Posted: Thursday 13 March 2014
by Kate Bradbury
It’s taken seven years but, finally, I have an allotment. It was the least wanted patch of land on the site, and I was happy to take it.
It’s taken seven years but, finally, I have an allotment. A half-plot, set aside for the possible building of a compost toilet and therefore only available for 12 months, it was the least wanted patch of land on site, and I was happy to take it.
Having been on the waiting list for another allotment since I moved to London in 2007, I had almost given up on the idea of being able to grow my own veg. I love my garden but it’s too small and shady to grow much more than a few tomatoes and salad leaves.
I shared the BBC allotment with Gardeners’ World colleagues for a couple of years but that was also quite shady. I like growing pumpkins, aubergines, sweetcorn and peppers – sun-loving veg that need a lot of space. Space is hard to find in London.
So, in one last-ditch attempt the other week, I called every allotment secretary in north London and explained that no plot was too overgrown or too temporary. That I would help clear public areas and help out on plots where tenants had let things slip or whose circumstances had changed, and that I would basically do anything to get a little patch of land to grow some pumpkins.
It worked. While most secretaries added me to long lists or told me they couldn’t help (allotment lists in my borough have been closed for more than five years), I eventually got lucky and came across one of the largest plots in north London, which has a small waiting list. No-one wanted such a temporary plot that would one day be a public toilet, and so I was offered it. It’s a little bit out of my way and takes 40 minutes to get there, but beggars can’t be choosers – I couldn’t believe my luck.
The site is in reasonable condition. There are no perennial weeds, the soil is a clay-loam and there’s a mature plum tree, a lone broad bean plant and a patch of comfrey where I saw my first hairy footed flower bees (Anthophora plumipes) of the year on Saturday. I’ve got it for at least 10 months.
And it’s not just sun-loving veg I’m keen to grow at the allotment. A long strip of wild flowers, some viper’s bugloss and a large patch of nettles are all on my wish list to lure in bees and butterflies, and I’ve been told there are slow worms, frogs and hedgehogs on the site too. I might just pack up my tent and move there. Happy!
14/03/2014 at 00:03
Hi Kate well done iv had an allotment for nine years its a place where I go to loose myself and find myself at the same time its real spiritual
15/03/2014 at 21:15
Slightly connected to this, so apologies in advance.
I am trying to encourage the allotment tenants to cater for wildlife. I am not an expert so I googled wildlife audit and came across your blog from 2011. I thought I'd use your wildlife audit that was mentioned in the blog from Nov 2011 GW magazine, which I don't have. How can I get hold of a copy of the audit questionnaire please? I think it would be a good start and we can build in more detail later, as we build up the basics first.
17/03/2014 at 16:11
Oh, I am so happy for you, Kate. A heated propagator will get your veg plants started off and ready for your new plotThe el nino effect may just bring us a hot summer. I do hope you are near the water supply. In no time at all you will have your very own robin perching on your fork and slow worms in your compost bin.
18/03/2014 at 09:58
Thanks for your messsages. I'm so excited. Thanks Happymarion I am very near a water source but I don't yet have a watering can on site! The heated propagator was fired up about three weeks ago...
greenbeanpickle Look out for a direct message regarding your query.
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18/03/2014 at 22:34
Looks like you've made a good start too.
I got a new allotment at the beginning of February. Been down each weekend. It's surprising what can be done in a few hours.