I have an allotment. The main reason was to have somewhere to grow the burgeoning collection of Iris that I was aquiring. Lots of other National Collections are held on public allotments and they certainly provide a nice bit of ground for growing (we have 5 pole plots which is about 100m2). I have a smallish garden too but it’s a bit too shady and a bit too damp, not to mention cat and squirrel infested. The squirrels do more damage than the cats obviously!
The allotment manager is happy for me to grow ‘permanent’ plants on some of my plot and there is a good swathe of annual veg and perennial fruit (mainly berries) on about half the plot now too.
By chance I heard the Lives in the Landscape radio programme where the presenter visited a block of Allotments in Hastings. A wide variety of backgrounds and experience and experiences. Hearing the stories of the people there made me think on my own neighbours and my relationship, or lack of, with them.
It’s a biggish site about 100 plots, 2 rows of 50 either side of two car tracks. I barely know the people either side and across 2 of the 3 plots have not been visited for 2+ years. A family illness?, house move ? or maybe a new job? it often signals a change from well tended plot, much visited, to chaotic weedland in a matter of months. The elderly chap (89) who had the plot opposite mine died a few months ago and his once pristine plot and lively chatter are both a distant memory. He loved to chat, loved to connect people and through him I know two other plot holders, both on the far track, normally we would never have met.
They’re generous with gluts, chatty and friendly, with enviable, well tended plots and prolific produce bearers. It’s nice to stop and talk with them when we coincide on site. Mostly they will chat away while I weed or sometimes they’ll get down and weed with me (these are my favourite moments!) because let’s not forget permanent plantings need A LOT more weeding than veg does!
Then there is the gentleman on the end plot who has had his plot for 16 years. One of the absolute gems on the block, knowledgeable, friendly and a good sense of humor not to mention a good source of inspiration for things to grow.
The Lives in Landscape stories have me wondering about the other 94+ plot holders. What do my elusive neighbours do? who they are? why they’re growing? what are they growing? what are their stories?
Better start saying “Hello” a bit more often!