21 Mar 2017

Working together at the allotment

~ 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!



18 comments:

  1. Fingers crossed that you will all be enjoying the fruits of your labours very soon and that this is the beginning of a long and happy gardening partnership!

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    1. It all seems very positive at the moment and the other helpers are very nice so lots to look forward to!

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  2. It does sound a wonderful arrangement if it works. I have horrible visions though of you ending up doing the lot!

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    1. Lol - if I do, it will be my own fault. I have a tendency to carry on until the job is done. At least there will be someone to scrape me off the plot when I'm knackered.

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  3. A good post showing how allotment sharing, and working together, can be achieved. Well done, and I'm sure that your expectations will be realised over the coming months. Flighty xx

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    1. I believe so, Flighty. Just today I had a text saying that one of them had gone to get seeds and was there anything that I wanted to add to the basket. That sort of consideration is much appreciated. I think this will work well. C xx

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  4. I do so love the community spirit and re-using and re-cycling ethos down at the allotment site. Doing the plot all together is a brilliant idea. No doubt there will be some pleasant surprises when you turn up and find that some weeding has been done or the edges have been trimmed. I shall look forward to seeing your progress. CJ xx

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    1. I'm fascinated at what people gather up and re-use. There are some very inventive plots at the site - well worth a blog post in the future, I think! I also love all the escapee flowers growing wild on the plots which will, no doubt, become another blog post. I'm hoping that there will be some good progress to report from the plot soon! Cxx

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  5. That's good to hear that you have managed to get everyone together to plan and work on your patch. It already sounds as if it is reaping rewards. I help in a community orchard and enjoy working with others to achieve so much more. I love that geranium, allotment holders are some friendly and generous! Sarah x

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    1. I've had a few days holiday from work which has given me headspace to think and get things sorted. I'm really pleased that everyone now has a common focus, I think it will make the allotment much more pleasurable this year. I like the sound of working in a community orchard - I could really get into that and you must learn so much! The geranium is gorgeous, isn't it? I prefer wild geraniums to the bedding plants and could have bought this in the shops but it's so much nicer to be given a clump! C xx

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  6. Oh recent developments sound most satisfactory Caro. I'm usually at the plot on my own but relish the days that I have company. Apart from anything else things happen more quickly. As you suggest some compromise might be needed but it should be well worth it. My geranium phaeum has just come into flower. So pretty and the bees love it too :)

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    1. Let's hope they continue that way, Anna! Things definitely get done a lot quicker, the others have a limited time at the plot as the children dictate meal times so the parents work to a very focused deadline - whereas I tend to mull and meander and get distracted chatting to other plotters!.

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  7. It all sounds very promising. I can't imagine working on the allotment alone as it has always been something Martyn and I have done together.

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    1. I think you're very lucky to have Martyn with you for regular company, Sue. I see a few couples gardening together at the plots but it's the solitary gardeners who stop for a few minutes chat so I get to know more people than when I'm with someone.

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    2. We don't miss out on the chat :-)

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    3. :D As far as I can tell, allotmenteers can be quite chatty people - everyone has a tale to tell or advice to dish out!

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  8. I love this time of year on the allotment with lots to do but with steady progress towards filling all the beds. I made paths last year out of cedar wood chippings laid on cardboard from a washing machine delivery. So far they are weed-free and they reduce the work of maintaining grass paths simply requiring a top up every six months or so.

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    1. Oooh, cedar wood chips sound very fragrant! I like the idea of using cardboard as an extra mulch under the bark chips, easier to lay and cheaper than using a fabric membrane. Also easier to take up if you don't want the paths in the future. Thanks for the tip!

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Caro x

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