A Year in the life of a new allotmenteer

Since moving to a new build property with a completely blank canvas garden I had been well and truly bitten by the gardening bug. Each year filling the house with an array of seed trays and plug plants ready for summer planting. Gardening had become my haven from the stresses of a senior role in the NHS. I can put on my gardening gloves and lose myself for hours and find myself doing a tour round the garden borders each dry spring morning to see what new delight may have sprung to life.

This new found passion for gardening started me thinking about growing veg but I simply do not have the space. So I made enquiries at the end of 2019 about becoming a plot holder in the local allotment. I expected to be on a long waiting list but to my delight a 1/4 plot came up quickly. So I started 2020 with a slightly overgrown plot and a whole year of learning ahead. Little did I know just what a year we had ahead.

I was allocated a mentor – Steve who walked me through the basics and who has been amazing dropping me periodic emails of advice and at times alerts of nature attacking my crops. Oh that’s the bit that really was the surprise just how much you battle against nature to achieve a successful crop. More of that later.

My first task was to clear the entire plot of weeds. It will be done in a day advised Steve reassuringly. That was however, taken by me as an absolute challenge, which makes me chuckle as I look back at my determination to do it in said day!! I think I slept in a near coma that night I was shattered! However, as the light faded I stood aching from head to toe admiring my work.

Steve had walked me through what to buy to start off my plot, so I set off to David Smiths, which for me is always dangerous as besides the seed potatoes and seeds we agreed, I of course came home with the odd perennial for the garden! There must be an organisation dedicated to helping us plantaholics!

I followed his guidance to the letter, seeding my leeks in a deep pot and chitting my potatoes. Mistake number one, I didn’t label the paper bags so could remember which potato variety was which so had to go back and check at David smiths as they looked slightly different. Guess what??? Yes you guessed it I didn’t leave without buying another plant!

I planted my onion sets late February and Steve told me I had been a little too keen as it was a little early. So I watched them anxiously like an expectant mother, and was relieved to see them grow.

In early April I watched Steve demonstrate how to sow potatoes. Leaving the dug trenches to warm in the sun for a few days first. Easter weekend I planted mine but I didn’t have the mounded earth like everyone else. Worry number 2 had I messed up already?Steve showed me however, how to earth up as they grew. Phew that was a relief.

My rhubarb was amazingly prolific and I knew how much my parents love a rhubarb crumble. By now we were in the throws of the pandemic, I could only see my parents from the door as I delivered their shopping each week so took some with me one weekend. It was lovely to see their delight but I felt sadness that I couldn’t show my dad (who is an amazing gardener) my plot. I tell him each week about my latest ventures and he has even started an allotment fund jar of £5 per week to contribute to the cause, bless him.

Steve showed me how to plant peas and to my delight I had a bumper crop. I took bags each week for my mum who loves to eat them raw. It brought back happy childhood memories of her buying peas from the market in Blackburn where I grew up, and eating them on the bus from the pod on the way home!

My son helped me sow carrots, beetroot, chard, radishes etc. Then watered them so hard they washed together. Never mind I said, I am sure they will be fine! We chuckled as we left. The carrots got carrot root fly but they won’t get them this year my allotment fund has purchased micro mesh barriers! Not this year you pesky critters!

Steve gave me all sorts over the year, the courgette being my favourite. I could not believe it when I left a little courgette for another week only to find it was a monster marrow the next! Guess who I used to take courgettes to to make soup… mum of course.

My potatoes were my biggest joy. The sheer joy of digging up your own tatties will never leave me. They also tasted better than any shop bought ones I have had. Coupled with the mint Steve gave me they were gorgeous. Of course mum and dad shared the spoils.

I proudly took an assorted veg to my friend between lockdowns and she was tickled pink. Giving away my veg gives me more pleasure than anything.

The one thing that did freak me a bit was the family of rats who had taken up squatters rights in my compost heap. I first realised they were there when a half eaten carrot was in the entrance to a hole at the bottom of the heap. Steve confirmed rats. I decided to dismantle the heap which would be at the end of the season and I cannot tell you how delighted I was that Steve confirmed ratty had moved home and vacated the heap!

As the season drew to a close I received an order of brassica plugs from a mail order company and planted them where my spuds had been. I managed two tiny cauliflowers in December and was so chuffed I emailed a photo to Steve!

Over the winter my leeks provided soups for me and my parents and the kale was delicious. Until the pesky pigeons stripped the Kale bare. Note to self just because the butterflies have gone the crops are not safe. This year I will net them. If you are thinking the pigeons of Wilberfoss are a little rotund you now know why!!

Now it’s all about to begin again, the potatoes are chitting, the leeks are growing and I have a plethora of seeds planned to sow. I can’t wait to start it all again knowing just a little more this time. Who knows I may even be able to finally show my dad the plot. That will be my ultimate pleasure.

If you are thinking of getting an allotment, do it’s fun but you will need to dedicate the time and be prepared for some flops. See you there!

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