Real Men Sow

Am I a New Traditionalist and Keeping Up With the Allotment Joneses

This week, Tom at the very funny Hapless Gardener blog posted about the state of his lawn. Tom opened up and admitted that his lawn was ‘embarassing’, and ‘…in desperate need of a tidy up’.

As I was reading Tom’s post, I started to think about the neatness (or un-neatness) of my allotment, and how interesting it is to spy on the style and condition of other people’s plots. It’s fascinating to take a walk around and try to second guess the plotholder’s character and experience by their allotment.

The Neat and Tidy People
There are a few very neat and tidy people down at the Burnham plots. I have to say that they put me to shame, and I take many an envious glance, admiring just how precise, logical and well-kept these allotments are.

And what’s more, everything seems to grow so well. Maybe it’s years of experience, maybe its military organisation, maybe it is a bit of both – but the plots look like slices of vegetable growing perfection.

There was no greater exception than the old boy just down from me, who sadly died last year. His grass was always cut, and resembled a bowling green. There was never a single weed and all his veg looked healthy and prolific. I guess the older chaps have the time to keep on top of things, mostly being retired.

That said, there are some people who just ooze organisation and neatness. Merv, another nearby plotholder is like this. His half plot is pristine, and he claims he only ever spends a couple of hours a week down there. In fact, all I ever witness Merv doing is a little gentle raking on a Sunday morning whilst wishing me ‘Happy Gardening’ from down the row.

Maybe size matters – less is more when it comes to keeping on top of things, or maybe Merv’s a fibber and actually spends a lot more time at the allotment than he lets on…

The State of My Plot
My plot, on the other hand, always seems to be tarnished by one scruffy bed where I can’t quite keep up. At the moment, everything is weeded, dug and looking ship shape for sowing except weeds in my containers (pictured) and all through the fruit bed. This is full of weed from where I’ve been focusing on preparing the other beds .

Solace comes from spotting that I’m now alone. A walk around quickly shows up those of us who don’t have as much time, or (whisper it) are a tad on the lazy side (yes, that’s me too…).

The Traditionalists and the Newbies
I also love spying on what people are growing. There are quite a few traditionalists around me, who stick to their staples: onions, greens, potatoes and carrots. They know what they like, so they’re not messing around. If you can’t eat it with a pork chop, it doesn’t make the cut.

At the other end of the spectrum are the enthusiastic newbies, who grow anything that they can get their hands on at the garden centre. I remember this time fondly, although it almost bankrupted me. I was like a kid in a sweetshop. On my first trip to the garden centre, I spent over fifty quid on seeds.

What Am I?
Somewhere in the middle of these two allotment types is me. After last year’s money saving experiment, I’m beginning to focus on what is good for me to grow, like the traditionalists. I’m starting to grow more of what we enjoy eating, rather than using up space for rarely used, cheap to buy veg like carrots.

At the same time, I still get excited by buying seeds and trying out new stuff, just like I did when I started out. I love growing different squashes, which are rare on our plots, and the two favourite new veg I grew last year were the delicious cavolo nero, and the hardy, spiky oriental greens.

As I sit on my allotment bench, I’m left to wonder what this all means in relation to me and my plot. What am I, in the grand allotment scheme? I’m fairly conventional, but am I untidy? Lazy? A man with too big a plot? Do I have unrealistic expectations?

Or maybe I should coin a term? Could I be a Newbalitionalist? A Trad-Newb? Newbytrad?

A New Traditionalist?

Hmmm. I could go on. Perhaps I’ll just say I grow veg, and get on with that weeding.

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5 Comments

  1. HelenApril 19, 2012 at 7:35 pmReply

    I’m a neat nick (I think that the American term). I just have a tidy mind, there are weeds at the far end as I havent got to that bit this year yet but give me a couple of visits. One of my neighbours went past other day and said he reckoned I must spend hours there but I dont – maybe 3 hrs a week. Just go with a set purpose in mind and focus.

    I dont think I’m a traditionalist. I caused a stir last year with my Carvelo Nero, not sure what they will make of the Celtuce (if it grows) this year. I am sure when all the flowers appear which I have edged the beds with a few more eyebrows will be raised!!

    I also dont grow beans apart from a few broad beans which also causes raised eye brows!

  2. Jono

    JonoApril 20, 2012 at 6:29 amReplyAuthor

    Hi Helen, thanks for your comment.

    No beans?? I’m surprised you haven’t been banished to a far flung corner!

    Celtuce? That sounds interesting?

  3. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!April 20, 2012 at 4:44 pmReply

    I envy you allotment gardeners (or those over here who have plots in “community gardens”) — it must be nice to be surrounded by other gardeners and the results of their efforts. Luckily I have a neighbor who has a substantial veg garden, but he’s about the only one nearby.

  4. Jono

    JonoApril 21, 2012 at 12:22 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Alan – it is a nice feeling. There is always someone about, and there is definitely a community feel. And everyone is on an even level, which is sometimes rare in our society.

    Mind you, the downside is that once one person has a pest or disease on their plot, we all get it!

  5. Helen KApril 23, 2012 at 8:06 amReply

    I have just got my first allotment that I am sharing with my Aunt, she is more experienced after years of helping on her mum’s allotment, and still does! She is the messy one with very traditional ideas, so lots of cabbages and broad beans. I on the other hand am tidier and am more adventurous with what I want to grow, eyebrows were raised when I said i wanted to grow borlotti beans and goodness knows what will be thought when I go sticking celery bottoms in the garden! I have been told that as a woman I won’t be accepted as credible on the allotments until I have been there ten years, so a long term newbie!

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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