Recently I hosted a radio show where I asked the question What Does Your Allotment Mean to You?, what was interesting was just like the many approaches to growing your own, there were just as many reasons for doing so.
It’s not debatable that for most, growing on the allotment is mostly about the food and with a bit of planning and time to learn this is so achievable for everyone if they give it a go. Although I trained in horticulture, my food growing journey really got started with a trellis full of runner beans in a small bed in the back garden. Once my confidence started to build that went on to a raised bed made out of old floorboards, then on to a half plot and now onto a full allotment.
This Christmas we had Oca, Jerusalem Artichokes, Chard and eggs from this new plot and as I continue to get in the groove of this allotment then the plan is to harvest food each day of the year for the table. For some thing access to fresh food really is a lifeline in tough economic times and for many it really allows ends to meet.
Connection and rhythm
The allotment and gardens in general are the place where we try and harness nature. We grapple with weeds, enjoy fresh tastes and try to protect our beloved plants from any harsh elements. We have to understand that this is a relationship just like any other, but also unique in its ability to allow us to feel aligned, connected and in rhythm with the soil, the seasons and to find our place in in its ecosystem.
Let’s face it, there is something rather satisfying to our inner child that just loves getting our hands in the soil and being part of a process, which in its own time, will feed us. It is truly magical. And its the fact that the garden does things in its own time that allows us to slow down and lets just – be!
I just mentioned ecosystems (a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment) and it is important to remember that the community of allotmenteers on the allotment are all part of its ecosystem. A system that if healthy, is balanced, active and mutually beneficial to all.
One thing I truly love about our allotments is that we regularly have events in the spring and summer seasons called Plonk on the Plot, barbeques in the autumn and soup nights throughout the winter. It really does feel like family.
Getting into the groove
Allotments themselves and our own styles of allotmenteering are unique – and so they should be. Just like every life partnership, relationship with a sibling, child, parent or friend, our relationship with our allotment plots and gardens is something which develops over time. It can’t be rushed, forced or controlled, it just needs time and an open mind to develop. When I started out I was hungry and eager to make it all happen the RIGHT way. I dug everywhere and planted everything, but now years later the allotment has taught me a thing or two and now garden in a completely different way, deciding to go no-dig.
There is of course no right or wrong way to allotmenteering, but there is a journey full of learning, laughter and love. Don’t be concerned about remaining in the safety of doing the things the traditional way as there is great comfort in that, but when you find your feet, allow yourself to become a pioneer of your plot and allow it to be a place where you experiment, learn and grow.
Over to you!
So, what does your allotment mean to you? I’d love to hear in the comments section below.
Richard MacKenzie – The Witney Gardener
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