Coronavirus lockdown brings 'extra difficulty' for allotments

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

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image copyrightStuart McKenzie
image captionStuart McKenzie is improvising ways to keep his plants growing

Spring is usually a busy time for those with allotments. How are growers in Edinburgh coping amid the coronavirus restrictions?

Stuart McKenzie has tried a few ingenious solutions to keep his crops on track this year.

He has taken down gutters to plant seeds and is using the heat from his fridge to grow some of his herbs and vegetables.

The Scottish government's guidance says that councils and allotment owners have the power to decide whether they should remain open.

Gardeners have been allowed to work in their allotments in Edinburgh so far, as long as they follow the social distancing advice. But fears that this could change prompted Stuart to rush to his plot a few weeks ago.

'We can't get any more seeds'

New potatoes are normally planted at Easter, when the soil is warmer, but he said: "I was worried there would be a lockdown and I would have no crop, so I planted them early.

"Now I'm worried they will all rot because the ground is too cold."

Stuart has taken some steps at home in an effort to minimise other potential problems.

"Mice love it when pea seeds start to swell as they are very sweet, so they sniff them out and dig them up," he said.

"I especially can't let this happen this year because we can't get any more seeds during the lockdown.

"So I've taken the gutters off my shed to grow them in. I can keep them safely in my shed, away from mice."

image copyrightStuart McKenzie
image captionStuart has planted peas in the gutters from his shed

When the time is right, the gutter makes the right shape so he can slide the plants into a furrow in the ground.

Stuart has also been growing basil, parsley, swedes, brussels sprouts and cabbage on top of his fridge, where it is warm.

He has combined this with a grow lamp which provides light to start the plants germinating earlier. He then plans to plant them outside his house, where he can keep an eye on them regardless of any further restrictions.

Seona Robinson, who has a plot at Inverleith Allotments in Edinburgh, said she cried when she discovered mice had eaten all her seeds - and she has been unable to buy any more due to the lockdown.

image copyrightEvonne Bain
image captionSeona Robinson relies on the fruit and vegetables from her allotment

She said: "I'm very organised and only grow what I need, so when this happened I had no more seeds. I wailed, it was grief, it was very tough.

"I produce all the fruit and vegetables that I eat all summer so I completely rely on having a crop from my allotment.

"Allotments are challenging, but this lockdown has added an extra difficulty."

Stewart Dickson, 63, is also a plot holder at Inverleith Allotments.

He said he had tackled the threat of further restrictions in a different way.

He said: "I've been really worried that they are going to say we can't go to our allotments, so I've planted everything into the ground in a week.

"I've also planted everything 14 days early so I have no idea what will happen. I've covered everything in plastic to try to keep all the seeds as warm as possible. The ground should be 20C but it isn't that just now."