For the last two months, most of the time I’ve been on site alone. As is the case across the country, allotments tend to go quiet over the winter months with only a select few choosing to work through cold, and often rainy, weather.
The last week, however, has been different. Despite the somewhat changeable weather, plotholders are beginning to return in droves. Woodchip is being laid for fresh paths, manure added to beds and of course some post-Xmas catch ups. The last week has also seen me renew my tenancy for another year. Technically speaking, nothing gets signed – it’s simply a window for everyone to pay up for the year. I was surprised to find that the majority of people choose to pay in cash. I can’t recall the last time I paid for anything in cash.
During this window, two of the three ‘management’ were on site. We discussed plans for the site, progress of some plots and more besides. Since I joined last year, one plot holder has left and a few others have joined. Two of those that joined have made a fantastic effort – one couple, in particular, have completely transformed what was, in my opinion, the worst plot on the site. It’s now evolving into a beautiful nature garden. It’s no coincidence, I’m sure, that those that have done well are the those that have put the hours in.
A few others that joined after me have, so far, been less successful. It seems to be a recurring theme that some will arrive on day one, do a few hours then disappear for months on end. It’s a real pet hate of mine, especially when plots are in such demand across the country. Fortunately, a few of those on site that do put in the effort and have asked for more space are now being given the opportunity. Overall, this can only be a good thing. There will always be some neglected plots or some that don’t renew – allowing new plot holders on board. Even my last site, costing almost £400 per year had a handful of neglected plots – despite people continuing to pay for them. I believe that if overall, the site is well presented and plots used, it makes it harder for others to neglect theirs. Nobody wants to be the only one with the untended plot.
Site plans for the year ahead include the addition of a communal garden with wildflowers, picnic area – and hopefully a ‘clubhouse’ of sorts. They’re going to try to build up an online presence for the site too, partly to gain some visibility when applying for grant funding, and partly to build up the waiting list and spread the word. I’ve offered to help with this.
On to my plot…
When I took on this plot, it was originally intended that it would ‘terminate’ a few metres before the pond. This area was going to house the eventual ‘clubhouse’ and seating area. Now that a larger area ‘garden’ area has been set aside, this space is no longer needed. It’s not quite big enough to be a plot in its own right, so I’ve been allowed to simply extend my own. As a result, my plot now approaches 400sqm.
Obviously, I’m currently working on a pre-defined plan that didn’t account for this extra space. However, it’s at the ‘right’ end for it to not make any difference to my proposed layout. I’ll simply run the hedging a little further down to include new space. I’m not yet sure what I’ll do with this area. I will most likely tidy it up and cover it over for this year while I work up a plan. Current thoughts include adding more polytunnels perhaps or maybe a brassica cage. Or, maybe I should just take it as a sign that I really should get some poultry.
Everything seems to take longer than you’d expect, especially when working on a plot of this size. However, one ‘half’ is now largely complete. There are 12 large beds in place, paths filled with woodchip and beds filled with manure. These will be topped off with soil prior to planting. The woodchip is around a foot deep, and each bed took 8 barrow loads of manure. This, together with the fact my plot is the furthest away from both sources, is largely the reason progress has been so slow. However, while far from complete, it’s starting to take shape.
On the other side of the plot, the remaining 8 large beds are also assembled and in place. They still need levelling, though that itself isn’t a huge task. 6 of the beds, however, overhang the existing drainage ditch, so before I can fill them and put the woodchip down, I’ll need to dig out the new ditch and backfill the old one. I can’t say I’m especially looking forward to that task, but needs must!
Another priority is getting the far end of the plot laid out. This is the end that will house the shed, greenhouse, ‘flower garden’ and ‘fruit garden’. As now is the time to be planting the bare root fruits, I need to get this in place as early as possible. This area, I think, will also significantly affect the appearance of the plot. Even if the other 12 beds aren’t ready, once this bottom area is laid out and paths in place, the plot will look far more presentable than it currently does.
Whether I attempt digging out the ditch or finishing the layout at the end first is still up in the air. As I type, it’s currently snowing outside. Not ideal weather for either task! I also still have the polytunnel staging to build, not to mention a huge workload with the ‘day job’ too.
I’ll be pleased when it’s done!
Founder and Editor, ForkMojo. Organic Allotmenteer, Husband, Father & Programmer.