Farming in the City, or Why Allotments Rule.

The Allotment As it Was

My parents decided to apply for an allotment a few years back.  I followed suit, and was provisionally allocated a half-plot – suitable for a beginner – and so, armed with the key to the gates and the signed lease, I decided to go down there today.

I don’t know the first thing about allotments, but I used to help my mother in the garden when I was younger.  I think I know the difference between weeds and “useful” plants and, after being given a prep talk by the site rep (“I’m not going to give any advice, because everyone has their own way of working.  Try something, and if it doesn’t work, don’t do it again”), I started clearing the land, digging a trench, and putting all the unwanted flowers and vegetables into it.  I’ll need to get a compost bin (or make one), a water butt, and fix the shed.

Mutant Potatoes - this was heavier than a punchbag!

One thing I’m not sure on – I dug up an enormous amount of potatos, all of them infested with worms and woodlice.  I don’t think I can bury them, I don’t think I can compost them (because of blight), so what do I do with them?  I saw someone making a bonfire today, so wondering whether to do that.

I think the plan is:

  • Pull up the weeds, plants, and existing vegetables,
  • Start a compost bin (maybe 3),
  • Sort out the shed – is a bit on the staggered side,
  • Turn the soil over,
  • Spread a tarpaulin over the entire plot, and wait until Spring.
  • Get/repair the shed,
  • Get a water butt,
  • Erect a fence around the shed (or my “chilling” area),
  • Collect tools,
  • Decide what to plant and when in 2012.
With an allotment, prepare for hard work.

Although growing vegetables and flowers is a primary aim of this allotment, the secondary reason is to provide a natural environment so I can spend time writing without the interruption and glare of urban life.  It is a nice site, and I did meet lots of friendly people today.  The plot next to me is lovely; they have even sifted their soil!  I have a lot of catching up to do.  The third reason is to get fit.  I dug for 90 minutes today, buring off about 400 or so calories.  If I can grow a nice bit of land, enjoying a few fresh vegetables, improve my physical and mental health, AND meet a whole bunch of new and friendly faces, why not?  In fact, why didn’t I do this sooner?

My lean-to shed, in need of repairs/setting fire to.

For anyone wanting to apply for an allotment, the process is easy but not necessaily fast in larger cities – someone said that the waiting list for London boroughs is three years!  For Bristol, was 4 months, but I’m basing this on my experience only.  Go to your local authority’s website, do a search for allotment.  Most councils have a mini-site dedicated to the process, but don’t wait for your allotment to come through – go to B&Q, get yourself some compost and a propragator, some seeds (rocket, tomatos as an example) and start growing stuff at home!  I grew Borris the Chilli Plant this way, and he’s still alive!




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