While I write frequently about our allotment, the nerve centre of our operation seldom gets a mention. With a half-sized plot, we don’t have space for refinements such as seed beds, a greenhouse or cold frames.
Instead, all the module planting and nurturing takes place in our small (but beautifully formed) garden. In spring and early summer it resembles a scaled-down plant nursery and in 2010, having invested in a bigger plastic ‘greenhouse’, even more space has been given over to allotment preparation.
Our garden is not the most manageable, the top being some 10ft higher than the level of the house and the patio area. When we moved here in 2003, it was a treacherous grassy slope. Just using the lawnmower meant taking your life in your hands. With help from some amazing friends, we transformed the garden in just 3 days. I was fortunate in not having too much involvement with the physical back-breaking work. My mission was to keep 6 hungry adults and 2 children fed and watered over the 3 days of hard
labour. Our friend’s excited and highly motivated 7 year old single-handedly filled a maxi skip without a word of complaint, while whistling the Ground Force theme tune! The garden is now terraced using railway sleepers (authentic locally-sourced ones!) with 4 different levels.
Because of the difference in height, the diminutive patio area is very sheltered and a real sun-trap. The highest temperature we’ve measured was 39.3 degrees! I hasten to add this was not in the shade, simply because there isn’t any!
Blight is a huge problem on our allotment, so all our tomatoes are grown in pots in the garden. While I eat things which contain tomatoes, I can’t bear the raw fruit. David however, is quite the tomato gourmet and we are still searching for the one with the ultimate flavour. In 2009, we also attempted Crystal Lemon Cucumbers in pots (I was seduced by the romantic name!), without success.
As well as growing tomatoes, we have a small bed in the garden which we fill with ‘cut and come again’ lettuce. Having to go up to the allotment for a bit of salad smacks too much of food miles for me!
Another of our constant failures on the allotment has been garlic. To date, we have only successfully grown one bulb! Last year I read garlic did well in plots, so that has been added to the garden crop. It’s not ready to harvest yet and I’m fighting the impulse to dig one up to see what’s going on. It’s looking good though if the leaves are anything to go by, and looking much healthier than anything we’ve grown so far on the allotment!
The Infernal Worm Farm
Also tucked away in a corner of the garden is our wormery. It has been a constant source of discord since we bought it 5 years ago. In compost terms, we’ve not had a huge amount of success with it. I would be happy to pass it on to some unsuspecting Freecycler, but David is now too attached to his little wiggly friends.
The design itself isn’t good and in the early days, it became water-logged after several days of heavy rain. Sadly we lost most of the worms to a watery grave. To get over this, David made a dinky little pitched roof (more pallet craft!) which perches on top. Despite this, we’ve had several trays of foul-smelling soggy muck which is no use to man nor beast. Having read up on this, it would appear to be a common problem.
The one big benefit of the wormery is the copious amounts of ‘Worm Wine’ it produces. The liquid collects in a reservoir at the bottom and is decanted into old 2 pint milk bottles. Diluted, it is a fantastic plant food for both outdoor and house plants. Before our allotment owning days, we used to give most of it away (Freecycle again), but now our veggie plants can use as much as we produce.
One of the most useful parts of the garden is the 1st level, where the majority of our pots and containers live. The retaining wall was part of the original layout and provides us with a perfect working space for potting and planting. Once the planting season is finished, the pots are arranged with a small water feature and some other garden ornaments for aesthetics. Strangely, as more of the garden is given over to allotment central work, the aesthetics season seems to grow shorter!
Finally … I’m going to mention Albert, my little friend who hides in the corner in all weathers. Before you abandon this blog for good after being shocked by my admission of owning a garden gnome … at least read this plea in mitigation …
Albert came into my life about 15 years ago. He was bought (for 99p as a joke) along with his friend Sidney, for my daughter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a gnome with a fishing rod, which was the original intention. Sidney sadly, came to sticky end when in residence in a hanging basket. Both he and Albert had a habit of moving around, being ‘mobile gnomes’. To this day we can’t be sure if he jumped or was pushed, but the ‘gnomicide’ squad could find no concrete evidence.
All the gnome jokes came to a head on my birthday that year when, to my horror, I was given several more! Enough was enough! All the surplus gnomes were promptly dispatched to the charity shop, with the exception of Albert, who has lived a solitary, only-gnome existence ever since. He is now an old friend, and I don’t notice his lack of sartorial elegance and his doubtful pedigree, but he does serve as a reminder of a very hilarious summer many years ago.