Did I really refer to my allotment as “a little careworn plot”? Little? What was I thinking? This week, in the rain and the wind, it seemed to get bigger by the second. We dug and we dug and we dug and we dug, but still we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Did I mention the digging?
Slowly but surely the kids were tempted off our patch of dirt onto the beautiful allotments to help do nice things like plant radishes and tie strips of plastic to the netting (scares the pigeons and the curious pheasant away, apparently). At some point I threw down the pitchfork (that’s not a clever metaphor, I literally threw down the pitchfork) and said it was going to take a miracle to sort the allotment out.
The miracle appeared in the form of Sharon. She’s our neighbour on the allotment and had watched our slow, painful progress over the past couple of weeks and came over to lend a hand (and water, tools and plants as it turned out).
She advised us to concentrate on just half of the allotment as trying to tackle the whole thing was overwhelming. You wouldn’t believe how much better we felt when we had covered half of the allotment with weed resistant covering (so whatever else happened to that land, it couldn’t get any wilder). Next, Sharon told us to put all our effort into preparing a small corner of the uncovered allotment to plant some vegetables – that got the kids’ attention – so that we could see (and feel) we were making progress.
Happiness was restored as we got the kids to edge their little plot with stones and Sharon, armed with ornamental spinach, leeks and cabbages, hunkered down to give us a special allotment gardening class. Now, if there’s one thing that Sharon knows it’s how to grow vegetables. She told us where to put the spinach (which should grow to four feet ) so that it could protect the other little plants from the wind. She taught us that cabbages don’t really like leaving their little pots so when they go in the ground they have to be ‘tucked in’, and – amazingly – when planting leeks you simply put them in the hole you’ve dibbed (is that the correct term?) and fill the hole with water. That’s it.
Now I do know that the golden rule of growing vegetables is take really good care of the earth ( and then to a large extent the plants will take care of themselves) but it was so good for our morale to plant our first few vegetables. We carefully put nets on them and have been watering them every other day. I swear I can see that spinach growing!
We are now concentrating on working well rotted manure into the rest of the half-allotment to get it prepared for planting later on (apparently the little plants don’t like it when manure has just been worked in so we can’t plant vegetables yet). Part of me is worried that I am never going to plant anything – I am too late for this, the ground is not right for that, but another part thinks that it must be possible to grow something….. aren’t vegetables grown all year round? Either way I need to get a wiggle on and get the earth ready as soon as possible. That’s why I am bringing in the big guns this weekend. Come over dad, your daughter needs you!