Recently I came across a list of things that I planned to do or achieve in the year 2002 and one of them was to get an allotment. At the end of May that year I received a letter from the Council offering me plot number 5 at New Malden Allotment Site. I don’t know what first put the idea into my head, as I had never known anyone who had an allotment, but I somehow managed to squeeze in before the onset of increasing demand for gardening space, particularly amongst us urban dwellers.
What I imagined was an area the size of a large room with plants and perhaps the odd weed growing in-between. What I found on my first visit with a friend was a space three times the size, partially covered with old carpet and thick with weeds growing up through it, a couple of rusty old locker cabinets at one end and a huge pampas grass at the other.
As an amateur gardener, taking on an allotment has been a steep learning curve but a thoroughly enjoyable one and the plot has come a long way since the early stages. A turning point was adding raised beds, the first being made from the wooden frame of a bed that I found outside in the street.
The site lies at a point where the streams of two rivers meet and a recently renovated pumping system drains away some of the water. Nevertheless, the heavy clay soil is extremely prone to becoming waterlogged and flooding in the winter months.
As summer comes to an end I am torn, as always, as to when to clear the slowly fading plants. A hard frost will bring its finishing touch but we are not there yet and in the meantime a handful of late blooming sunflowers beam down from their lofty stems, the roses and sweet peas are still in full flower and inevitably I will continue to find healthy beans dangling amongst a tangle of dying leaves and stems.
I shall miss the scent of sweet peas as I go about my work but there is a feeling of satisfaction in clearing the beds and starting afresh for the coming year.