Monday, 14 March 2011

The Things I Gain #1 My Allotment

My allotment is my big love. Romance of the year. Crush of the century. I am officially and unashamedly obsessed. Like an over protective first time parent I tend to its every need, lavish it with expensive treats and wake up in cold sweats in the night worrying about it- too much brown compost? Not enough worms? CLAY!

I know how lucky I am to have my little plot. I was on a waiting list for a site literally at the end of my road. I had heard rumours circulating that the wait for a plot here was nearing 15 years, heard tell that there we no newbies admitted since 1992... so I was less than hopeful, I wasn’t quite sure I was ready for the commitment yet anyway...
Then one morning last summer barely a week after I joined the list, I got an email from the council letting me know that a plot had become available on a newly opened site on the other side of town- did I want to take it up? By 4 O’clock that afternoon I was being shown my new little bit of green.
I think enthusiasm must have blinded me to what I was about to take on... I didn’t see the enormous concrete bricks, paving slabs and rubble, I saw bees and butterflies and salad. The Long Suffering Boyfriend bought me back down to earth, him and 40 wheelbarrow loads of rocks taken off one particularly long Saturday in July. Our little plot had been a fly tipping hotspot, the concrete blocks and lumps of twisted metal were the tip of the iceberg. After a few weeks of this a decision was made- We had to raise our beds. It was this or chemically destroy everything living on our plot and start again- striving to be organic, this was not an option.
We now have 10 raised beds on our plot, in varying sizes, which take up about two thirds of the space (the rest is fruit bushes, flowers and containers). We tried to recycle as much as possible, poking around skips, smashing up old pallets but in the end we had to spend a bit of money on wood.  I am pleased with the results and I know they will last forever, but I would love to have done it all through recycling. In order to appease my moral conscience, and to fit in with my ethical lent I have made a new rule- nothing new. No new pots, no new wood, no new plastic hose pipes, watering cans- nothing.
There are only 4 rules on My Little Bit of Green 
1.       Absolutely NO chemicals. None. No sprays, no dodgy compost, no weed killer, no plant miracle grower. All organic.
2.       We will eat everything. (Apart from my beautiful flowers, and I have made sure that even some of them are edible! Lavender biscuit anyone?) Nothing is going to waste. I will chomp my way through it all, or give it away to equally veg fond friends. Anything that dies or is inedible will go on the compost so it will feed my pet worms.
3.       No new. Everything from now on must be recycled or second hand or scavenged. Apart from seeds and some veg as I don’t want the allotment to be bare- though even these I will strive to swap, take cuttings, share, beg and borrow.
4.       Love wildlife. Our allotment neighbourhood is a haven for finches but I was nearly lynched for mentioning the prospect of hanging a bird feeder on my plot. Controversial bird attractants aside- I will have a log pile and a rock pile for reptiles and amphibians and little creepy crawlys, bed and buckets of flowers for attracting bees and butterflies and I’m hoping, even a teeny little pond...we will see.

5.       Polyculture. Inspired by the fabulous Alys Fowler I will grow in a muddle. The Boyf has been given one bed in which he has plant his onions in straight, equally measured lines. Everything else is going to be a bit of a free for all. I want flowers amongst  the veg, I want a wild, beautiful and productive garden. I am a little nervous about this method, I have never tried it before but I think it will be wonderful.
This summer will be our first growing season. I cannot wait to start putting things in the ground, rather than pulling things out of it! Any tips for organic polyculture?

we're slowly getting there...

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