Lessons from plot 12A: part 1

Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.
— Steve Maraboli

We’ve had our allotment for nearly 10 years now and I’ve learnt so much in the time we’ve had it. Having just kicked off our best year yet, (I say this every year by the way) I thought I would share my thoughts and learnings here for those seasoned allotmenters and ones starting out.

Seedlings growing strong

Seedlings growing strong

1.      I've learnt that there will be failures

This is a fact and one that affects all allotment owners. And unfortunately what worked last year may well not work this year, that’s the way of nature and life. My worst failure was possibly the corn on the cob last year, having had a difficult year on the plot generally due to new born babies getting in the way, we were so excited to grow the tallest, most magnificent corn plants ever. Then we went on holiday, came back and eagerly headed down to the plot only to find that each and every corn on the cob had been nibbled by rats, decimated! I will be trying again this year, even though Ed doesn’t see the point because………

2.      Trial and error is the best approach

As we discovered with carrots. It is impossible to grow carrots in our soil, our soil is heavy clay and full of stones. So you can imagine that a teeny tiny carrot bud trying to push its way down in the soil is a tall ask. After many failed attempts we found a solution which is: we use big round, straight sided pots (rescued from the side of the road) and we layer up soil (with no stones) sand and grit from bottom to top. Then sprinkle seeds on the top and wait. The result is perfectly straight and tasty carrots year after year! And I have recently shared this tip with my allotment neighbours because ………

Henry pulling up the prize carrots

Henry pulling up the prize carrots

3.      Allotment owners have shared values

We are kind, collaborative and inclusive (for the most part). Advice is given aplenty whether it is asked for or not. Sharing of seeds and plants is encouraged and when there are gluts of vegetables it is not unusual to be offered free pickings from another plot. Age, class, religion and appearance make no difference here on the plot, everyone is deemed equal as it should be……….

4.      That being said, newbies will be judged

Oh yes! This is inevitable and can’t be helped. For those of us that have been around for a good number of years, we will have seen people come and go. There are those that come all guns blazing and spend hours (and lots of cash) building structures and erecting fancy sheds and pergolas. But they forget the important bits such as preparing the soil and getting the basics right. Often the plots are then abandoned as the reality of the situation sinks in. Which is that…………… 

5.      Its b***y hard work

You really can’t turn your back for a second on a plot. As soon as you do the weeds will take over or the wildlife with destroy what you had. In these spring days as the weather gives the perfect combination of down pours and warm sunshine, the seeds can grow cm’s in a day. And it is a never ending cycle, which is why it is so important to……………

The boys getting messy on the plot

The boys getting messy on the plot

6.      Keep your house in order

Having said we’re a friendly bunch, if there is a plot owner not pulling their weight and leaving big patches of allotment to turn to seed or worse not keep their edges and paths in order, ooooh the gossip will start! It makes sense though, the seeds from your un-kept plot will just as likely spread to your neighbour who then has an even bigger task for their own. We have been sandwiched between two plots that have been like this for years and it’s a constant struggle. As is nature……….

7.      With birds being more annoying than slugs

Yes slugs are the common problem that gardeners moan about but the biggest issue for us is birds. They peck away at our young seedlings to the point of total destruction which results in plants that are never given the opportunity to flourish. This year I invested in a net covering for my flowers and we have fashioned some mini glass houses for our brassicas so we shall see if things are any better! A handy trick for slugs and one that I think is most kind, is the ‘slug pub’.  Sink yoghurt pots into the ground and fill them with beer, the slugs are attracted to the sugar, take a sip, fall in and slowly drift off to sleep. Sounds heavenly doesn’t it, which brings me to my last learning………

8.      My allotment has become my meditation

My meditation space

My meditation space

I think this is really worth a whole blog post so I won’t dwell on the details too much, but without a doubt the allotment has become my place to relax, take stock and let everything float away. Ed will often say to me now, “why don’t you go to the allotment for an hour or two” when he can tell I’m stressed or about to lose the plot (no pun intended). It is also where I will go most evenings after work and busy days in London, to let go and relax. For me the plot is so much more than just a place to grow fruit and veg and I would urge anyone who is even vaguely contemplating getting one to give it a go. The benefits are endless.

I’d love to hear what you think and if you have any learnings you can share with me, I still consider ourselves newbies really and am constantly looking to improve. You can read more about life on the plot here