It was late July 2015 when I received the keys to my new plot and I was eager to get it looking like a “proper” allotment as quickly as possible. I knew I had missed the window for planting most things that year, but the weather was glorious and I was keen to get going.
I should also mention that at this point in my life, I was also not very well off in the monetary sense. My first job on the allotment was to cut down all the overgrown grass, so that I could at least see the ground that I would soon be turning. This would be an easy enough job for someone with a strimmer. Unfortunately, I did not own a strimmer, nor did I know anyone who could lend me one and I certainly could not afford to buy one. With this in mind, I went to Asda and picked up a cheap pair of garden shears. I then proceeded to cut down all the long grass with just this single pair of shears. It was incredibly hard work, but with each little patch that I cleared, I felt a sense of pride creeping into my veins.
My Children were eight and nine years old at this point in time and were eager to help. Though they may not have completed much actual work, having them there with me provided some much needed motivation and I loved the fact that I was hopefully passing some of my love of gardening on to them. At one point, we found an old Chicken coup nestled in the grass, almost hidden from view. They loved finding this “hidden treasure” and have been pestering me ever since to get some Chickens for the allotment. This is something I would love to do in the long run, but can’t commit to right now as I wouldn’t have the time to dedicate to looking after them properly and until I can commit to this, I don’t feel it is right or fair to get any.
After what felt like and eternity, the grass was all cut back. The next stage was digging all the earth over and clearing the weeds. This was another mammoth task and I was very lucky that my best friend and housemate spent many hours with me helping me to dig. I know I would have got it done eventually without him, but he without a doubt helped speed up the process.
One thing I underestimated was just how hard it would be to dig over ground that had not been worked on for three years. Every single forkful of earth was a challenge. The main problem was our plot was invested with couch grass, a very deep rooted grass that is virtually impossible to get rid of. We pulled out thousands of roots while digging and even now, three years later it is still not gone completely, there is always some more to pull whenever I turn the earth.
However, we did the best job that we could do and my enthusiasm and excitement hadn’t waned. I am the kind of person who picks up new hobbies and then drops them within a few weeks. In the past, I have tried learning the drums, cross stitching and even pole dancing and given up on all of them once the initial buzz of learning something new wears off. The allotment was different. I loved every moment up there and even during the hardest days, I never gave up or even came close to wanting to give up.
Digging over the plot took months and it was early 2016 before I was even close to being done. I had taken the advice of fellow plot holders and covered the areas I was not working on to surpress weed growth and this helped enormously. It was good to be able to focus on one small area at a time, rather than trying to do everything in one go. The first area that I completed was at the front of my allotment. I dug the earth thoroughly and then installed two small, raised beds. Seeing them completed and ready for seeds gave me such an amazing feeling.
I decided to sow some spring onions, carrots, garlic and onions in these first beds. I knew that carrots and onions were good vegetables to sow by each other and I use onions a lot in cooking, so it was a natural choice for me. I must have checked on those seeds every day, treating them with the kind of love and care normally reserved for a new baby, but it did the job! After a few days, tiny seedlings were poking their heads out of the soil. Seeing these seedlings gave me renewed energy for cultivating the rest of the plot. I dug out a further six beds and designated an area towards the rear of the allotment for “relaxing”. While growing fruit and veg was obviously the main focus of the plot, I always knew that I wanted an area where I could sit and be calm and just enjoy what I had created. I had ideas of a little pond, a flower patch and a seating area.
By May 2016 the bulk of the digging was finally done. it had taken nearly a year just to get the plot to a standard where things could be grown, but it had been so very worth it. I finally had my own little piece of heaven and now it was finally starting to look like the images I had always had in my head. It was time to finally put down the fork and spade and enjoy sowing and growing!