Eight years ago I added us to the list for an allotment without thinking anything through. Maybe I just had an idyllic vision of ‘The Good Life’, or maybe I was fondly remembering my Grandad.
We very slowly rose to the top of the list and last November we made it to the heady heights of Plot 116b (number changed to protect the innocent).
You might guess that November is not the best time to get an allotment but we excitedly went up to see it nevertheless. This was to be our middle class dream. Organic courgettes and a view over the city.
Christmas came and the family were thrilled that our new found (not yet started hobby)
brought with it new present opportunities (including a Korean hoe (yes I know, I know)). We had seeds, equipment, books and a modicum of enthusiasm. We also had a ramshackle shelter, that looked like if you breathed too hard it would come tumbling down the extremely steep slope.
We met the tenant of the other half of the plot. She was very helpful and extremely knowledgable about allotments. She sent me an email about crop rotation. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it and neither could my husband. Later on she sent me an email about manure. I didn’t know what to do with that one either since we don’t have a wheelbarrow. I feel inadequate.
Fast forward six months and we are having a lovely time. We have focused almost all our energies on the least important aspects and built a bug hotel, installed giant donated gnomes and dug a pond. I imagine every week the lady next door to us must come and suck air in through her teeth wondering when the hell we will actually get on with growing anything.
The news is good though. The fruit bushes that were there already are bearing gooseberries and blackcurrants. The red onions we threw haphazardly into the earth are growing as are some (impossible to get wrong) radishes. We haven’t fixed the shed and cannot work out the logistics of getting enough wood up the slope to do so (or to mend the terraces). This is a good thing though as the better your shed/seating area the higher the chance of thieves or visitors looking for a comfortable place to smoke a spliff. I can see why the latter would be an attractive option if you like that sort of thing – it’s quite a view.
We learn more every week. This week I learned about chitting potatoes and the importance of taking along spare clothes for the children – one of whom spectacularly fell into the pond.
We may not have a clue what we are doing but you know what? We have a haven for the kids to learn and play in. It may not result in a glut of vegetables, but instead we have bugs, butterflies and shoots of growth. I just hope we don’t drive our neighbour mad in the process.