What an incredibly healing and absorbing activity clearing an allotment plot is. I am now six weeks in of taking on a half plot at my local allotment site in Baldock, where I live and work. Keeping my expectations within achievable reality helps me take the pressure off myself. This is for me – this isn’t about meeting deadlines or fulfilling clients’ wishes, this plot is just for me and it’s going to be a place where I can learn, rest and play.
The majority of my visits are spent digging out perennial weeds, such as, couch grass and bindweed and shifting soil to level the ground. A bit disappointed to find neglected bits of plastic and all sorts lost to the earth, but with trugs aplenty I sort the rubbish and take it away with me. I am very grateful for being gifted an old drum for burning and although I haven’t been brave enough to start a fire yet, I am putting the heaviest of roots and old branches in it and when dry, I might try my hand at a burn up – the wind does need to be blowing in the right direction, namely, from the north, this direction goes into the big field that my plot sits next to and it’s a joy to see. It’s big and open and apart from the occasional dog walker is simply full of growing wheat with a beautiful landscape in the distance.
I have to plan my visits around my work and have gleaned that the time-rich allotmenteers are the retired folk who can spend considerably more time on their plots than I can at the moment. They are wise and experienced growers and I know by listening and watching what they do, I will learn a lot.
What is so wonderful about being on the plot is the calm solitude and complete focus on what I’m doing whilst working. Although, I do enjoy meeting my fellow allotmenteers, listening to their commitment and the next idea for planting, and from the off giving me advice and opinion on what to do when and where to put things. It seems that everyone is an expert and that everyone I have spoken with shares an allotment wisdom and know-how.
Having done a lap of the allotment site it is wonderful looking at all the individual styles of plots, some with timber raised planters, small sheds and vertical structures (waiting for the crops to make their annual climb), frames and even walk-in cages. In some parts there is a feel of a small shanty town, where old sheds have outlived their natural life span and pieces of corrugated iron and plastics fill the eye line. There are all sorts of framed structures clothed in netting to deter the birds and contraptions on the ground defending against the plethora of terrestrial molluscs. The fledgling crops attempting to grow up out of the safe confines of their potting compost aiming to grow on up to produce to their innate DNA. I am now one of over 80 allotmenteers keeping her fingers crossed!
Since March I have been nurturing seeds and I am delighted that most have now become seedlings and are looking like they are viable and hopefully go on to produce edible crops.
There is nothing more thrilling (in allotment terms) than planting up with your own little home-grown plants. I see other allotmenteers arrive at the gate with their arms full of home grown young crops and with that certain smile on their face, it’s a face I have come to know recently, it’s a mixture of pride and worry, it’s the realisation that we all have, that we are going to plant them in the ground and then the sinking thought that they may not make it through the first night?! Although, some allotmenteers do have a rather more robust approach to it, with an either they will or they won’t attitude. Alas, I suffer from the former and it is a delight to have visited this morning to discover that all is still alive and as yet uneaten.
Until next time.. happy gardening!