by Nicki Slater, Imagination Workshop

Set off earlier this month for my first day of allotmenting proper, VERY excited and with hoe in hand. Imagine my heartbreak when I arrived to see ALL fruit bushes, apples trees, nets and rhubarb completely gone. The previous tenants had showed up and removed the lot.  I know it was theirs and they could take it if they wanted but I must admit a small tear formed in my eye.  Chairman David told me ‘they came at dawn, six of them, descended like a plague and stripped the lot’. So I’m less fruitfully endowed than I thought and will have to go back and read the chapter in my allotment book about establishing fruit bushes that I smugly skipped over before.

I had a wonderful day though, with a bit of teenage ‘help’ from my son, enthusiastic  digging from my 8 year old nephew and some actual help from my husband. We hoed and weeded four and half beds, dug over three of them and forked in organic poultry manure. Lee is on her way home from Aberdeenshire with three gooseberry bushes in the boot, so we will have fruit this year after all!  

Ten days in and the beds are weeded and dug over and there’s lots of good stuff in the compost heep. I’ve been encouraging my nephew to wee on it – it’s very good for the composting and endless fun for a small boy! 

Most exciting of all we’ve been planting! The potatoes are all underground working their magic, although nothing showing above ground yet. The beans are just about holding their own under the recent downpours and I have discovered old knitting needles make great posts for them to grow against when they are tiny. I have the pea seeds in the ground and casted nasturtiums in that bed too – nice for colour and you can eat the flowers and leaves. And I discovered the joys of riddling! The riddle is a giant sieve which lets the soil pass through and catches all the stones, fag ends, bits of glass, roots, etc that would make your root veg grow into funny shapes. So after riddling half a row (really hard work) I finally planted some carrot seeds. They look so puny it’s hard to believe they will one day be carrots but I have faith.

When the onion sets (tiny baby onions) go in the ground, they are very vulnerable to being picked right back out again by the HUGE wood pigeons we have lurking on top of every lamppost, but covered with an otherwise obsolete metal CD rack my onions are safe as houses!

Apart from the wood pigeons there are also squads of magpies intent on damage and we have found a fair few small snails and whooper slugs (is there a humane way to kill them?). On the plus side for the beasties, a plant with white flowers is home to scores of ladybirds, which is great as they love eating aphids like green fly. Only found one rather feeble worm so far but I’m hoping he/she will have some pals over. No legs on the tadpoles yet – but any day now.

Galvanised steel riddles pictured above available from Black Country Metalworks, price from £23.99.