Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Planning the Plot

After having got a lot of frustration off my chest with my last post (although I'm still angry about diet culture, but that's not today's topic), and with still being very much confined to barracks, unable to get to the allotment recently, I've been trying to satisfy my desire to be up there and working on the plot by planning for it instead. 

Sometimes it's hard to believe that I've had it 18 months already. When I first saw it, I realised that I'd basically been let a meadow and told to get on with it. Even a rotavator couldn't cut through the grass. But plots are hard to come by and, after waiting 2 years, there was no way I was going to turn it down. 

A lot of it is still meadow with 6 beds dug into it and the large fruit cage area. N likes the grass and there's no mistaking that it's a haven for insects. Unfortunately it's also a haven for bindweed, which basically uses it as an evil highway as it inches it's way towards the veg. 

Being a bit anti-herbicide (i.e. I've read Silent Spring - no good can come of them), there's nothing for it but a great deal more digging. The top 2 thirds of the plot will be slowly but surely cleared, much as I have been doing with copious use of membrane and spade. Sometimes there is nothing for it but graft. 

I ran wild on the Higgledy Seeds website, ordering masses of cornflowers, nigella, calendula, candytuft, cosmos, chrysanthemums, gypsophilia and sweet peas to create the wildflower/cutting flower area that'll bring all the bees and butterflies to the yard. It was a real boost to the senses to browse that site and if you're thinking of supporting an independent seed merchant, I heartily recommend it. But get in quick. Ben, the owner, recently announced that he's restricting sales this year to keep his vision for the business rather than watch it spiral out of control. A brave decision, I think. 

Speaking of keeping visions, its still important to me to keep the plot as wildlife friendly as possible, so not all the grass will be going. The final third of the plot will become a mini-orchard with apple, plum and cherry trees with enough space for 2 of each. The grass can remain down there, and once I can clear the remainder of the fallen and falling elder, I'll start working on that area, making space for the saplings to go in, as well as creating space for the shed.

Oh yes, this year I am determined to get myself a shed. It feels ridiculous to keep lugging tools up there only to find that I really need something I didn't have enough arms to carry up with me, or driving the car the 2 minutes so I can take up more than 2 tools and a rucksack. Plus, I want somewhere to store a deckchair. What is the point of all this work if you can't sit and stare at it in comfort? 

And as for what will be growing (apart from flowers and trees)? I made the executive decision that there will be NO runner beans this year after 2020's over-beaning. Yellow courgettes, borlotti and black beans, asparagus, raspberries and rhubarb. Rocket and other salad stuffs, big indulgent tomatoes. Leeks, potatoes and onions. Calabrese and purple sprouting broccoli, sprouts and red cabbage. There will only be a couple of small squash as N doesn't like them, so it's silly to grow big varieties just for me. 

I think that might be enough. 

Rather than winging it, I've got myself a special allotment diary and have been putting in seed buying and sowing dates. That should mean that we avoid gluts and I no longer miss prime planting windows for the foods I love. 

Right now, of course, this all feels very far away. The sky is sending down the occasional flurry of snow and when I stand up, I'm reminded of how removed I am from optimal health, let alone physicality. But then I see the delicate green tips of bulbs pushing through the ground and am reminded that all the seasons swing round again and it won't be long before I'm back up there, smelling the earth crumbling between my fingers and watching things turn green in the light. 


  1. What a lovely post. Borlotti beans are a great choice, they freeze fresh really well and are great for popping into stews and things. Plus, it's not a problem if they're not picked immediately they're ready. I know what you mean about runner beans. I took ALL of my small beans off before I went on holiday for a week in the summer and I still came back to enormous beans. An allotment shed is a wonderful thing, I hope you manage to get one put up. Dare I suggest a deck chair and a kettle as well..? CJ xx

    1. Thank you! And yes, you may suggest a deck chair and kettle! They are absolute musts, I reckon, although I may have to rough it with a log and a thermos initially.


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