Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Day One

I have my allotment key.
I went there first thing to measure up and start planning. That was honestly all I intended to do, but the itch to get started was too great and I ended up walking to Homebase, buying a spade, a rake and some gardening gloves, and starting to clear the weeds!
It was weird to start with, being there all by myself with a few retired allotmenteers pottering about on their plots all around me. I felt a bit like I was being watched, or judged... But with the sun shining, new shiny tools waiting to get dirty and 20x60 precious feet of neglected soil to cultivate I wasn't going to be put off.
I won't pretend to know the names of the weeds blanketing my little plot; there's a lot of grass - some of it, I suspect, the infamous 'couch grass' - goosegrass, docks and nettles, something that looks like really tough shiny cabbage, millions of salad onions scattered randomly about, and lots of fine feathery stuff with blue and purple flowers. Oh, and a bramble which I tried my hardest to dig up but ended up hacking through the root about two feet down. The feathery stuff rakes up quite easily and the docks and cabbagey things dig up without any problem. The grass is more troublesome; some clumps pull out easily but where it is thick I have to take the whole turf up with my spade, which is hard work, and the couch grass leaves thick white roots behind which all have to be removed. It's going to take a long time!
The soil seems quite good; black and loose and crumbly, and kept moist by its thick mulch of weeds! I'm disappointed by the number of stones in it (not to mention slugs, snails and fat green caterpillars!) but that can be remedied, and I have started a rock-pile to use in and around the pond I plan to dig...
After around five hours of raking and digging (in sweltering heat for early March) I have semi-cleared about a third of the plot, built an impressive first compost heap, started a rockery and made a new friend (Alan, who has had the huge corner plot for three years and is very enthusiastic about potatoes), not to mention badly jarring my right arm, nearly passing out from dehydration (luckily there's a newsagent just around the corner!) and getting unduly muddy. I had planned to come home and spend the evening designing my veg patch, deciding what would go where, and ordering seeds, but frankly I'm exhausted! Instead I have fallen asleep on the sofa, spent far too long in the shower and moped around complaining about the pain in my arm.
But it doesn't matter; I can't wait to go back!

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