'Trowel & Error' - Our Allotment Journey! - Quorum Park

One year on from the launch of the Quorum Allotment and Community Garden, our Events and Sustainability Lead Laura McGrath reflects on the lessons learned and meals enjoyed, in a year full of surprises, achievements (and some disappointing carrots!).

Where is the Quorum allotment and what is growing there?

The allotment is housed in a sunny sheltered spot behind our Q4 Building. It comprises a number of vegetable beds all growing a variety of veg including carrots, spring onions, beetroot and a very promising looking pumpkin patch.

We also have a climber area full of beans and peas climbing up various teepees and other creations.

Then two raised beds are filled with cut flowers which we use to fill vases in our Q11 and Neon buildings.

We also have a herb garden and even a wormery to manage our waste!

Why did you introduce an allotment and community garden to Quorum Park?

Here at Quorum Park we want to create a space where people, animals, nature and businesses thrive.

Our events programme creates a vibrant community of staff who are engaged and interested in what we do.

The introduction of an allotment space offered us the opportunity to embed messaging around sustainable gardening practices and the health benefits of ‘growing your own’.

The mental health benefits of time spent away from our desks, plus messaging around locally grown produce, aligns well with our other sustainability practices – such as our onsite beehives and our rewildling programme.

What was the hardest part of setting up an allotment?

The hardest part is accepting mistakes are how you learn, as much as I wish everything worked first time.

We at least now have a better understanding of growing carrots after our first crop was a selection of the tiniest, saddest looking carrots you’ve ever seen! (A good carrot crop needs: adequate spacing, deep room for roots and finely tilled soil – just for the record!)

Next year we’ll have a better understanding of what grows well and how long it takes to harvest so we can plan the diary accordingly and aim for successful succession planting instead of having gaps in the harvest.

As great as a good harvest is, there’s nothing more disappointing than leaving a gap in the ground with nothing to fill it.

What have you enjoyed the most?

Easily the cut flower garden – flowers stole my heart long before edibles did and we’ve had such fantastic results I really couldn’t have wished for better.

Our first crop of sweetpeas was absolutely stunning and is still hanging on strong as we head into September while we’ve just had a flush of vibrant colour as our dahlias have flowered.

Sweetpeas, Cosmos and Dahlias are all ‘cut  and come again’ flowers, meaning the more we cut them, the more they flower.

Every Monday morning I stop by the garden and take a basket full back to the Q11 and Neon Buildings and fill posey glasses with colour and the smell of fresh flowers.

Can anyone get involved?

We’re really keen to get more volunteers stuck in!

In the Spring, volunteers grew seedlings on their windowsills while we germinated seeds at home

Those seedlings have now bloomed into thriving pumpkins, runner beans and a herb garden.

Keep your eyes peeled for a big competition next year which might bring the Quorum Allotment space right to your building’s doorstep!

What happens to the produce?

We leave produce in shared kitchen areas for staff to take home.

I must admit I take a lot home myself – my husband has perfected a delicious pea and broad bean risotto.

This month as some of our harvest has gone to seed, we’ve taken a selection of cuttings and unwanted produce to our neighbours, Benton Dog and Cat Shelter.

Houdini the goat loved our beetroot and the pigs were way less judgement about the size of our tiny carrots!

Next year I’d love to have enough produce to donate to a local food kitchen.

Once spent, the cut flowers end up in the wormery ultimately ending up fertilising the space once more.

What’s next for the space?

Our pumpkins are still green and have some growing to do but are looking very healthy – I have a good feeling they are going to be great by Halloween!

We’re partnering with our onsite nursery, Kids 1st , to allow the children to get involved with planting and it won’t be long until our sweetcorn is ready.

It looks amazing so far! Next year I want to expand the cut flower garden so we can offer more buildings flowers as a low carbon, plastic free replacement to shop bought bouquets and I hope more tenants want to come along and run mini workshops for staff teaching about sustainable gardening practices and the benefits of locally grown food.