Allotment Gardening: A Change of Plans

This year my husband and I have really been struggling with the allotment. Despite best-laid plans and use of the Half Hour Allotment book, the combination of the weather and our other responsibilities has worked against us. The beans and peas have mysteriously disappeared, despite following exactly the same processes as last year (and protecting them in the same way) the apple set has been disappointing because of the rain and half of the plot is wildly out of control.

When we get the time to spend down there, instead of being ruthlessly efficient we stand around aimlessly trying to work out what job will make the most difference in the time we have available. It’s all a bit dispiriting. Instead of being a joyful experience, if I’m honest, it’s just becoming a bit stressful. Not that we haven’t been here before. When Eve was born ten weeks too soon, we spent a whole Winter sitting in a neonatal unit instead of sorting out the soil on the plot. We’ve had two babies, and I’ve had two caesarian sections, loads of other life responsibilities, and through them all, we’ve managed to juggle the allotment alongside everything else.

It feels different now. One of the reasons stress becomes real distress is when you can’t see an end to the situation you’re in and we’re in this situation for a long time. Full time work and small children just don’t leave enough time for it. We need to remember that it’s supposed to be fun. A hobby that might just provide some of the food on our plate. It’s really important to me, but I don’t want it to just become another thing to worry about. After all, the upside of a job is a salary with which we can buy the food we need. It’s more than that though. I want the kids to enjoy being outside. I want to share with them the happiness that growing some of your own food can bring, and the knowledge of where that food comes from. As well as that, they’re also learning about living alongside nature and I love to watch them exploring and playing on the plot, even though their presence reduces the amount of actual work I can get done!

Our feelings of stress about the situation are not helped by the new allotment neighbours. An army of them work the plot and in a few short months, it looks like they’ve been there longer than our six years. It’s making me miserable. I know the competition is only in my head, but we still look like the weakest link on the site and I don’t like it! We talked about giving it up recently. It broke my heart as I know that we’d never be lucky enough to get a plot again given the popularity of allotment gardening these days, but we also need to make sure that our holding onto one is legitimate and not depriving anyone else who would do a better job.

In order to make it work, I’ve taken a leaf out of my neighbours’ book. I’ve resisted this before, because I didn’t want to relinquish control over the plot, but all that  has done is leave me with no time and little food for my hard work. People are stronger as a community.  So, I did what I always do in times of crisis.

I called my mum.

We’re going to share the work in return for sharing the rewards. Even sharing, I’ll end up with more food in the first place because of the extra work being done – and Mum gets to grow the vegetables she cannot grow in her own, often waterlogged, garden. I already know, obviously, that we can work as a team together and our knowledge and skills will complement each other. I’m really excited about it. Of course, she might have said yes because of the payment up front I offered. A share in my one and only fabulous crop of this year. Here it is…

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