|~ What I took on last year. Not bad as plots go ... ! ~|
A shared allotment can be a complicated business if y'all do your own thing. This seemed to be the arrangement when I was asked to jump in and help Doreen, a local octagenarian, keep her allotment plot last autumn. I was offered a large 5ft by 20ft overgrown bed to maintain while three other helpers kept up the rest of the plot. The others had a baby (now there are two) so plot visits were infrequent, if not impossible, whereas Doreen and I would regularly pop up, drink tea and hatch plans before pottering off to dig (in my case) or visit plot friends (in hers). We rarely saw the other helpers and their beds remained untouched through the winter, to the point that weeds built up, veg was ignored - except by me, hah! - and bean wigwams (with old pods) were left standing. It was a frustrating vision, particularly as Doreen (the 80 year old) and I like a nice tidy plot. But it was hands off - for now - as the others had, in fairness, managed the plot for the past few years when Doreen couldn't.
Fast forward to early March and a pleasant surprise awaited. In the days since my last visit, the bean wigwams had been dismantled and the beds hoed. Apparently the others had sprung into action! Then I had a message to say that mulch had been ordered and did I need anything? No, but it did make me think. Wouldn't it be nicer if we managed the plot together rather than individually? I pictured a plot filled with three lots of the same veg and little room for anything else. Bonkers. I decided to resolve the situation.
Last weekend, we met up and agreed very amicably to work as a team. Hoorah! Now we could start to plan properly. The first thing was to make the plot child safe for the toddlers. Rusting metal poles used for holding fencing in place had to go, as did sharp edged metal cages used as cloches. Rotting bed edges were remade with new wood. Nettle patches have been removed. The huge pile of raw edged chicken wire, tangled netting and fencing stakes have been neatly stashed out of the way and a broken cold frame has been dumped. The others brought a friend along on Sunday afternoon to dig up a grass path between the beds ready for mulching with bark chips while we tidied, cleared, weeded, raked, mulched and chatted. It was windy and a bit chilly but so so good to be busy working together. I do love a bit of community action - we achieved so much in just a few hours! And once the plot was empty and tidy, I felt motivated to stay on after the others had left and strim the long grass.
|~ Team work = progress! ~|
Working together as team, when it works, is fantastic - each plays to their own strengths and everyone goes home with the rewarding feeling of having got things done without being too knackered! On a practical level, compromise may be needed. We won't always be working alongside each other as I can get to the plot more easily than the others so the work won't be evenly shared, but I accept that. I'll be going little and often while the others can pick up the slack at the weekends. Expectations have to be realistic but as long as there's also good communication, a little diplomacy and a lot of enjoyment, it looks like being a fun year ahead - I just hope there will be enough veg to go round in the summer!
I do like to chat so a bonus to taking the rubbish to my car meant that I got to meet other allotmenteers as I went back and forth. (I like to recycle rubbish where I can.) On my walk, I noticed that Geranium phaeum was in bloom and growing massively on one of the plots so I asked if I could help myself to a bit. Within minutes the gardener had cheerfully dug up a large clump for me, saying it grows wild on the plots, and accepted a pile of sturdy metal grids in exchange. Allotment life at its best!