Old and new friendships have bloomed on the plot

Our involvement with Plot 29 started next door at 28. I had an idea the magazine team I led should have a project where no one was the boss. We would be without hierarchy, outside the office, grow tomatoes, and together forge new relationships.

It was a utopian, unrealistic idea. We unearthed an air raid shelter complete with corrugated roof. It needed skips and time and commitment. Soon there was just me, the mud and Howard, plus occasional kids, now mostly grown. We trenched in five tonnes of cow manure and five tonnes of topsoil. The plot bloomed. At the end of that October we had a Halloween party lit with pumpkin lamps and returned number 28, now a happy piece of land, to its rightful tenant.

Howard and I have worked together ever since. All over India; in the Arctic Circle; during the final days of El Bulli, then the best restaurant in the world. I had long loved his photography; his work on Monty Don’s gardening column. His book with Derek Jarman at Prospect Cottage helped give English gardening a new aesthetic. Together, they unleashed an almost feral freedom that informs everything I do.

His sharp eye and quiet opinion shapes the way we grow. My unfettered enthusiasm tempered by his occasional raised brow. Rose, his younger daughter, returns to the plot more often now. She too takes photographs. She makes drawings. She works patiently and hard. We meet, we eat buns, we weed, we sow, we walk back together over the heath. It is near impossible to think how this (or any other) year would have been without them.

As another growing season shudders damply to a close, I take a moment to appreciate the joy of gardening with Howard and Rose. Talented growers, companions, friends.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from


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