Embracing the vegetable chaos

As the kids head off to school and university - and with the days shortening - @Allotment.27 is already planning what's next for her plot
September 5, 2022

So those summer months have whizzed by and we’re now starting to reach for the jumpers and thick socks. Holding onto the last wisps of harvesting and outdoor lunches, the noticeable shorter days are approaching.

For the first year ever, I’ve absolutely loved having flowers especially to pick at the allotment. At first I struggled, fighting every bone in my body to cut them. As a child, with all good intentions, I picked every single daffodil I could find in the garden, because my mum loved them so much and I was sure this would make her happy. It understandably didn’t quite turn out that way upon discovering her now completely bare flower beds. Now having beds put aside for cut flowers, I look forward to the weekly posy on our window ledge and enjoy seeing the bees fly from flower to flower. It got to the point where I wanted to keep picking, but ran out of windows and tables. I’ve started to give them away, to family or people I pass on the walk home. It reminds me of that Friends episode where Joey convinces Phoebe that there’s no such thing as a selfless act. Kindness to a stranger vs. the warm fuzzy feeling of gifting flowers. Either way I enjoy watching them grow and the glow on another’s face when randomly received.

I’m definitely at the point where I don’t grow for the food, but for the enjoyment of growing. The produce is a by product of hard work and patience, which I’m more than happy to give away. After so many months of nurturing, caring and investing, my own cooking skills struggle to keep up with the magic of growing the thing itself. I’m running low on creativity and out of ways to cook courgette for the hundredth time. In an ideal world I’d grow the produce and pass it to a Michelin star chef who can turn the bruised apples into more than a crumble, cake or lunch box addition. Something with smoke and a revealing lid, giving them the drama they deserve. Alas, that’s not going to happen, so I’ve given away and donated much of the excess produce. Amongst the constant anxiety and panic of a terrifying few months ahead, I’m trying not to get caught up in the month to month gloom, and see the small positive things that I’m able to contribute.  

Sunflowers have been my absolute favourite this year. I’ve tried to grow as many different varieties as I can, and they’ve arrived in a range of shapes, sizes and colours. Last year I left the heads for the birds, but this year I’m going to attempt to harvest seed for cooking, storing, and the rest to make a special bird feed mix in the winter. I’ve collected much more of my own seed this year, to reduce cost and regrow the things I know have worked well in the area.

Did anyone see a recent Gardeners World episode where a creative gardener uses pegs as plant labels? It’s genius and something I’m going to be doing. I’ve had all sorts of labels, from posh slate, wooden lollipops to garden centre plastic ones and yet I somehow always lose them either amongst pots, or to rain - where the label looks a blurred mess. Someone asks me what variety I’m growing and my reply is an embarrassed shrug. I’m definitely going to be giving the pegs a shot now though.

As I’m starting to think about bulbs and the planting that needs to get going - I rediscovered the plot plan I made when first getting the allotment. The first thing I did was get measurements and spent the rest of the evening sketching and drawing. I can safely say, it looks nothing like the sketch now. It turns out I wasn’t very good at keeping to the plan, and ended up planting things wherever appropriate in that moment. Perhaps that’s from better knowledge of the soil and sun, but now when considering crop rotations, I’ve had to rethink a few things. I do love a plan, list and schedule - but I’m going to try and embrace the vegetable chaos instead!

I’ve recently had a family visit where everyone mucked in for a good hour and we got so much done! I had fruit pickers, nettle cutters and mulch fetchers. It was the most wholesome feeling that all ages were getting involved. It also made me realise how much hard work goes into having and maintaining a small patch of ground. I like to put a decent weekly shift in, and the rewards to my mental health are enormous. I’m also getting better at calling it a day, once my back starts aching and the 6 hour audio book has concluded. It’s safe to say - I’m allotment obsessed at this point. I’ll go whatever the weather and give it all a good try - who cares if it doesn’t go to plan!

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