Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Allotment

I put my name on the list for a council allotment just under 2 years ago, and when I called them up in January, I was still 25th on the list. I thought it would be at least another year, so you can imagine my surprise to get a phone call out-of-the-blue offering me a plot. Within 2 hours we had signed the agreement on a plot, with a rent of £21 a year.

Actually it is half a plot, as that is all anyone is allowed in Loughborough now, which has helped the council to reduce its waiting list. In the picture above it starts from the path at the front down to just past the first shed on the left.

I was very lucky to get the small shed, although there is a big hole at the back and the roof leaks but these can be fixed. The plot itself is 125 square meters or 1/32 of an acre of sunny growing space. My back garden sounds bigger at 163 square meters, but as I discussed previously, most of it is heavily shaded, covered in old slabs, and filled with a trampoline and a basketball net. (My newly constructed compost bin has already been damaged by the basketball!) In effect my growing space is about 40 square meters at home, so this allotment quadruples my area for growing fruit and veg.

There are already established raspberry, rhubarb, blackcurrant, strawberries a grape vine and a goji berry bush! Sadly the previous owner died but his son and friend still work the plots opposite and have been really helpful. There were still beetroot, parsnips, leeks, and sprouting broccoli waiting to be harvested.

There were also some brassica with yellow flowers. A lovely Italian lady told me they were rapeseed (really!?!) and I should cut the tops off, boil them and drizzle with olive oil. They were surprisingly tasty :-)

The council had offered to rotivate the plot for me, but I opted not to, because there was so much already growing and I wanted it to guide me where to plant things for this year. Youngest daughter drew out a very detailed plan of what was there already. I managed to get it a bit wet and smudged, and I have just noticed that she has labelled the rhubarb as beetroot, but it is still perfect :-)

So there is a fair amount of digging to do, which we intend to do by hand a bit at a time and it will soon be finished. I am also going to try using Charles Dowding's no-dig method on part of it. This is where you put down a couple of layers of cardboard and then cover it with manure or compost.

I hadn't reckoned on how much an un-rotivated plot bothers some of the other allotmenteers. "You should have got it rotivated" is starting to grate on my nerves now! Luckily it is fairly easy digging and I have had some help.

We already grow plenty of rhubarb in our garden, so I have been re-distributing the excess rhubarb plants from my plot. Two of my neighbours have had some and I have planted some in the community allotment. The first real gardening that I ever did was planting rhubarb! My granddad had dug up some of his rhubarb crowns for me, which I thought was great.....until he also loaded my car with a sack of manure to go with it! Yes I was rather squeamish about my first encounter with manure, especially as I was planting on a slope and lumps kept rolling back down on me ;-) Now I am looking forward to getting my hands on a big pile of the stuff. Happy days :-)

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