Carrots and Calendula started out as a blog about my garden, but at the end of last year – after being on the waiting list for five years – I finally got an allotment. Plot 1a is completely overgrown but in a beautiful spot on the South Downs. Yesterday afternoon I even had a good view of a battle re-enactment!
According to the letter from the town council, I have 18 weeks to get it into a good state of cultivation (which means 40% cultivated in the first three years, 60% thereafter). The first job is to reinstate what were clearly once raised beds, but are now just grassy mounds with rotted timber at the edges. There is nothing for it but good old fashioned digging, coupled with my own method of shaking the roots of clumps of grass so as not to lose too much earth. The abundance of fleshy pink worms uncovered in the process tells me this is good soil, although my allotment neighbour informs me that weed seeds float in abundance off the downs.
I have inherited a bed of raspberries, which just need weeding, cutting back and mulching (I say just, this is actually a mammoth job), with a little pear tree to one side. My neighbour also tells me that in the far corner, under a wild tangle of Old Man’s Beard, there is a pond, which I am looking forward to recovering. Somewhere, he thinks, there are rhubarb crowns, but I will have to wait until the Spring to find out exactly where.
One downside is an enormous evergreen tree which is shadowing the plot, but hopefully I can remove the lower branches to let a bit more light in. There is also a broken picnic bench, which I’m told is a popular spot with pot-smoking teenagers. As long as they don’t make too much of a mess, I’m not going to worry about them – at least they are out in the fresh air. Hopefully once they see someone is taking care of the allotment again they will respect it. I may dismantle the table, just keeping the bench, to create more room for growing.
The first thing I am planning to plant is garlic. I have ordered a couple of bulbs of Solent Wight from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight. I’ve tried not to go too crazy on the seed front, especially as I have quite a lot left from previous years, but from Chiltern Seeds I’ve ordered ‘Atomic Red’ and ‘Black Nebula’ carrots, ‘Crown Prince’ squash, ‘Cosse Violette’ French beans and rainbow chard. Our town’s annual ‘Seedy Saturday’ is coming up, where I will no doubt add to these as well as buy seed potatoes.
Slow and steady is my motto as I want the allotment to be a joy and not a burden, and I am planning to track my journey on this blog in 2022. For updates on my garden, please follow https://thehalfwildgarden.substack.com/ – hope you can join me!