It was around this time five years ago that we first got our allotment. I can't remember the exact date but I remember vividly being shown round the different plots that were available by Brenda, our Site Manager. She showed me a couple of different plots, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Typically for me I chose the most over the top and un-manageable plot out of the four that I was shown.
Plot 45 had been perfectly tended by its previous owner but it was at least twice as big as what I had imagined, included a beautiful pond (that I didn't have a clue how to look after) and, as the then chair of the Committee had put it:
"That plot is really unsuitable for a woman gardener. Much too big for them to deal with."
Of course that was like a red rag to a bull for me and made me absolutely determined to take the plot on, no matter how big and unwieldy it may prove to be...So, going into my sixth season as an allotment gardener, what do I think that I've learnt from my experiences on Plot 45?
- Despite what any book or newspaper column may try to persuade you, looking after an allotment takes alot of hardwork. Especially in the first year when you probably won't have a clue what you're supposed to be doing.
- Despite what any grumpy fellow allotment holders may try to persuade you, this hardwork is not thankless and boring. It will soon become some of the most satisfying time you will invest and, despite what they may also try to persuade you, you will be well able to deal with it.
- Listen to the old handers on your allotment site when they offer advice - they've got a whole load of knowledge that can really help you out cultivating your plot. However, don't feel that everything they say is right! Everyone grows in different ways and it's about each individual finding their own way of doing things that works for them.
- Listen to your soil and respond to what it tells you. It knows everything that it needs and the knowledge is all there for the taking if you respond to the way that your soil behaves and accept that this may not be the same as you're told it will behave in the books that you have been reading.
- And finally, enjoy yourself. Cultivating an allotment is a pleasure and a privilege that not everyone has access to. It is also one of the most satisfying ways you could hope for to spend your down time. Remember this above all else and you can't possibly go far wrong.