There have been talks recently on Twitter and blogs about finding the time to work on allotments. I’m not sure if the tough growing year has anything to do with it, but there seems a lot of people out there are struggling to keep up.
Helen, The Patient Gardener, made an interesting point when she said “My weekends are precious and I am spending Sunday mornings at the plot, coming home and wishing I had more time to spend in my garden which is weedy and neglected. The plot is eating up the time I would spend tending the garden.”
I Like Doing Other Things Too
I can sympathise with this, as there are other things I like doing too. Riding my bike and fishing are other passions of mine, but they’re also hobbies that can keep. There’s always another day to ride or another tide to fish. Weeds stop for no man, and unwatered plants die pretty fast, so allotmenteering tends to dominate. Like Helen, I can sometimes feel resentment building when I’m down on my knees weeding all morning when the bike trails are dry and the sun is out.
It’s also been a busy year for me. I’ve moved house, been on holidays at the wrong time for growing, and this has given me less time to work on the plot. Although I blame the weather for a poor year, my input hasn’t been great.
And with my first child due in February, getting down the allotment isn’t going to get any easier.
A Manageable Plot?
All this got me thinking about the benefits of a manageable plot. A full-size allotment is a big ask and I do see people regularly taking on plots, and perhaps not fully appreciating the time and effort that is required. The tele makes it look very easy but hides much of the graft.
Unless you can get down the plot for short periods 4 or 5 times a week, there is a good chance you’ll be spending a good few hours at the weekend catching up. It takes very little time for an allotment to start looking a mess, and when this happens to me, I find it very disheartening.
When I took my plot on, I was lucky as I had my mum to help me. I also regularly rope in my lovely wife to lend a hand too. Without their help, I’m not sure I’d manage. I really take my hat off to people who run a full-size plot on their own.
Is Small Better?
I’m starting to appreciate the mantra that small is beautiful. Some of the most productive, well kept, attractive plots at the allotments are half-sized. There are half the weeds, half the soil to dig, and half the effort. Of course, there is also half the growing space, but there are plenty of ingenious small-space growing ideas on display.
I always end up with spare space too, and I’d even be tempted to argue whether anyone really needs a full plot.
A full-size plot can seem incredibly appealing at the beginning, and I do love mine. But as I enter the proper grown-up stage of my life, with a family, a bigger house to look after, and longer hours at work, I am starting to appreciate the idea of something smaller. For someone looking to start out, I’d really encourage them to think about whether they have the time to run a full size allotment on top of all the other things they no doubt do in their life.
Growing less can be more in my opinion. Keeping on top, having a neat and tidy plot, and concentrating on growing the things you like gives confidence and ensure morale stays high.
P.S. The allotment in the picture is my friend Jo’s. It’s very neat and tidy, but then so is she!