I have been waiting more than 10 years for this allotment. In that time I’ve had several jobs, moved house and even had a baby!
Perrett’s Park allotments in Bristol is very in-demand. Although it slopes steeply, it’s south-west facing, making for great growing conditions and spectacular sunsets. The site has been cultivated for decades – a bonus considering Bristol’s very heavy soil, which my RHS gardening course lecturer once described as “high enough in clay to trap a water-buffalo”.
It’s also well-serviced, with plenty of water troughs, tarmac access paths and security fencing. Many of the allotments have sheds, greenhouses and benches, and there is a real community feel to the place.
Last week I finally got The Call. It took me a few seconds to register what the site manager was saying. After such a long wait I couldn’t quite believe it!
My plot, picked from three choices, has previously been terraced but is now incredibly overgrown. But having done a bit of terracing before I know that clearing is the easier of the two jobs!
As you can see, it is very steep…
6B is on the end of a row, with a fig tree at the top belonging to the adjoining tenant, and a pear tree at the bottom.
Although only a half plot, it feels enormous and is quite private, as there isn’t any reason for people to walk past it. Like the rest of the site, it is a haven for wildlife, home to slow-worms, hedgehogs, and countless species of birds, bees and butterflies.
Under all the waist high grass and (thankfully) sporadic brambles and bindweed I’ve already uncovered four compost bins and an old metal dustbin. There are also wire supports in place suitable for training raspberries along.
Mentioning my long-awaited tenancy to friends and family has led to offers of glass doors to build a cold frame, raspberry suckers, gooseberry bushes, leek seedlings, salad leaves, verbena bonariensis (good for wildlife, plus pretty) and poached egg plants (ditto). I’m looking forward to next summer when I can repay all these favours! And it turns out my allotment next door neighbour is actually my real life neighbour, so we can help each other out with watering.
Getting my plot at the tail end of the season alleviates the pressure to plant right now, so my priorities are to clear the site as easily as possible and put in a few timely crops. By next spring I should be ready for to shift gear for a full growing season.
Next week a pal with a petrol strimmer is going to help me clear the grass: beers will be provided in lieu of produce which, err, I haven’t produced yet.
Before that I’ll be checking every square centimetre with a long-tined fork to make sure there aren’t any bits of metal, wire or anything else that could do him an injury!
Once the site is strimmed I’ll dig out the grass roots and any brambles from three beds where I want to plant late peas, overwintering roots and alliums. I know I’ll never get the bindweed out completely – its endemic throughout the site – but I’ll hoik out as much as I can.
The rest of the strimmed beds will be covered in black membrane, to help kill off or weaken the weeds. My resident gardening advisor (my mum is a well-known organic gardening expert) tells me I can plant my fruit bushes through holes in the membrane, removing the need to weed around them. The plan is to take up the membrane in spring and underplant with flowers to attract pollinators.
There is a lot to do, and as I garden organically I’m limited in the methods I can use to keep on top of pests. It’s not the first big gardening project I’ve had but the added need to keep on top of everything or face eviction adds a certain urgency to my quest.
Check back here for my regular allotment diary and do share any tips in the comments below!