Allotments plots have been snapped up amid the coronavirus pandemic as people seek solace during the lockdown, that’s been a familiar headline. At this time of year, with raspberries, gooseberries, currants, new potatoes and other goodies ripening and making it to the table, which taste fabulous when you’ve grown your own.
People more than ever have been looking to take on allotments during the lockdown. Many plot holders will be even more insufferable this year with so much more time to spend as they’ve been furloughed. Similarly allotments have been open throughout lock down, designated as a safe space for daily exercise, and for those with children an open space has probably been a lifeline.
Those of us who have been working during lockdown will by now be getting exhausted. My own experience of navigating a business through such a difficult time has meant my garden and my allotment have ben sadly neglected. Only this week (at time of writing was late July) we have been ‘discussed’ by others on our allotment as currently ours is looking neglected for the first time since we took it on some 6-7 years ago.
I’m afraid this year for us will be about weeding and tidying but not producing vegetables and picking the perennial fruit as it ripens once we’ve fought our way through the weeds! The only vegetables we’ve produced this year was the asparagus ( a perennial) and onions shallots and garlic, all of which were planted in the Autumn.
Still looking on the bright side we will have a plot ready to put to bed earlier than most for the dormant season!
After getting over the initial shock of the restrictions of lock down, for the first time in 22 years I was unable to teach or coach, and had time on my hands. My garden always took second priority for my time. Even weekends were difficult as I was either coaching at the athletics track, or officiating at an event somewhere in the south east.
As a result, my garden was a bit of a disaster area. Brambles, blackthorn and teasel had taken over and they weren't going to give up without a fight.
Thanks to some help from my daughter, on an enforced break from university, we tackled the overgrown areas with a vengeance taking out our frustrations with the virus. We made good progress and suddenly the garden looked a lot bigger!
Next was the heavy lifting. We leveled a 4 x 4 metre section of the garden to prepare for a patio. I counted 36 barrow loads of earth shifted, ready for sifting and using elsewhere later. Then the Indian Sandstone arrived - all 64 slabs. These had to be moved, some weighing in at 24 kilos, measuring 90cm x 60cm, not the easiest size to handle. As a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I was wary of 'doing my back in', so was careful to use correct technique. After all, it wouldn't look good to not practice what I preach :0)
After two days of shoveling rubble, left over from a demolished outbuilding, into place for the hardcore base, we were ready to lay the slabs. I learned a number of new skills for the project, such as laying the edging stones - needs a good squat; mixing what seemed like a ton of mortar by spade - bend your knees to save your back; and carefully handling the larger slabs to get them into place - squats and bending again! It took three days (with temps in the upper 20s) but eventually the job was done"
I have plenty more work to do such as planting out the numerous new beds (from all the soil from leveling), with some some being raised. I even used the crate the slabs were delivered in, and some spare fence feather boards to make a raised herb garden - the cat found the last one too convenient for... well you don't want to know.
So while I've found the lock down restrictions most frustrating - as of August I still can't resume face-to-face teaching, I have at least found a new purpose in life. My garden, while not complete, is looking so much better. We can now sit out on our new patio furniture and get a different view point of our house. I've since installed garden lights, laid a concrete path, planted out a rock garden and have plans to learn more skills :0)
So for me, 2020, while extremely challenging professionally, has not been a complete waste.