Plotting Wellbeing25th August 2017 • Stephanie's Blog • Stephanie Donaldson
I was recently invited to judge some local allotments (not, I hasten to add, the one where we have our own plot) and it made me appreciate, yet again, that allotments are about so much more than growing fruit and vegetables. Of course there were fabulously productive plots overflowing with serried ranks of magnificent vegetables, but there are many that may not be the neatest, or grow exhibition quality vegetables, but are clearly cherished nonetheless. Rather than simply award a ‘Best Allotment’ prize, which would inevitably go to the tidiest and most productive plot, I thought it would be fairer and more encouraging to others, if we devised a number of categories. Eventually, after much deliberation, we decided on the following:
Best Work in Progress
Here the plot holders are tackling a steeply sloping site with well-designed landscaping that is both attractive and functional. These tasks are best tackled early on, even if it does mean productivity is put on hold for a while. I’m not entirely sure what the foundation is sure – but I admired the work that has gone in to it!
Most Improved & Inspiring New Plot
In less than a year the new holder has transformed the plot from an overgrown slope to an impressively organised and productive space with the use of innovative techniques – including hugelkultur – that has allowed him to make use of the fertility from all the weeds and other waste material on this (and other) allotments, without waiting for them to compost down in the conventional way. This is a great technique for anyone taking on a neglected plot.
Most Colourful & Inviting Plot
Not everyone has a garden at home and this was a fine example of how an allotment can fulfil the criteria required of it, while also being a place of relaxation and pleasure. There were colourful borders of flowers, beds of vegetables, a tunnel for growing brassicas, corn and salads, with attractive seating areas on areas of lawn under the trees. I just hope that the owners find time to sit and admire their handiwork – it’s a lovely spot, although very windy on the day I took this photo.
Best for Biodiversity
Hidden away behind its native hedges, this allotment is a little world of its own, where plants weave and tumble, creating an ideal environment for the three beehives that are safely tucked amongst the planting. This is a plot that has been nurtured over many years, successfully creating a wonderfully biodiverse habitat. I didn’t get a photo here as the bees were quite active!
Most Productive Established Allotment
A plot that is clearly a labour of love, with many hours spent tending it. It was a pleasure to walk along its neatly trimmed grass paths and admire the beds and borders filled with really well grown vegetables, flowers and fruit. The many compost bins are a clue to its success.
When I went to hand out the awards, I was told that this allotment holder was quite reclusive and was asked to go to her plot to speak to her – and take no photos. I was very touched by the story she told me – proof, if ever it was needed of the important social function that allotments perform. For many years she has lived in a housing association flat with its own small garden, but increasingly socially disruptive tenants have left her feeling vulnerable, especially since they use her garden for drug taking. The housing association appear to be unable or unwilling to confront the problem, so she now spends every moment she can on her allotment, making it her safe place and surrounding herself with beauty that is sadly lacking in her home life. I knew nothing of this when I chose her as a winner, so I was really thrilled to give her a voucher for £20 to use buying Kings Seeds for next year, and also delighted that her daughter and grand daughter were there to cheer her on.
Best Small Plot
An allotment that lives up to the challenge of being the first one you see when you come through the gate. Every inch of space used to good effect with an abundance of flowers and vegetables and even space for a table (complete with candelabra!) and chairs – an impressively productive and attractive plot.
Best at Adapting to Changing Circumstances
I loved the wonderful array of sunflowers on this plot and was impressed when I discovered that they were planted as a less labour-intensive way to keep parts this large allotment cultivated when the plot holder was finding it difficult to grow as many vegetables as she had in the past. Making some areas of an allotment easier to manage is a sensible move – and in this case delightfully cheering.