Gardening on my Baldock allotment this week I have realised how enriching it feels not only to work my plot but to see all the abundant growth that has excelled over the past few weeks. The intense sun and random heavy rains has brought everything on. The runner beans have now grown up past the 8ft of their canes and the sunflowers ‘Evening Sun’ are reaching new heights.
My passion for gardening has been reignited by taking on this half plot. It has become not only my learning place but also another passion and my playground. From early on last year when I first took on the plot, my endeavors entirely focused on clearing away the neglect and bringing it back to life.
I was blown away by its beautiful location which sits adjacent to arable fields with gently rolling hills in the background towards the east. The space was a healing place and the months of digging did me nothing but good.. my head was cleared and my body, although aching, loved pushing on to claim new ground. Planning the design was great fun and I did some reading about combining edibles with ornamental planting. I knew I wanted to create a ‘Potager’ influenced allotment with design that included planting for pollinators and the plate.
Once the ground was cleared I set about collecting Beech saplings from the local woods to create entrances to a floor design based on 8 mini-plots (octiles) and each cut to a square with access on all sides, with brick and grass pathways along and across the plot. Free bricks kindly came by way of a local shout online and friends helped me lay the paths. The basic structure is now in place and the seating area is a lovely place to enjoy the plot either in solitude or with friends. It’s a real sanctuary, full of life, in the ground and on the wing.
This is my second year on the plot and I’m really seeing the plot taking shape now. My crop rotation plan is underway and I’m already planning for what comes next. The onions and garlic are harvested and it is with complete joy and delight that they are now stashed away at home in a dark cupboard, getting retrieved and cooked on a daily basis.
There’s always weeding to be done and once the last path is finished and membraned, I shall sow grass seed and hope for the best, as this the longest path, would be a challenge to brick from the kindness of strangers.
I inherited a cherry tree at the back of the plot and this year I was determined to actually harvest and eat the fruit, as last year having no clue, and despite the best advice from my allotment neighbours, I left the tree without netting and in my innocence adorned with seaside windmills, thinking this might do the trick instead. Unfortunately, these spinning flashes of colour didn’t keep the birds at bay, the raiding party of starlings devoured all the cherries in an evening’s feasting frenzie! So this year, having learned the hard way I made a netted cage with 8ft canes and fruit netting, with front door and ceiling.. ha, so guess who had the last laugh this year, yep, that would be me! Utterly delicious and shared with friends the picking and feasting.
I’ve planted purple podded peas ‘Shiraz’ and they are now all grown up and ready to harvest. Many beautiful and tasty green peas stacked within each of the brilliantly claret colured pea pods, a real joy to see all lined up in a row. They not only look great but they taste great too!
I am delighted by my now weekly haul of new ‘Charlotte’ potatoes , it’s better than digging for buried treasure! Tomatoes ‘Gardener’s Delight’ got off to a late start but are now full of flowers and promise of tasty red jewels. The Calendula plants, in their second year put on an early show and next generational seedlings building themselves up for a brilliant display next year. Planted with a backdrop of bronze fennel, the combination has been both strident and lyrical. Planted as a black fly magnet and indeed does seemed to have worked as the red flowers of the runner beans haven’t been infested (yet). The colour combination is wow!
I’ve now planted all my  Lavender ‘Hidcote’ plug plants bought from Mr. Fothergill’s and the plants are really putting on good growth now, it’s hard to believe that when the tiny plug plants arrived in the post just 6 weeks ago they were no bigger than my little finger. I am exploring the idea of building a living defence against the dark forces, namely slugs, by planting aromatics around the circumference of the planting space. I have read that slugs don’t like the oil in aromatics, such as lavender, rosemary, mint etc. Time will tell.
Today I spotted the first flowers of the ‘Blackball’ variety of cornflower, they are absolutely stunning and planted in front of red runner beans, the silvery undersides of the leaves look beautiful against the deep rich green of the bean leaves. A delicate, darkly coloured variety (both edible and beautiful) and I shall certainly be harvesting the seeds for next year.
For me, allotment gardening is all about playing and learning with edible plants, colours and textures. I haven’t grown a great diversity of crops, and I know I have much to learn about growing fruit and vegetables, but I hope that with the small selection of edibles I’ve started with, I have given them what they have needed. Time is always a luxury and my allotment absorbs any amount of time I can give it.
Soon the quiet time of late summer will be upon me and I shall look forward to sitting on my bench with a glass of something lovely in hand, just sitting and watching and with a smile on my face just simply enjoying..