I overdid the spuds. No, not overcooking but investing in too many seed potatoes. Instead of the one potato bed, as planned, I have one and three quarters. Still, that’s the beauty of tackling an allotment, you learn as you go on and adapt. I am carefully recording what goes where so that the crop rotation plan is still on track, at the same I am thankful that the humble spud is a very adaptable food.

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 Allotment progress in May 

 May has been the busiest month because, as well as digging over the plot, young plants have been patiently waiting for their new home.

Mid-May I panicked when I realised I had a queue of beans, brassicas and courgettes and nowhere to put them! Some hastily-organised days of holiday, frantic digging and stubborn weed eviction, have me back on track. The fact that this activity coincided with the hottest weather of the year (so far) required a dedication I thought I may have lacked. The song, ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ came to mind, serious bouts digging were combined with retreats into shady areas.

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Phil’s first early potatoes

Spending so many days in one go there allowed me to see the comings and goings of my fellow plotters. There is a real mix of ages here, definitely not an exclusive reserve of retired folk. People would come and spend a morning or afternoon toiling away, others would pop in early morning for half an hour and back again in the evening. Amongst the activity there is time to stop for a quick chat, swapping experiences and offering words of encouragement before getting on with the job. My immediate neighbour has had his plot for over 12 years so is a handy man to know. He provided a solution when I noticed something had been nibbling my sprouts (which is to be avoided). Pigeons, apparently, are partial to brassicas. Now, at his suggestion, I have constructed  a pigeon-barrier using plastic netting. A quick chat and something useful learned (he had to find out the hard way but passed it on). This is what it is all about: people share information, based on their experiences, not tell you how you should do be doing it. It’s friendly advice but not intrusive which I think is brilliant.

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 Peas and beans

As I write, I am looking at a weekend newspaper story that, according to The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, local authorities are using loopholes in the 1908 Allotments Act (did you know this existed?) to avoid their duties to create allotments. Under the Act, if six people or more make a request, if no space is available the council must act to provide land. However, the councils can take as long as they like ‘looking for land’. The Society estimates that there are almost 200,000 gardeners on waiting lists and, in some cases, you will be 40 years older before you get your allotment.

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 New courgettes 

This saddens me greatly, looking around at the benefits to the land and the community that allotments provide, I find it hard to understand why this situation exists.

The allotment is now definitely taking shape and will evolve over the coming weeks. Although it partly resembles a building site at the moment, I am excited at the prospect of the plants growing and changing the view dramatically. All I have to do is keep them watered, protect them from predators, keep the weeds at bay, plant additional crops and get my hands on a water hose.

At the moment, I am restricted to ferrying water from the closest tap in watering cans.  This is challenging, to say the least, as one round of watering means around 20 trips to and from the tap. As the plants grow, and more are added, the demand will be immense and I look enviously at established plotters who dispense water without having to much more than a few paces.

With digging, planting, weeding and watering, time passes quickly. Although concentration is required for these activities there is scope for the mind to wander freely. You can sort out problems, find answers to everyday questions or let your imagination wander.

One set of musing that popped into my head while going about my business included;

What is an allotmenteer’s favourite opera? ‘The Rake’s Progress’.  

Their favourite film? ‘Snow White and the 7 dwarf beans’ and the film soundtrack favourite ‘Hi hoe, hi hoe, it’s off to work we go’

Finally, their favourite Shakespeare play? ‘Mulch ado about nothing’.