Allotments in spring!


Wed 17 Mar 2021

Allotments are quaint essentially part of the English heritage and landscape. The acres of manicured flowers intermingled with seasonal fruits and vegetables can be seen strategically located at the edge of most towns, villages as well as cities all over the county. Rows upon rows of neatly tended rectangles that can be viewed from carriageways and carriages reminiscent of childhoods for many and reinforcing our imaginary pictures conjured up from reading exciting chapters from Enid Blytons ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. The diligence of Mr McGregor and his traditional vegetable patch – all so perfect, all tended beautifully and not a net in place nor a slug to be had. And that dear reader is where I stop and bring you from this imagination into reality!

The truth about taking an allotment is for most, nothing more than adult homework (often requiring detention). Great when you have got the plot under control and for so many, is a fabulous way of life, but until that level of aptitude is reached (and required by most sites), it is difficult to keep finding excuses for the secretary why you haven’t completed more cultivation!

“It’s the most exciting thing that has happened to me” says the new, naïve, excited plot holder as they sign the crisp, clean tenancy agreement and indeed for the first few trips to the plot it is - but as the weeks pass by, reality sets in. It’s a war zone out there!"

If the new plot holder is lucky enough to have the rare opportunity to take a plot that has already been cleared, then at least that will be a help in the efforts to get started. Though it is more likely that they will be offered a standard sized plot (250 square metres) covered with well-established, head high brambles with a covering of weeds so thick that they can’t see the ground underneath, never mind be able to get to it to test it for water or clay. This is a battle ground – if anyone is thick skinned to take up the gauntlet and be fully armed too!

Not disheartened, the new plotter looks for help. A distressed whine across the miles and a message into social media as family disappear at the mention of hard work, but the trusty ‘friend’ is found; thus the work is halved. Together, armed with shears and secateurs they grimace and check the weather forecast. Hats, gloves, and clothing layers. Boots on and onward with forks, spades, matches and flasks. Let battle commence in the beautiful springtime sunshine!

Fit and healthy adults have no fear of the work that lies ahead. Those who are terrorised by the word ‘spider’ or ‘worm’ or suffer bouts of backache at the mention of ‘lift’ then steer clear of allotments. The initial work can be relentless and generally is not for the faint hearted. Shifting debris that is antique by age being ingrained to the soil and couch grass so firmly established that even a mini digger would struggle to shift it. And it’s not just physical work – there are site rules to be memorised and adhered to, advisors to be gently ignored and sheds to be envied before establishing foundations in the oddest of lifestyles. The thought of what ‘could be’ are enough to keep the new adventurer awake at night by simply dreaming of planning out the patch of land in the hope that they will eventually combat this plot and enter into this fictitious ‘’A’ Team of Allotmenteers’. To dream is easy - to achieve might be more difficult.

So why take an allotment? It’s a challenge, fun, thrilling and in time, the new plot holder will endure a sense of achievement through making good out of bad. It is not a race, it’s a marathon. Everything has its time to grow and a place to be.
It’s an imaginary school room of never-ending learning with teachers older than many grandparents willing to share their ageless knowledge and experience.

It is a playground of games using recycled and reused items abandoned by the home and an arena for friendships firmer and more positive than any social media platform.

The allotment plot itself is a self-service supermarket for garden creatures who will devour new, juicy, green shoots before they even emerge visibly to the keenest of gardeners eyes, but if the new plot holder passes the first three months of real hard labour through grit and determination, then the rewards will be worth every single ache and pain suffered in the early weeks!

There is nothing like home grown. Carrots taste of carrots, parsnips smell of parsnips and eating peas straight from the pod – where else can you do that? The first trug of treasured, nurtured potatoes straight from that fine tilthed soil deserves a marching band to announce their arrival and that’s only the start of achievements. So how about it?

It is spring. Enjoy the daffodils around the site and reacquaint yourself with the great outdoors. Summer is round the corner, but the hard work needs to be done now to ensure successful growing months ahead.
Get a fork and spade in your hands rather than a fork and knife – and get started growing your own dinner instead of just eating it! You will certainly taste the difference!

kindly provided by Elaine Crick
Ashbourne Road Allotments, Derby