One lovely summers evening, I went to join my friend for a BBQ on her allotment. It’s something we like to do whenever we get the chance. And in these troubled times; some peace and quiet outside – and food with a friend, is a perfect antidote. I decided to ask her to describe what it means to her to have an allotment.
How do you want to be introduced?
“I’ll be Meg”
How long have you had your allotment?
“I have had my allotment for 13.5 years. It’s allotment number 7. I have drawn a map for the Parish Council so that they know who has which allotment.”
“Mine is still a full allotment which means I have a lot more space. I was lucky. I put my name on the waiting list years ago because I was friends with someone who lived in Preston – we both put our names down for an allotment at the same time. He put his name down at Preston and I put my name down here in Ash. At the time I was about 5th on the list so I thought I wouldn’t get one for years. And so I was quite surprised when my name came up to the top.
This one was Ted Shepherd’s. He was a really good gardener. He was one of the best allotmenteers in the village. There’s a Ted Shepherd cup for best newcomer in the local Horticultural Society. He used to be a serious allotment grower! He used to compete with his onions. He died sadly and I think he was ill for a while – he had the whole allotment but he must have let the back go for quite a while as it was completely over grown but the front you could see that he had done stuff that year but it was old.”
“Most of the allotment layout is pretty much as it was when he had it. That’s Ted’s rhubarb over there and the black currant is a Ted Shepherd bush. He had his raspberries where they still are now.
I built all the beds. I watched other people destroy what they inherited but I tried to build mine around what was already here.”
“This is my second lot of beds. The beds are 4ft by 10ft beds which is what people said are the best size. When I first did them I did them with wooden pegs. As you can see this second lot of beds have a stainless steel peg which I designed and had made for me in Deal. They are very posh!”
“It’s not an allotment where I have just made do and mend.“
“I have a nice allotment with a nice shed and nice green house and I have nice beds but its a hobby! In the winter I usually come about once a week. In the summer I come up most days. It has been a godsend in the lockdown as I was working from home so I could come here and spend an hour or so every day. It was great because you were in your own space but could talk with people on theirs.”
“My pride and joy is my apricot tree“
“My allotment is a hobby allotment rather than a food allotment… I give a lot of my food away. I make a lot of jam. I don’t cook much so I don’t grow potatoes and courgettes but I love fruit and I have a lot of trees and bushes – my pride and joy is my apricot tree. This year it hasn’t done very much but last year I made 56 pots of apricot jam from it which usually happens in a three week period. I am quite glad I have a year off from making jam this year!”
“I don’t think my allotment has really benefitted from lockdown as I have been working the whole time.”
What do you do?
“I am officially called a ’ Pharmacometrician‘ I was originally a statistician and then I moved into a group of clinical pharmacologists. Now I am a Pharmacometrician – so I do mathematical modelling of drug data. For a company called Pfizer.
I am not involved in anything to do with Covid… Other people are, but I am not.”
Are your infamous straight and tidy beds anything to do with your mathematical background?
“Welllll … one would imagine so, wouldn’t one!”
“The sweet corn they tell you how far to plant apart – I always plant 21 sweet corn in a bed. And I have a diagram for the layout.”
I don’t mind if things become uneven but I like them to start off in a straight line.
“Most of the time when I plant things they don’t feel quite straight enough! I have to say that it makes me feel better, knowing that its measured out properly.
This is the template for cutting the holes in my grow bags for my melons!
I couldn’t get the plants I wanted this year because a lot of people took up gardening in lockdown. My friend Simon, who used to grow seeds on for me, has died this year. I did try and grow some seeds this year. Overall I have found that my allotment is not in as good nick as it normally is because of lockdown!”
What are your favourite things on the allotment
“I love the asparagus and the rhubarb because they cone up first
I really like the fruit – plums, cherries, pears, apples, apricots, peaches, damsons, red currants, black currants, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries which come up every year…
… I grow squashes and sweet corn every year because I like squash soup and sweet corn because I can just pull it off the plant and just go home and eat it.”
“Different things work out in different years. You try things and you don’t get too upset if it doesn’t work.I would love my allotment to be neat and tidy all the time. I dug all the raspberries up last year to get rid of bind weed and now I have bind weed again! There’s never enough time!”
What is your advice to newbies?
“Don’t dig out all the good stuff that’s been left by the person before! And don’t imagine that black plastic will stop the weeds. Start planting stuff and just keep going because if you let it go you never catch up with it!”
This is the one place I can come where I forget everything else.
It’s really hard work but when I am here its the one place where I can forget my worries.
Meg and I coined this phrase “Shed Nesting” when we realised that what she was doing in her shed was much, much more than just finding places for things to go… Simon even made her a sign when he was alive…
“I like all my shelves with lots of little boxes to keep different things in. I got someone to build me a little bench thing with lime green Formica on it. Over the years I have found plates, cups and a stove, and kettle and little tables and deck chairs which are lime green.
I have plates and cups and saucers for BBQs and you can have cups of tea here. It’s only a little shed but it fits everything.”
All images copyright Meg, and especially the painting she made of her allotment which is the main image to this blog… And only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her artistic talent.