What I learned in the first three months
It is all very well having the keys to 170 sq metres of growing space, but now what?
It’s a bit like the difference between youngsters who know exactly what they want to do when they leave school and those who don’t. Those that do are so sure of what they want that they know exactly what they will need to do to achieve their goal and the amount of work that will be necessary. The rest of us who aren’t sure then struggle with all the ideas and choices that are dangled in front of us by well meaning parents and teachers in the vain attempt to get us interested in something… or was that just me? The point I’m slowly getting to is this analogy is similar to the choices you will at some point need to make for your growing area. You may already know the type of allotment or growing space you want, but if you don’t you will be faced with questions such as: Are you going to go for raised beds or straight into the ground? Will you grow organically or are you happy using chemicals? Will you use the no-dig approach or will you rotavate your plot? Do you want to grow vegetables, fruit, flowers or all of them? Your personality will also play a part. Are you a tidy person who likes order or are you someone who doesn’t mind how things look? Are you a traditionalist or are you open to new ideas?
I am the sort of person who likes a certain kind of order. I start out aiming for that neat perfect look, but almost always never quite achieve it 🙂 I will still aim to do the best I can but if it doesn’t look as neat as a pin I’m OK with that… and allotments are supposed to be scruffy, right? The end result can look a bit rough and ready, but as long as there’s some kind of plan then I’m happy.
After my head had stopped spinning with all the decisions I was faced with he first thing I did was clear the weeds from the fruit side so I could see exactly what the plot looked like. At that stage there was nothing I wanted to remove so with help I installed posts and wires to secure the raspberry canes, this is so they don’t damage each other when it’s windy and I tidied up the rhubarb crown by removing its old leaves. By this time it’s December 2018 and having done a bit more homework I had read that covering the ground in membrane helps kill the weeds so I set about doing exactly that, covering the left hand side ready for the rest of the winter.
So, what have I learned in my first three months
The first thing I’ve learned is there is so much to learn!… and the second is, you don’t have to learn it all straight away.
Knowing the right conditions for each variety or type of vegetable for instance can blow your mind, so go slow, pick a vegetable, fruit or flower that you want to cultivate and read up about it first and then set about growing it in a way that suits you and your growing space. I was surprised at how much enjoyment I got from reading up about vegetables and if you have an interest in growing anyway then it’s never a chore, in fact, unless you’re careful it can become an obsession! In future posts I plan to write about each separate vegetable I have grown to give you some idea of what has worked for me so far… and the epic fails.
Another thing I learned was to take lots of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. the thrill and motivation you will get when you see the difference you’ve made is just fab, and when you’re having a down day when you think everything is getting on top of you, just get those pictures out and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Its a great motivator.
Something else I learned early on, which I wasn’t expecting, was the phenomenon that is ‘allotment envy’. Facebook for instance, as we all know, has special interest groups that you can join. These groups hold a wealth of information because members are just like you and me, we are all in it for the growing. You can ask a question and someone, somewhere will have the answer you need, or you can post a picture of something you are proud of. Those very pictures that are so motivating can have the opposite effect when you see someone elses ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos and your own growing space isn’t where you want/need it to be, that envy can start to creep in and it feels awful. In the early days I admit to feeling this way and in the end I stopped looking at those posts until I felt I was on top of my own plot and only then did I start to enjoy looking at others endeavours. Your plot or growing space is yours and yours alone, it’s not a competition, it’s yours to make of it what you want and it is OK to do it in your own time.
Which brings me to my last but very important learning point. Growing ANYTHING is good for health and wellbeing. I have found that my plot really has been my space I escape to. No matter what is going on around me, focusing on the jobs that need doing keep me grounded and I find I don’t think of anything other than the task in hand. Sometimes I listen to an audio book while I’m on the allotment, but I can just as easily be found just listening to the birds that are often competing with each other for song space. It’s a well known fact that getting out into the great outdoors is good for us, no matter if its to work or just for a walk, I find I ‘zone out’ somehow and it’s just peaceful. All this sounds very zen, but I feel calm when I’ve been to the allotment and sometimes don’t want to leave! I thoroughly recommend it!