Well hello there, it’s been a while.
I should probably kick off my return by introducing the smallest green fingers in the family, if you haven’t already met them. Our darling son Arlo was born in mid April and he is without a doubt the best thing I have ever grown.
However in truth it’s a bloody good job he’s utterly delicious, because those two extra weeks where he kept me waiting felt like a form of slow torture. On reflection they were also the best the allotment has ever looked, as I upped my weeding game hoping desperately he might arrive in the brassica bed. Alas it wasn’t to be. (Probably for the best, in case I had to rename him dwarf curly kale or something).
So as we come up to four months of life with Arlo (seriously how on earth did that happen?) I wanted to write down some thoughts on gardening with a baby.
I get asked a lot ‘what’s your secret’ and ‘how are you doing it’ and I wanted to clarify that FLIPPING HECK IT’S REALLY HARD. Some days I manage to do quite a few things, while on others my main achievement is actually just destroying a solid 90% of the house. Or more, if I’m feeling really wild. I recently confessed I cried over a packet of beetroot seeds that had been sat taunting me on the side. The point being, beetroot is unlikely to feature in my 2019 harvest, but those afternoon cuddles with my son were worth it.
Looking back the best time to get things done was the newborn phase, where I could pop him in a sling and get down to the plot fairly easily. Sure, we’d have to stop to regularly breastfeed, but I got quite skilled at doing jobs while squatting or standing with him attached. Understandably he didn’t like to be bent over, so some of the cabbages were planted with a posture my junior school ballet teacher would have been proud of.
I even managed to get seeds into the ground, and did a premature high five, because it turns out this year, baby aside, has been quite a challenging one.
The weather in June was just weird and stunted lots of plant growth. Then at an all time low, deer managed to get onto our allotment site – eating everything in sight. I was determined not to be defeated, but I cried once again. (As I’m writing this I’m aware I sound slightly emotionally unstable, but rest assured it was really just the deer and beetroot that troubled me). But it was hard to regain some of the momentum as Arlo got bigger and I found my groove as a new mum.
So many people told me that I’d have to give up the allotment when Arlo was born – that it would be too challenging to keep it going. Now it’s no secret that I’m outrageously stubborn so this was never going to be the case, but actually I’ve found more than ever I need the garden. It’s a massive identity adjustment becoming a mum and one we don’t seem to always talk about, but the plot has given me five minutes to breathe here and there which I’ve really needed, and which I passionately believe make me a better mum.
In order to get to the allotment now I’ll generally go alone so Tom can look after Arlo. It might sound sad, but I really miss our time together there. I’ve had to accept that there are more weeds than ever, that there are many seeds and seedlings that won’t make it into the ground and that this year is one big learning curve. But I still just really really love it. So here’s five things I’ve learnt, and what I’ll do differently going forward:
I’ve come to the conclusion that it roughly takes me at least two weeks of intending to do something before I am actually able to do it. Next year when I plan the growing season I’m going to write out windows in which to plant – and make sure I factor in a solid three week swing to take the pressure off.
I’m starting to focus more on what takes time on a daily basis, with a big factor being things like watering. I’ve kindly been sent a new watering system to try at the allotment and I’m looking into options at home (eg is there something I can put in my pots) to help save time. I’ll report back with my findings in due course!
Before Arlo, I’d rival War and Peace with my to do lists. I’m now just setting myself one task to achieve if I go to the plot – that way anything else I do feels like a win, rather than feeling like a let down when I haven’t got other tasks done.
Step over weeds (or tackle them, whatever).
No seriously, just pretend they aren’t there. And if it’s particularly bad choose those moments to admire the sky. Or that tree in the distance. I’m slowly accepting it might be quite a while until the plot is picture perfect again, but that’s OK. I’m going to focus more on green manures etc this winter to both keep weeds down and nourish the soil after the success of last year, meaning there should be less to do in spring.
There’s no place like home
I’ve realised that it’s hard for me to keep seedlings alive at the allotment now. I just can’t get up to protect them/water them/etc on a daily basis. The plan is to rearrange part of the garden to give me more nursery beds where I can grow things on before I take them to the plot. However you don’t need loads of space to do this, even a pop up cheap greenhouse can give you the chance to start things at home if like me, that makes life easier.
I’m sure there will be more, but my sleep deprived brain needs a cup of tea now. It’s been good to write again, so thanks for reading!
Here’s to the weekend,