Biscuits were packed, the coffee flask was full and enthusiasm was aplenty. I’d been looking forward to this day all week; Saturday was to be spent at the allotment.
At this time of year, when the weather’s bleak and the landscape is bare, spending time on the allotment can seem pointless to some. To these people I say, you’re missing a trick. There’s always something to do, and there’s always nothing to do. You can keep busy or, you can pull up a chair, and watch Mother Nature go about her business while envisaging the bulging vegetables and blousy blooms to come.
For the last few seasons, I’ve added piles of natural waste on the borderline of my allotment. Not only has this worked as a well-needed windbreak, it’s been a haven for wildlife. A few seasons on and things are decomposing nicely. So I took the opportunity to cover these mounds up with weed-control fabric. With the added heat, it should speed up the process. Later in the year, having turned it over a few times, I’m hoping it will have decomposed to make a great mulch. In the meantime, I’ve started new mounds at the back of the allotment, so the wildlife still has somewhere to go.
Clearing the last of the sprouts, and most of the cabbage and carrots, I dug over the free beds and prepped them for spring. I worked quickly, wanting the hard-work done so I could enjoy the peace, sip my coffee and watch the Kite circling above, looking for brunch.
No sooner had I opened the folded chair, the rumble came, ever so quietly at first. Steadily it grew louder and louder, until he drove into view, working his way up the allotment road… The Delivery Man!
Heads popped up from allotment plots like eager meerkats. Wheelbarrows were suddenly on standby, gardeners on their starting blocks, waiting for the moment that the truck would depart, leaving behind the gift of manure for them to claim as their own. The wait seemed never-ending. Hands twitched on wheelbarrow handles, sweat formed under knitted hats. For me, having claimed my prize late last year, I was no longer a competitor but a spectator. I nibbled my shortbread, sipped my coffee and waited with the rest.
Then as quickly as he came, the truck was gone. The race was on.
Seconds went by, then minutes, yet nothing. No rusty screeching of barrows moving with speed and precision. No scraping of shovels. No, old boy sticking his flag into the manure hill and claiming it as his own. So I decided to take a trip to ‘pooh corner’ myself.
On arrival I quickly understood their reluctance. The delivery man hadn’t left manure, but bark chippings. This is Kryptonite to some of the allotment old boys. But every year I top up my paths with them because without them, I would spend winters slipping and sliding across my plot. I also once read it can deter slugs, who hate dragging themselves across anything rough. The wood chipping debate is something I’ve had with several gardeners, usually when they’re frowning at me as I fill my paths, all too keen to give their opinions: “It’s a waste of time”, “You’ll have to do it every season”, “It’s just pretty nonsense, doesn’t make your spuds grow any better”.
Well, if they aren’t going to partake in this freebie, then I will. Ideally, I would have done this in early spring, but who knows when a delivery like this will come again?
Quickly making for my wheelbarrow, I began my own military operation, whisking the barked bounty back to the plot and spreading it across my weathered paths. It wasn’t long before I was joined by several women with the same idea.
Together we had quite the jolly time of it, meeting at the mound, talking paths, allotments, and all things gardening. Going our own ways, then meeting again ten minutes later. I was one of the girls, and I couldn’t care less, I was having a ball.
So to you I say, be the gardener you want to be. Advice will always be offered, take what you want, but you’re not obligated to take it all. Don’t be afraid to make your own decisions. Make your mistakes, enjoy your triumphs and feast on your harvests.