illustrations are provided by Helen Cann, the little pocket is something different and is a number one best seller for good reason.

Take a look inside here.

The Almanac is about celebrating the unfolding year

Lia Leendertz

The Pocket Book of Garden Experiments
– Helen Pilcher

80 fun activities for families

The summer holidays are literally just around the corner and this is just what the doctor ordered to help keep the little ones occupied. Helen Pilcher has packed this book full of interesting, fun and educational activities that, I think, is bound to keep adults and little ones alike occupied.

This is the go to book to pry you and your loved ones away from the screen and into something a bit more fun.

Take a look inside here.

If you’ve ever asked a question or wondered why something is the way it is, then you’re a scientist.

Helen Pilcher

I’d love to know your recommended reads in the comments below! 🙂

Allotment Diary

How it started and how it’s going

If you’ve just started a plot, or you’ve decided to start again like I did a few years ago, sometimes you just need to take a step back and smell the roses.



The full “starting again” series

I’d love to know how you’re getting on in the comments below on the plot or in the garden. 🙂