That’s certainly how we’re feeling one week into allotment ownership, but we’re starting to make some progress. I haven’t drawn up a plan for the site yet because I wanted to get a feel for the plot first. I’m also slightly worried that we’ll be intimidated by all the tasks to come if we see them all laid bare on paper. I’m beginning to get an idea in my head of where I’d like things to go (a comfrey patch beside the compost bin, relocate the reeds near the well) but our ideas are so quick-footed and fluid that we’ve so far been gardening intuitively. It’s probably about time we consulted some books on allotment construction and made some set plans.
For all our changeableness there’s been definite progress these last two days. Under the carpet Rob pulled up we found sand. I’ve removed as much of it as I can onto the new potato bed. We’ve half dug the bed but rain stopped play. The site is mainly heavy clay and we didn’t want to work the bed whilst it was wet. We’re hoping the sand will break the clay up a little and help it breathe. It’s going to be a tough job getting it ready for a potato crop, but we’ll give it a go. We’ve also been digging a path so we can take advantage of the free wood chip on site, and also so we can repurpose the soil in future beds.
I’ve been chasing the outline of ghost beds as I’ve been digging and have uncovered some buried boundary boards. They’re rotting, but we’ve left them in place as a mark of respect to those who gardened here before us. I feel like an archaeologist uncovering the history of the previous tenants; their stories lost in clay. Today was warm and sunny and the clay is drying out. It cuts with the spade in slices and fractures in layers like slate in frost; tiny avalanches of blues and reds. There’s something soothing about the repetitive action of the spade cutting through it. An hour and a half passed without me knowing.
We’ve finally invested in our own wheelbarrow. All the neighbours we’ve met so far have been extremely kind and offered us the use of any tools we don’t yet have. P even thanked us for laying wood chip in the snicket outside our own plot as she was going to do it for us! I’ve learned a little bit more about the site from L. Security has increased over the last year after ten sheds were damaged when youths broke in and blew one up. There was a spate of burglaries too. It seems all too common on allotments judging by some of the tweets I read today, including a tweet about allotment owners in Coventry having to dismantle their sheds for fear of vandals burning them. It seems a sad state of affairs. The fence around the allotments here is a scar of wire patches and barbs where entry has been forced and subsequently patched. A blackthorn hedge looks freshly planted too. I was advised not to linger too long alone here after dark, so linger long alone I won’t.