The Allotment Way
Life on an allotment is not easy, there is hard work in all weathers preparing, clearing and digging the ground. The small plants and seedlings need to be nurtured and protected against the natural elements and wildlife that find your vegetables and fruit a delight to eat before you get a chance to. The rewards are immense, firstly there are the lovely fresh vegetables and fruit that you can take home to eat or proudly give to friends and relatives to the sounds of awe and amazement at your skill. The taste of freshly picked crops is
incomparable, then, of course there are the health benefits from the exercise and fresh air, of which we all know only too well.
The cost of an allotment plot can be less than £1.00 per week, when renting a plot from the local council – a new allotment plot will rarely be in good condition, but that is just the start of the challenge to turn this wild neglected area of yours into a potentially Award-Winning cultivated allotment plot!!!
The perfect way to forget your stresses of everyday life – time spent on the allotment has been compared to a time warp, after a few hours you will return home totally relaxed and ready for any challenges. Another aspect of the Allotment that you cannot get from your back garden, is the friendships that soon form as there are folk around to give you a friendly word, advice and help. Other plot holders are keen to share their surplus produce (especially if you make noises of admiration at their skill). There may be talks or other social events such as barbeques organised, which give the plot holders a chance to meet the others on the site.
The Allotment Community is made of people from all walks of life, from housewives who tend the plot around their busy family, some from the commercial sector and those who have retired. Each plot is cared for in a different and sometimes unique way, there are some unusual ideas that are used on other plots and just by taking a walk around you can get new inspiration to handle a particular problem that you may be experiencing. People are happy to share their ideas and suggestions as they each believe that they have the best solutions to particular problems.
When having a quiet cup of tea, coffee or something stronger, you will find your mind wandering towards your allotment, planning the next vegetable to plant or item to construct – at that point you will know that you are hooked!!! Then of course there is the swapping, a plot holder will give their neighbour some cabbage seedlings or small plants and then that neighbour will endeavour to return this favour by giving the plot holder some surplus crop, which will in turn be reciprocated with something else and so it goes round – The Allotment Way.
A Day on the Allotment
It is early morning and the sun is just rising on the Allotment Site. The first sounds of the birds, shuffling of the occasional hedgehog or badger feasting on the delightful slugs, rabbits hopping leisurely around taking a nibble at any green vegetation that they fancy, small ones in tow.
The crashing around of a few deer, trampling and pushing their way past allotment plots, not caring what they push over or trample on, just enjoying the fresh early morning air and feasting on the goods that they find around the site. Up above the beautiful Red Kites, flying high in the clear blue, sailing on the early morning breezes so gracefully, dipping and rising on the air currants weaving in and out of each other, suddenly they have spotted a prey and they each dive in turn onto a spot far up on the site. As the sun rises and the night time visitors return to their resting places, people begin to arrive ready to start some early morning work on their allotment plots. There are the ones that are dropping in before going to work, to do a bit of watering and gather a few salad crops for lunch. Then a few arrive to get an early start on some digging before the sun rises too high – they are the wisest gardeners. With the hard work done, they may then have a wander around to chat to all they meet as more folk arrive on the site. New tenants are drawn to them, seeking help and advice from these knowledgeable sages, hanging onto their every word in the hope that they too will grow the same splendid crops as these experienced gardeners can achieve time after time.
Some of the tenants may arrive to find that they have had a night time visitor that has damaged a fence or got through the netting to chomp on a lettuce or cabbage, so they resolve to improve their defence system & seek advice from those that know. There can be quite a lot of time spent by folk just chatting about what they plan to do on their plot, then the conversation moves in all directions and time goes by in a flash!!! By midday the early visitors have departed and those left are working away on their plot preparing ground and planting small seedlings, watering them in to give them as good a start as possible. As the afternoon wears on, reluctantly these workers leave to get home for duties they need to attend to.
The next arrivals are those that have waited for the worst of the heat of the day to subside, they arrive to do a bit of weeding and watering, that done they now have the pleasure of choosing the vegetables to go on the dinner table that evening – fabulous!!!
As the sun goes down and the allotment gardeners leave, the night visitors start to arrive, first are a couple of cats ready to prowl the site, the hoot of an owl also preparing for a night of hunting and a few bats whipping through the air feasting on small flying insects. And so it goes on ...
The Growing Experience
Whilst on holiday with a friend, I learnt from her the fun and challenges of an allotment – I was hooked!!! So once home, I applied for an allotment and six months later was fortunate enough to be offered a plot at one of the allotment sites in my home town of Marlow, Bucks. I was shown what appeared to be an area of desolate wasteland covered in weeds and debris – the challenge had begun!!!
That was in 2005 and I do not regret taking on the task of taming my allotment plot, however, it has been a real battle. The first year was the worst, at one point I was almost defeated. Since that has been overcome, I now feel as if I have conquered the world! The help and advice from the more experienced plot holders has been invaluable and there is always something new to learn about pest problems, new and unusual vegetables and so many different gardening techniques.
The main plan for my plot is to try to grow as much fruit as possible, as I make wine with it. Also, I plant a variety of herbs in amongst the vegetables and try to follow the guidelines of Companion Planting which, along with my pond, means that I attempt to attract as many beneficial insects as possible. The wonderful part of having an allotment is that, with planning, you can have fresh seasonal vegetables all year round. My favourite vegetables to grow are cabbages, which can be grown almost all the year, along with garlic and onions which will store until the following summer, some varieties are not available in shops. Home grown has so much more flavour.
There is a Winter Work Party, made up of volunteers who over the winter months (hence the name!) help to repair and clear any areas that have become overgrown. Over the recent years the Winter Work Party has carried out impressive work by clearing overgrown and neglected areas, sufficient to re-let well over 30 plots (including mine) which has had a dramatic effect in reducing the waiting list.
Then of course there is the Annual Summer Barbeque, followed by the Autumn BBQ and Bonfire on November 5th. One summer there must have been some sort of celebration or wedding as there were hundreds of Chinese lanterns released into the night sky, it was amazing to watch!!!
The site has splendid views over Marlow, it is great to just sit and relax with the views of the town all about. The other tenants are all so helpful and friendly – there are so many interesting characters, all with time to spend to have a friendly chat and give advice or a catch up on any gossip – sometimes not much digging is done.
After falling in love with the plot in May the Challenge had begun!!
The plot was very overgrown but had potential with the promise of a fruit tree & some fruit bushes (hopefully) peeping out of the weeds & tall grass and a lovely huge Bay Tree.
An allotment neighbour gave Alex some pallets which meant the construction of the compost bin – somewhere to put the weeds etc!!
Another neighbour generously loaned the use of her strimmer which meant the clearance could begin, then once the worst was cleared membrane was laid over approx. 75% of the plot to try to hold back further growth.
The next step was pruning the fruit tree, which happily turns out to be a greengage! Once the challenge of the pruning & removing the debris was conquered the next stage was to start digging the uncovered area to prepare for winter planting – which is ongoing as shown below.
All this with help an encouragement from family & allotment neighbours who always stop by for a chat with encouragement and advice.
So the story continues…