Don’t get me wrong. I love my allotment, I really do but just at the minute it feels like I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall. It’d certainly be less frustrating! I’ve been working hard on my plot for the last year, battling against waist-high weeds to try to carve out something even vaguely resembling a productive patch of ground. Until relatively recently, I had felt as if I was getting somewhere; I’d had much of my patch under thick black plastic for months on end, I’d manured a couple of areas last winter ready for planting in spring. Over winter, when anyone possessed of their sanity was keeping warm indoors, I was trogging up to the plot and digging over as much of the ground as possible, removing the roots of perennial weeds feet long, and picking out what seemed like a quarry-full of stones, setting them aside for use around the shed. I ordered seeds, three blueberry bushes which overwintered in the shed, and dreamed and waited for spring. And waited. And waited …
Spring never really arrived. It seemed that one of the worst winters I can remember surrendered abruptly to the advent of summer. And what a summer – it looks set to rival 1976! Our allotments, you may recall, have no running water and we are entirely reliant on what we collect from our shed rooves into water butts. My water butts were full but, with no rain to speak of in over two months, they’ve run almost dry. In desperation I ordered four 10-litre jerry cans. Now I wish I’d ordered twice that. Today I made two trips to the allotment, each with the jerry cans and half a dozen 2-litre milk containers saved for the purpose – 104 litres in total – in an effort to top up at least one of the five water butts.
At this point I’d like to stress that I’m not filling these straight from the tap but have pressganged Mr P into joining me in putting the plug in the bath when we have showers, and saving the washing up water. Doing this makes you acutely aware of how much water you use in the space of just one day, and much more careful not to waste any – I’ve found I can wash my hands perfectly well with just a trickle! However, as regards the allotment, with the best will in the world all this dry, hot weather is taking its toll. Basically, things are refusing to grow, and any produce I might have expected or hoped for is puny to say the least.
Raspberries are tiny but very raspberry-ish. Broadbeans are stunted so are producing very little though, again, what they are giving me is very tasty.
On top of all this, I’m having a god-awful time with voles. The sodding things are tunnelling their way through every bed, chomping on seeds and seedlings as they go, leaving holes everywhere. Moles are burrowing underneath and disturbing my planting, and my broadbeans are afflicted with blackfly. Like I said, banging my head against a brick wall! The old chap on the allotment in front of mine says he’s been doing this allotment lark for fifty years and can’t remember a worse year for growing produce. God only knows how farmers are managing. Mr P and I ran into one of the village farmers the other evening in the pub and got a bit of the lowdown. Grass isn’t growing and is so dry there’s little nutrition in it so livestock are having fodder taken out to them. Water pressure is lower than usual and troughs located uphill from the farms aren’t filling so farmers are having to take water out to them. What’s happening on arable farms and with vegetable producers I can’t imagine; apparently lettuce stops growing above 30-degrees centigrade. I think we should all prepare for having to cough up more for fruit and veg over the coming months.
Basically, I’m feeling frustrated, and a bit pissed off to be frank. I’m caught in a gardening Bermuda Triangle of worries relating to weather and wildlife. It would be easy to give up and hand over the allotment to someone on the waiting list.
But it’s still a beautiful place to be, it’s still the place that keeps me sane, and besides, I’m not a quitter. To paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara, 2019 is another year!