An allotmenteer without an allotment is like a tomato plant with no leaves – a bit sad and useless (inspiration for this simile was taken directly from a couple of plants on my own balcony, as it happens). I’d resigned myself to watching all episodes of the Icelandic sitcoms Dagvaktin and Fangavakin (sequels to the excellent Næturvaktin) instead of ever going outside again, but then, to my joy, I finally got the keys to my very own allotment yesterday!
It’ll be hard work. Really, really hard work. It’s currently very much overgrown with nettles and dock leaves, which I’m assured will be cut back a bit on Friday, meaning I’ll be able to start digging on Saturday, I hope. I’ve done some research online, and some people seem to think that nettles are an indicator of decent soil quality. The small amount of soil I can see beneath the nettles does seem good, although I’m not sure how much of a comfort this will be as I dig throughout the weekend, and then throughout all of next month before the frosts creep in. There are some raised beds already, although they are currently underneath a million nettles. It won’t be as hard as it would be to build an entirely new allotment, but it’s nowhere near ready for planting. It’s fantastic. To celebrate, I bought my first spade:
Well, it was really my trade union, of whom I’m a passionate member, who paid for the spade. I got vouchers for referrals. My allotment’s going to be a good, socialist allotment.
Vouchers run out eventually, though, so I’ve join various local message boards and groups to see if I can get any second-hand equipment for free (items like wooden pallets and paving slabs and guttering, and who knows, maybe the odd plant), or at least cheaper. I think it’s the best way to do it – I don’t want to dive in head first and spend all my savings at once on stuff that might get nicked anyway (there have been a few thefts in the area).
It’s all exciting, anyway, and my plan at the moment is to spend all of Saturday and Sunday digging. My housework, online courses and obsessive Icelandic sitcom-watching will have to take a back seat until the frost comes, I think. And then I’ll use winter to plan (and maybe accumulate more gardening stuff). Maybe the timing of me getting the allotment isn’t so bad, thinking about it. OK, I’m not going to grow anything on it for a while, but I have work to do right away, which is good, also for my expanding waistline, but it won’t be as though I have AN ENTIRE GROWING SEASON before me right from the start. Just a lot of digging.
Here’s what’s been going on in the meantime. I had to buy some plants from the Victoriana Nursery down in Kent – they have a lovely range of slightly rarer varieties. I ordered borage, hyssop and sea kale. The borage isn’t ready yet, but the rest all arrived today (I’d also bought a couple of snapdragons from Homebase on my lunch break, because I have limited willpower). The hyssop will hopefully act as a companion plant to brassicas once it’s grown, and is supposed to be good for the bee population. The borage, once I have it, is supposed to be a good companion plant to basically everything, and I think you can use the flowers for exciting salads and so on. The sea kale is just adorable. Look at it, sitting there. I think it’s going to be awkward to get to grow, and I haven’t decided when exactly to transport it to the allotment or what to do with it before then, but I’ll figure it out.
I’ve got a couple more little cucumbers growing, although how big they get this late on remains to be seen. I’m getting increasingly frustrated with my multitude of tomatoes, which don’t seem to be ripening. I consulted a range of gardening blogs, and to be honest, I have so much faith in them that if they said ‘Sing lullabies to your tomatoes to make them blush’, I’d have done it. Luckily, I surmised that I’ve still got time before they begin to ripen, so all is not lost. Failing that, there’s the ‘apple in a paper bag’ method of ripening, but more on that if I end up actually having to do it.
Next step is to figure out what can go on the allotment, and what can stay on the balcony. So far the only things that I think can definitely go, although not necessarily in the very near future, are the blueberry, blackberry, loganberry and raspberry plants. I’ll have to muse on this further.