As the season of summer finally starts to show what she can really do (yes, summer would definitely be a lady), we begin to watch in wonder as the flowers and fruits begin to bloom. The previous owners of our allotment took pride in creating a small patch that they dedicated to growing wildflowers on. We have opted to keep this.
I think that some folk see allotments as those bastions of old men, surrounded by soggy crops, homing pigeons, the loud crowing of cockerels and hours of sweat and toil in return for mammoth-sized onions and cabbage. Don’t get me wrong – those types of allotments exist; I have seen them, but the freedom of a large (or small) plot can be so much more.
We kept the flower patch. Amidst all the crops at the top of the allotment is the small country cottage style garden resplendent with wild and naturally occurring plants. My Nan would call them “angel comers” as they were planted by seemingly God’s own hand – in truth usually naturally propagated or seeds dropped from the mouth of a passing bird. I love the poetic idea that we are at the whim of something greater and despite our best intentions things will just grow where they wish. In fairness anyone who has tangled with returning weeds will certainly share that feeling!
Take a look – see what you think. In amongst the flowers grows two or three varieties of mint, every hue and shade resplendent in colour. Some of the purists would argue that they serve no purpose – but equally the same critics would care little for making their own garden burst with blooms.
We did get the ultimate taste of summer this year – a bumper crop of wild strawberries. Our boy spent hours picking (and eating!) the best of them. Despite being told he had to save some for the rest of us he was un-thwarted and did his best to consume as many of them as he could! And whilst I would disapprove of such gluttony on French fries or burgers, the produce of our allotment is a very different matter.
As you can also see, we are looking forward to a bumper harvest of tomatoes and courgettes – we seem to have been over-run in both of our greenhouses. We have already had several of the young vegetables, simply skewered, drizzled with olive oil and grilled – they were amazing! It is fair to say we will be looking for plenty of recipes that use tomatoes and courgettes. Have you got any ideas? I would love to hear them, cook them and then let you know just how we get on.
Like many others across the country, we are getting ready for the National Garden SleepOut event that is taking place tonight kindly sponsored by Primrose. I love the idea of this and as a family we will be keen to take part in this every year.
As I mentioned before, we share our allotment with some good friends who also happen to be our neighbours. Our plot is no more than 150 yards from where we all live and this allows us to visit daily without any great inconvenience. We find that we are able to each do our bit and there are no cross words as to who does the most. If nothing else we work as a team and are all looking forward to seeing a good crop this year having started most things from seed way back in the depths of a cold March.
Those puny looking threads of green we saw poking their heads tentatively out of the dark earth are now starting to stand tall. We are inundated with tomato plants, many varieties from Cherry to Beefsteak and I am looking forward to a good summer harvest. We should be taking our first ones off within the next four weeks — exciting times ahead.
One of the many challenges we, like many gardeners face, is getting the balance right when watering our crops. During the recent hot spell, we had to water the greenhouse plants twice daily; they were crying out for as much refreshment as we could give them – not unlike ourselves, having spent any time under the hot glass panes! However, where our thirst could be quenched with one or two well earned cold beers – our little friends need more than that.
So, as they say – desperate times call for ingenious solutions. Or something like that. As I often say, the keen allotment keeper is akin to a scrap man – always on the lookout for items that would be of some use. Our greenhouse is home to a selection of water butts and piping that has been gathered over the last few months. During the months of rain they filled nicely and we are now seeing the advantage of harvesting rainwater – we are able to freely fill our watering cans and keep of plants replenished.
One of the best uses we found for some old hollow pipework was to create triangular frames for our selection of broad, dwarf and runner beans. It is an age-old trick to create frames for climbing plants, so I am not professing any new revolutionary gardening technique. However, and here comes the clever part, we did find that the hollow pipe served a secondary purpose. We found that they held a good amount of water and by filling them up to the top they would slowly seep the water under the ground and directly into the bundles of roots that are beginning to take hold under the soil.
This in itself gave us another solution to the problem of how to avoid damage to plants when watering in full sun. Directly watering into the roots prevents any sun damage or burns occurring on the leaves and stems.
The next step could well be a remotely controlled or timed watering system and there are many of these available. We have certainly got the space to warrant that investment and we have the water storage solution so maybe… Until we have decided, however, we will keep on using our initiative and turning one man’s rubbish into another man’s watering solution.
When we took over the adjacent allotment to our own, not only did we inherit some wonderfully rustic home made out-buildings and greenhouses, but also a modest decking and fire pit area. Now the previous tenants clearly had some grand designs, but due to relocating have left these largely unfulfilled. One of the things that struck us was that we could have plenty of space for planting, growing and keeping poultry but also a perfect (almost) ready-made entertaining area.
With some elbow grease to clean down the tired looking wood and some more ingenious construction (that probably wouldn’t pass building regulations!) we steadied the deck and dug out the cooking area. So what makes an allotment perfect for those long late nights that summer holds?
Your allotment can be the perfect space for a few friends to share some food, drinks and chill out under the stars. Certainly for us with only a modest sized garden, it is a perfect place when we want to invite a few more than usual as our allotment affords us the extra space. It also gives us food, cooking facilities and the chance to show off our second home – in a busy season it certainly feels that way. Firstly, be sure to check the terms and conditions of your tenancy. I would not advocate doing anything that is likely to cause you trouble. I think that most local councils would be reasonably relaxed about it, depending on the proximity to neighbouring houses and the potential for noise pollution or damage.
Some useful pointers to ensure that you make the most of your allotment party –
· Check you are allowed to have a social gathering in your agreement · Ensure your guests respect yours and others property · Don’t annoy the neighbours – music, noise, and littering, wilful or accidental damage · Keep the guest list select – don’t invite hundreds · Be careful with any fires lit · Keep the party area well lit, don’t want clumsy feet walking on those plants! · Clearly fence off areas that are no-go’s · Make sure all fires, candles and naked flames are extinguished before leaving
On a cold but clear April night we stoked up a fire and got a feel for what those long awaited summer nights would hold for us. It was blazing success. A perfectly clear night allowed us for some unrivalled sky views of the stars and planets, the fire pit roared to life and somehow the food tasted all that better. We are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to partake in our next one now that the temperatures have risen and the nights are just that bit longer. Whilst allotments may not be chic, and some may be a little shabby – they hold great promise for not only the raising of seeds but of glasses too.