From humble beginnings come great things.
When we decided to leave London, I had my name on the allotment waiting list before we’d even bought the house. And we were very lucky – compared to the 10+ year waiting list where we previously lived, in the village there were some vacant plots.
We had the choice of a couple, but picked our plot because it was a blank canvas. That, and the fact it had some really overgrown brambles at the back. Cutting them back was quite the challenge, but I liked the idea of having our own little blackberry supply – something the chickens have enjoyed this autumn!
It was a mass of grass, weeds and hidden rubbish lurking beneath. Some other allotment newbies had covered their whole plot with black plastic to suppress everything, but we were determined to grow something – anything – in that first year. So we set about clearing some beds.
Most evenings after work, we’d head to the plot and eventually mastered our space clearing technique. Tom would dig down and flip the grass over, turf to turf, and I’d then shuffle around on my bum clearing out the couch grass roots. I don’t even know how many hours we spent doing this, but it was absolutely worth it when we got the first plants in the ground.
At this point we were just clearing the space – and we’d frequently come across little hidden treasures from the previous allotment holder. Strawberries trying to fight through the weeds, parts of cloches that were forgotten, netting camouflaged among the grass and a secret little pond at the back of the plot.
We managed to grow quite a lot that first year, but the grass pathways weren’t very practical and we knew we wanted to get serious.
Walking the dog one evening, we came across a stack of wood and pallets waiting to become a bonfire. Tom knocked on the door and asked if we could possibly buy/use some of the wood – to which the answer was yes. Hurrah!
I love reusing and recycling. And whenever there was wood about to be burnt, Tom would exchange it for beer – until we had enough to start making raised beds.
At this point, I should say Tom did all of the hard work. I cleared the remaining ground, but throughout the winter he’d pop along and put some beds together. In the spring, we got some woodchip (turns out fresh woodchip is my favourite ever smell) in exchange for a charity donation. We lined the paths and put the woodchip down, which made SUCH a difference.
It felt so much more manageable having separate beds, rather than one big space. Each to their own, but the idea of going down to clear one bed – rather than a huge space – made it much easier to keep on top of weeds.
And so the growing season began.
The transformation is something we’re really proud of, but we still have lots more to do. There’s a bed left to clear, a fruit bed still to dig, a fruit cage to build, the pond area to resurrect and planters to be made from pallets…. so watch this space!
Some more progress photos…