Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A year in growing stuff

I was reminded that other day that there's only a couple of weeks and then we'll have been in our house for a year. Which means the anniversary of our allotment passed me by without realising it. It didn't feel like a year while, at the same time, feeling like forever. In a good way. 

To be truthful, it was a year where we did no more than harvest the berries that were growing freely and the chard that has, miraculously, survived and is into it's second growing season. We kept the grass down and covered some areas over to kill it off so we could dig it over for planting this year. 

And then the chaos of moving house, adjusting to life together, work lives that suddenly got busy and a social life that just wouldn't quit, not to mention my 2 bouts of ill health that really knocked the stuffing (not to mention the ability to walk at one point) right out of my boots. 

Luckily, that seems to have all settled down now and the past few weeks have been really rewarding up there. Potatoes are doing their thing under ground, the chard threatened to bolt so found itself harvested pretty smartish, the courgettes are in and the Great Bean Space is flourishing. I've made a start in marking out the fruit cage area. Next to cover up will be the asparagus bed, ready for planting next year. Then we'll start on the orchard area. It's all pretty damn exciting. 

So what have I learned from plot holding, albeit half-heartedly, for a year?

1. Little and often. Can't say this enough. Dig a little, weed a little, dig a little more. Plant one thing that will bring you joy. Little and often.

2. Don't get put off when things don't work, or you have a spell where you can't be up there as much as you'd like. This is an experiment, a pastime, a hobby. It's not a job. 

3. Know what you can manage. I cannot manage things that are high maintenance because I can't be up there for great stretches every day. 

4. Grow only what you really want to eat, not what people think you should grow. 

5. Don't accept a plot that looks like it has never been tamed. I did and it can be off-putting to even go up there, let alone do anything. Took me months to see any progress. 

6. Make it part of your (almost) daily routine. Finish work, visit allotment (10 minutes: watering, pulling weeds, looking around), go home. Keep wellies in your car if needs be. 

7. Visit on a Saturday or Sunday morning and everyone will be there. Talk to your neighbours. Be nosey, ask what they're growing, how they made their soil less like something you'd throw pots with and more like an actual growing medium. Take cake and share it. Offer extra raspberry canes if you've got too many. Ask to buy some honey. Your 'lottie neighbours are your allies and you should cultivate them like an asparagus. 

8. As you plan what you want to grow, plan the equipment you'll need and buy the best you can. The clay soil I work with saw off 2 forks before I cottoned onto that. 

9. Find out what grows well and what doesn't from your neighbours. For instance, on ours it's no good planting carrots or sweetcorn because the 'lottie badger will dig them up. So I grow those, lettuce and tomatoes at home (the latter 2 because I want to eat them regularly - see point 3)

10. Plant some wildflowers. Actually, just plant some flowers in general. The bees will thank you, which means your crops will thank you. We have wildflowers about to burst forth and our orchard area will also be a cutting garden area for flowers because I love them in the house and our home garden isn't big enough for the big blowsy peonies and roses I crave in shops but can't justify the price of. 

And finally, 
11. Ignore all of the above. Ignore all the books. Do what you want. Do it as often as you want/can. It's your plot. Make glorious muddy mistakes. Overtire yourself and then rest and then come back to to try again. Lie on the grass and ponder what the next step is. Take chairs up and sit, with a bottle of wine and a sandwich, just thinking. Have some fun with it. 

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