Allotment Etiquette

Everyone is different and everyone approaches things differently, so on a small section of God’s green land, that’s divided and shared among the green-fingered community, it’s inevitable that tensions between tenants will arise on occasion. Whether it’s competitiveness over the best looking spuds, or ownership over the last shovel of free horse manure, we all like a good moan.

However, when allotments are left to ruin and start encroaching on your own garden of Eden, what can you do? Plot

At present, my allotment is surrounded by several disused plots. One includes a wonderful orchard full of plum and apple trees, gooseberry and raspberry bushes. Plums

Up until early last year, the chap who rented the plot would maintain, prune and mow the surrounding grassland. We would always exchange pleasantries, comment on the weather and compliment each other’s hard work. He began building some decking, brought up a barbecue, and talked about spending summer evenings relaxing among the trees. Come autumn, the orchard would be bulging with fruit for the taking, it was a splendid sight, and followed by its pretty blossoms in spring, you couldn’t help but envy his orchard.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen him since spring last year, which meant, by autumn, his trees and bushes were teeming with fruit, and left to rot. Nevertheless, I did lighten the load by taking some of the fallen fruit. Right or wrong, I couldn’t bear the thought of it going to waste, it seemed criminal.

Several months on, there’s still no sign of the fella and his orchard has become overgrown and lost in the wilderness. But what makes it worse, it’s now encroaching on my allotment. Overgrown

I had hoped to see him, as I know he still has the lease on the plot. I was looking forward to a friendly conversation where I could find out what’s going on, and see if he was going to make good.

But with no sign of him, I’m finding I’m losing precious time as I have to constantly cutback the excessive growth. I’ve also noticed, compared to last year, a lot more of my crops are suffering from bug attacks. Of course this could just be a coincidence, but part of me thinks these troublesome critters have been making their bug homes in the overgrown areas, and feasting on my goods in the small wee hours.. Grrr!

I’m not someone who tell tales, I want this resolved in a positive way but I wonder if the allotment secretary knows the situation? If the orchard is too much for him, I had briefly considered taking it on myself. The idea almost paralysed Agent Soph. ‘Nooooo! Not more produce to cook, pickle, freeze and bake!”

But when your allotment is surrounded by disused plots, you have to ask, should people be allowed to hold onto them? After all, with such high waiting lists, it seems rather self indulgent to have something for the sake of having it, and then not using it. Of course, personal and health issues do occur, so without a doubt, allowances should be made. But still.

(Agent Ade steps down from his soapbox.)Overgrown1

For now, I hope the orchard man is fine and in good health, and that he soon makes a welcome return. Otherwise, I may suggest to the allotment secretary that something needs to be done with the autumn fruit.

Which brings me onto the next item on the agenda..

Snail

How do you evict these unwanted buggers?AdeSignature

Snail Tale

I wandered up to the plot on Thursday afternoon, in a little bit of a funk. It was one of those days where I just wasn’t getting anything done, I couldn’t get my act together. I thought if I took a stroll up to the plot, I could at least water the vegetables, then I’d feel that I’d achieved something.

WateringCans

I grabbed a couple of watering cans and headed over to the water trough by the gate. I filled one can, and went to fill the other when I saw there was a snail fixed fast to the inside of the watering can. I went to pick him off and to my horror, I dropped him, straight into the water trough! He sunk to the bottom, like a stone. I immediately reached into the trough to retrieve him. I popped him on the grassy verge. He seemed okay.

Now, the keen gardeners among you will be shaking your heads and tutting at me for my foolish ways. Why on earth would I save a snail; enemy of the salad leaf and the brassica!?

But wait, there’s more…

I set about watering the plot. We’ve had lovely dry, sunny days this past week or so, and the earth was looking a little parched. I reached the leek bed and started watering the plants when suddenly, the stream of water from the spout stopped. There was still at least a litre of water in the can, I could feel it, why wasn’t it pouring? I wondered if there was a stone blocking the spout so I went to check, and two little tentacles poked out the end; a pair of curious eyes staring at me. A snail had been inside the watering can and had got swept into the spout as I poured the water, but the very tip of the spout was too narrow for him to come out, and he had gotten wedged.

Now a proper gardener would have probably bashed the little thing back inside the can and then thrown it away, or even killed it, without another thought. But I couldn’t possibly do that! It’s little eyes were peering at me, pleadingly. He vainly tried to struggle out the end of the spout, but couldn’t because his shell was trapped inside, he was completely stuck. I tipped the remaining water out of the top of the can, and then tried shaking it, to free him. He wouldn’t budge. I needed to push him back inside the spout, but his little face was there, staring at me – I couldn’t hurt him! I found a small piece of dried stalk and gently tried to prod his shell, but it was no good, his body had too tight a grip on the inside of the spout.

After much gentle prodding he released his grip, and I heard a little thud inside the watering can. I upturned it and he fell onto the grass. I thought I’d give him a moment to recover, he’d clearly had enough excitement for one afternoon, so I continued with my watering.

snail4

After I’d finished, I went over to check he was okay. He wasn’t moving much. He was clearly traumatised, poor fellow. I needed to give him the mollusc equivalent of a nice cup of tea, or a port and brandy. I went over and snapped off one of our chard leaves and put it next to him. (I know, I know!).

He had a little munch, and then curled himself up in it for a while. I left him while I did some other chores  and then went back to check on him. He’d clearly perked up, although I could see some damage to his shell, probably from where it had got jammed inside the spout. I watched him, and he watched me.

We shared a very special moment, my friends.

snail3

After he’d had some food and a little rest, he was soon on his way. (Yes, I know. He probably slithered over to a neighbouring plot where he ate a blue pellet and died immediately!) But I watched him disappear into the grass and I was glad he was okay.

You see, I’ll never be a real gardener as I’m just no good at killing anything. I leave the more grisly gardening jobs to Ade. I don’t like slugs at all, but even those, I can’t kill. Lobbing them into the hedge is about as far as I can go. And I’m the same with plants. Pricking out young seedlings and throwing away the weaker ones is the horticultural equivalent of ethnic cleansing as far as I’m concerned!

The truth of the matter is, that snail had no less right to be there than I did. And look what a beautiful little fellow he was! See his delicate little shell? Those strange translucent tentacles?

SnailTale

Maybe this afternoon was the greatest adventure he’d ever had. Maybe he’d go back to his family and tell them the strange tale of the face that loomed down from the sky and saved him. Maybe I’m, like, SnailGod in mollusc folklore now.

I think that snail had a far more exciting day than I did. And that made me smile.
SophieSignature