Potential! At least, that’s the kind of word you use to describe something that looks a bit of a mess but may scrub up alright with hours of hard work, isn’t it?
Let me introduce you to my latest crazy impulse, allotment plot number 3a. I actually took on plot 3a at the end of last summer, but I must confess that bar a little digging and a lot of strimming, I haven’t done much with it yet.
Plot 3a becomes my second plot in addition to my very much loved plot 7a. Many people questioned my sanity when I announced I was taking on another plot. My Mother gave me “the look” that only Mother’s can give – you know the one that lets you know she is wondering how on earth you can possibly be related to her. Other people were more vocal in their opinions, asking why I was doing this and if I really thought it was fair to take on another plot when I already had one and it could have gone to someone without one.
My answers to the two questions above were pretty easy. Why was I taking on another plot? Why not? I love my allotment and if I didn’t have to work to earn a living I could quite happily spend every waking hour there over spring, summer and autumn. After nearly 5 years I have my first plot in a very manageable condition, which is great, but did leave me wondering where I could channel all my excess energy! I was very ready for a new challenge and plot 3a is definitely going to be that.
In answer to the people who asked if I thought my decision was fair on others, I can answer that in two words: “What others?” Because I already had a plot I was told when I enquired about taking on a second one that priority would be given to anyone who didn’t already have one. Even if I were to join a waiting list, if someone else were to join after me and they did not already have a plot they would jump ahead of me in the queue. When I did make the move and ask to join a waiting list for a second plot I was told that not only was there no waiting list whatsoever, there was also a plot vacant and ready to be taken on straight away. I could have said no and left it for someone else to take over, but given the apparent, surprising lack of demand for plots on our site, who knows how long it would have been left unloved for.
So now to give you all a little tour of my new little patch of gardening heaven. Plot 3a is very slightly smaller than 7a and is more square, whereas 7a is more rectangular. When I first took it on it was covered in weeds and grass at least 2 feet tall. Everything was so overgrown that I did not realise at first that I actually had a couple of fairly good quality raised beds amidst the undergrowth. When I did discover these, they gave me a good starting point. I strimmed, weeded and dug, determined to at least uncover these raised beds to see how they looked when they weren’t buried deep and well on their way to becoming the next Lost city of Atlantis (albeit under earth not water). Once they were uncovered I was impressed at how well built and sturdy they were and I instantly decided that I would be keeping them.
In an effort to get something growing in this new plot, I decided on impulse to plant my garlic cloves in one of these new beds rather than in a bed in plot 7a. The garlic is now growing but I think I was a little too haphazard in my digging as although the beds are fairly weed free they are unfortunately growing a little too much grass for my liking! Nevertheless, this grass can be carefully weeded out and it is just nice to have something growing in the plot.
As the plot has been left unloved for so long, it is going to be very hard to tackle it all in one season and for this reason, I am dedicating this first full year to tidying and cultivating it as much as possible. Most of the beds were already covered in carpet, which is both a blessing and a curse. It is nice to know there shouldn’t be too many weeds to get past but the thought of disposing of all the carpet is already giving me nightmares!
In line with my plan to keep things fairly simple, I have decided to dedicate one of the larger beds to growing potatoes and nothing else. Potatoes are fantastic for breaking up the soil and I am hoping that by growing them this year, I will be making things easier for myself in the long run. The potato bed is currently covered in soggy old carpet and loads of flexible plastic tubes. I am not sure what the previous plotholder had intended to do with all the tubes, but they could potentially be useful for building some kind of frame for netting and so I am going to store these safely for maybe using at a later date.
The next two beds I plan to grow on this year are both of a similar size. The first was not covered when I took on the plot and as a result was full of weeds and roots. I dug these out last year when I took on the plot and then covered it in black, weed resistant material to keep it relatively weed free until I come to planting. I have decided to make this a strawberry bed and I will be planting the strawberries through some more weed resistant material in the coming months.
The second bed was covered and I can only presume it was covered some time ago as the grass is actually sprouting from the carpet now! My plan for this bed is to uncover it, dig it and then rake it level, as it is more than a little lumpy at the moment! I will then cover it back up with more weed resistant material and plant a selection of squash in this area. My reason for doing this is that it will be relatively easy to tend to this way, thereby giving me more time to concentrate on more challenging areas of the plot. Next year when I am hopefully a little more under control I can remove the material and hopefully have a much better piece of ground to work with!
One of my biggest areas of concern is the area behind the raised beds and strawberry and squash patches. Here, I am faced with very, very uneven ground as well as the remains of some fruit bushes. I must confess that I dug out the fruit bushes when I took on the plot. It wasn’t something I was happy doing, but they were predominantly raspberry bushes, which I already have on plot 7a and to be honest, they were not in the right spot to work with my plans for this plot. As mentioned, I have dug them out but I am sure there are some roots remaining, which I want to get at before they start magically sprouting again – I do find raspberries and blackberries are especially good at doing that!
The uneven earth has to be flattened, there is no doubt about that. However, during some initial investigation it seems that it is uneven not only due to a strange soil displacement but also because there is an array of rubbish buried within the soil – I found carpet, beer cans and unidentifiable plastic objects among other things when I had a little look at it last year. I honestly doubt I will be growing anything on this area this year, but in the long term, I would love to put a herb spiral in place as a central, focal point for my allotment. I have always loved the idea of having a herb spiral but I never had the space before. Now that I do, it is a must in my mind!
My last area of concern is to the rear of the plot. I have inherited a poly-greenhouse, which I thought was great – until I saw the state of it! It is ripped, leaking and full of yet more rubbish. Much as I would have loved to have kept it, it is in no condition to save and so I would love to replace it with a little shed, as I do have a certain level of “shed envy” when I see other people’s sheds!
Next to this area is what I am referring to as the “dumping ground”. I have named it this because it is the worst area of the entire plot in terms of rubbish. There are numerous plastic bags containing garden waste as well as metal wires, broken terracotta plant pots, ripped material, half a dustbin holding a damaged hosepipe and lots of brambles!
This area genuinely looks like wasteland and I can see clearing it is going to involve a lot of trips to the tip. But I will get there and in the long run I have two possible plans for this area. My first thought is how I would love to keep Chickens here. However, I am not taking the responsibility of caring for livestock lightly and unless I am 100% sure I can give them all the love, time and attention that they will need then I will not get them.
In this instance, this area will become a place of beauty! It will be a seating area surrounded by sweet smelling, beautiful flowers and an area to really sit back and take in the plot on a warm summer’s day. In other words, a world apart from what it is now!
So that is plot 3a! I know I have my work cut out, but I also know it is going to be fun! There will be difficult times I know and I am sure there will be times when I want to give up and question why I took the plot on in the first place. But the most important thing is that I am going to keep on keeping on and in a year or two, this little plot of potential will be unrecognisable for all the right reasons!