The Allotment – Part 2

When I introduced the allotment, I told the story of the first week or so.

When I left it, we’d just created our first bed, ready to start planting. At this point, we discovered the wonders of the allotment community, as other plotholders came to welcome us to the site, and offer hints, tips and advice. We soon met our immediate neighbours, one of whom gave us a whole heap of freshly-dug leeks – clearly not expecting anything in return. Another told us the story of the previous tenants of our plot, who had started clearing it several times, only to give up after doing the same bed over and over.

One more experienced plotholder, Ted, took great pains to introduce himself to us, despite being totally deaf – we have since found out that he is 93, yet looks barely into his eighties, and he tends to his plot daily, as well as feeding the site’s resident cat, Molly.

Ted kindly gave us some cuttings from his blackcurrent bushes, so we had our first plants – we planted these in the initial bed, as it seemed an ideal position for fruit canes – we later added raspberries to the other side of the bed.

After clearing some more of the plot, we also decided to create some paths – something I’d certainly recommend, especially for novice growers like ourselves, as it stops you getting quite so muddy when weeding, and stops you trampling the crops!

For these, we used readily available “weed-proof” membrane, covered in a layer of wood chippings from the heap provided by the council – although while this is natural, and looks great to start with, it’s not as weed-proof as it might be, as the weeds seed themselves in the wood, on top of the membrane…

We also edged the beds in timber to give a clearer definition – initially using new rough-cut wood from a local DIY store, but later using recycled timber once we were able to get hold of some. Two recycled pallets were also added to provide a strawberry planter, although in hindsight this turned out to be difficult to keep sufficiently well watered.

By this time, of course, we were itching to get planting. We’d ordered loads of seeds from the Real Seed Catalogue, and made the classic mistake of all new gardeners – we ordered far more than we knew what to do with! Quite a few things are difficult to get started from seed, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing!

So our first planting wasn’t from seed at all, but garlic cloves from The Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. Cue our next novice mistake – we didn’t label which cloves were which!

The other big thing for the first winter was setting up a compost bin – an essential feature of any allotment or vegetable garden, we chose to start with a standard plastic bin, to try to keep the vermin out. This has since become Ania’s favourite subject, with all our scraps going in, and at the time of writing it’s rotting down nicely, hopefully the bottom layers will be ready to use this spring…

Introducing the allotment

One of the first things we decided upon was that we needed to eat better. By cutting out the ready-meals and junk food, we would be healthier, and by knowing more about where our food comes from, we can actively choose to reduce the impact we have on the planet.

One of the best ways to do that is to grow food yourself – this cuts the ‘food miles’ down to zero, and means you know exactly  what’s gone into it – no unknown pesticides or other chemicals.

Now we have a reasonable sized garden, but when we first started thinking like this, we lived in a small flat in the town centre – and so there was no room to grow anything. Luckily, there’s a solution to this – the humble allotment.

Reading the local council’s website, we discovered the waiting list for plots in our town averages three years – and for some sites it can be up to ten. So we put our name down, more in hope than anything else.

Such was our surprise then, when just over six months later, we got a letter from the council informing us that a plot was available – did we still want it?

Well of course!

A few weeks later, Ania collected the key, and we went to have a first look at the plot. It was rather daunting to say the least! Totally overgrown, it had been barely touched by the previous tenants, with just two small beds vaguely outlined by some loose gravel.

We soon got stuck in (alas I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo, not then anticipating this blog…), and started clearing it.

Before long, the first bed regained definition, and we were ready to start planting – or would be when the weather warmed up.

To be continued…