This week we’ve got another guest blog, this time by keen allotment keeper and QMUL student, Dan. Read on as he shares his Green Mary Garden Allotment experience but, be warned, you might want to start growing your on veg after reading…
Last summer, I had my first experience of tending a vegetable patch. I dug over about 2 square metres of the family garden, gradually removing most of the tiny roots from the disinterred earth and excavating the large stones. This took hours. I then began planting a lot of old seeds Dad had lying around. Over the next week I lived on that dirt rectangle.
I made a rough stick fence for the perimeter; placed old bramble around the patch to dissuade local cat visits; stripped copper wire from old cables, which I wrapped around cut-up plastic bottles as a slug repellent (only in the deep south of Wales are people so bored); harassed my family about the compost bin; watered the dirt, and crushed egg shells so they could also be used as a slug repellent and fertiliser.
My total yield that summer was as follows:
- Pea pod (1)
Gasp! What went wrong? Possibly a number of things: bad seeds, bad location, bad soil, bad luck. I put my trowel back in my trowel carrying-case and planted myself in front of the television for the rest of the season, accepting that my hands would never create, only destroy.
This year I tried again at the QM allotments. After getting a place on a bed I again spent many hours crushing eggshells, wrapping copper wire around bottles, visiting garden centres and reading tips online, eagerly awaiting the masochistic joy of staring at another dirt patch for five months.
But, to my surprise, fail I did not.
Unbelievably, life was happening in our plot. On the left, we placed pots of thyme and garlic, while on the main stage, carrots, spring onions and yellow onions forced their way up out of the ground like zombies. The peas wound their way up the bamboo sticks we stuck in the ground. Over the next three months my plot-mates and I saw them grow and grow, jostling for space with each other. Right at the front of the bed, we re-housed a pot of supermarket mint, which eventually did so well that it threatened the other plants and had to be dug up and placed back in a pot with the other herbs.
This part of the story isn’t actually very interesting – everything turned out almost exactly as it should have (gratuitous ‘plant to meal’ pics below). It was incredibly satisfying to grow vegetables from scratch, without chemicals, and to eat the resulting produce. I learned the art of failure last summer, and that made this year a lot easier. This year I’ve learned that you need people to make a garden grow – not just to water your plants while you’re away, but to share knowledge. My favourite moments were when I bumped into people harvesting, and we gave each other beetroots and peas without expecting a return. We were proud of the things we’d grown, had too much, and were happy to give the surplus away. We were growing not only plants, skills and happiness, but a real community feeling.