Archive for the ‘Allotment’ Tag

GYO The New DIY

An allotment has become the must have accessory for the modern family. Where DIY once ruled the Sunday morning in suburbia its now Grow Your Own that has become the creed and the Allotment the place of worship. After a considerable effort by a group of dedicated enthusiasts our Parish Council was forced into providing a plot of land for the eager horticulturists. Six years later half the original allotment holders are still tilling the soil, some plots have been through several hands as individuals find the task of GYO too difficult, but all are being used and a small waiting list remains.

My father introduced me to the pleasures of growing your own food when he took on a plot in the late 60s. We were both new to vegetable growing and learnt together that nature needs a lot of help if you are to eat what you grow. Pests, diseases, drought, vandalism and the quality of the soil all need to be understood before success can be achieved. As any old gardener will tell you, work with nature and she will be your friend and feed you, fight with nature and she will be your enemy and you’ll starve.

At the moment I’m picking sugar snap peas, strawberries, wild rocket and cabbages; and by the end of the month there will be new potatoes, tomatoes, gooseberries and carrots. In fact this year the choice and quantities are less than normal as a long spring holiday coincided with the peak sowing and planting season, thus I’m about six weeks behind. Last year we went for over ten months without needing to buy any vegetables, all very satisfying.

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Stepping Out On Target

Don’t we have enough targets already without some researcher coming up with another? Apparently we should all exercise by walking around for half an hour a day; and, just to ensure our walking around is not merely a pleasant stroll along a country lane, we need to count each step to ensure we do 3,000 steps in the prescribed half hour. That’s 10 steps every 6 seconds, that’s not walking that’s jogging.

Anybody who reads the sporting press will know of many athletes who have required knee and hip replacements by the age of 40 because all the jogging and running has worn them out. A gentle, or even a brisk walk does not put such a strain on the joints as jogging. Exercise is good for one’s health but there are far more productive ways of doing yourself some good. Get an allotment and do some digging, weeding, pushing a wheel barrow and hoeing. It will help you to work up a sweat and you get the healthy produce as well, what could be better?

Why anyone would want to run on a treadmill or use a rowing machine in a sweat filled gym is when they could be out in the open air communing with nature beyond me. An allotment costs a fraction of gym fees, does not need special clothing just wear those old clothes you planned to give to Oxfam but forgot. Once you grow your own fruit and vegetables you’ll look on the supermarket offerings with more suspicion and wonder just how many chemicals were used to get those perfect specimens and how much of those chemicals end up in your dinner.

This Blessed Plot

Having lifted the last row of potatoes and dug up two of the last parsnips and four of the last nine leeks the allotment is looking bare. The strawberry plants are just starting to throw up new leaves and the rhubarb has small bright red shoots just showing above the soil. The rest of the plot is covered with old carpet to suppress the weeds, act as a mulch to keep the soil moist ready for sowing and planting and provide protection for the resident mole. For a few months the plot will be unproductive until the asparagus starts to shoot in mid to late April.

It’s easy to understand why there is a high demand for allotments. If you are careful they can save you money, the fruit and vegetables taste much better, and it helps to keep you fit. It can be frustrating to see you cabbages eaten by caterpillars, broad beans eaten by partridges and peas eaten by mice. But when you find a grass snake basking on the top of the compost bin and friends begging a few spears of freshly cut asparagus it makes more than worth while.

If you plan carefully and choose easy to grow produce it does not have to be hard work. In fact what work there is to do is tempered by the many conversations with fellow alottmenteers and just sitting in the quiet of the plot and absorbing the peace all around.