What a busy period it has been for me but not unfortunately on the allotment. I was asked to be part of the Malvern Spring Show. I spent four days imparting my wisdom in allotment growing at the aptly named Allotment Theatre. It is great to see that there is so much interest in the ‘grow your own’ culture and I had a fine time sharing ideas with those keen allotmenteers. I always learn something new from gardeners and, despite my many decades on the plot, there are plenty of simple tricks to be learnt in the quest for good crops.
So, after four pleasant days among like-minded growers, it was time to return to my hillside and see what had happened in my absence. The benefit of being part of an allotment community is that everyone looks out for everyone else. My outdoor patch had not changed a great deal as the early May weather still holds most things in check. However in the greenhouse there has been a flurry of activity. The runner and French beans I had sown in my three-inch pots a week or so before leaving were erupting through their compost. Much to my surprise, they had all come through and that must have been down to their good care by one of my fellow plot holders. The one planted border where I had put in a few early tomato plants was looking good and I swear they had grown a few inches in my absence.
The most novel change to my growing techniques that has occurred in my recent seasons on the allotment has been my method of module-sowing seeds before planting out. Years ago I would never have dreamed of sowing beetroot, carrots and many salad crops inside. These old hardy seeds would have been set free on the plot in the soil and would have popped through whatever the weather had thrown at them. Also all members of the brassica clan would have been sown in short rows in seed beds and pulled up bare-rooted before planting in their final home. Not so these days. All seeds are sown in seed trays and transplanted into modules before daring to risk life in the open. So are plants going the same way as us cosseted gardeners and being spoilt before being turned out to the elements?
Similarly the crops that are growing out on the plot are showing those stress symptoms of the wet and cool conditions. This is borne by the colour of their leaves - which are yellowing. This is a sure sign of stress and, unless treated, makes them more susceptible to disease and pests. The only remedy is to give them a good feed and a nitrogen-rich foliar feed is one of the quickest ways to revive them. A good dose of pelleted chicken manure watered in around their roots will help bring colour back to those sorry looking leaves. This difficult spring has brought more than its fair share of problems to the life of a gardener!
It is not only us gardeners who have our problems, it is much more devastating for commercial growers. So spare a thought for the asparagus growers of Evesham who have had to cancel their festival due to the heavy rain and cool conditions making the harvest weeks later than planned. These plants are no fools and are not sending up those succulent tips until the weather gets warmer. Who says plants have no sense or feeling?
With all the trials and tribulations that gardening can bring, I was tempted to go for a modern solution. Apparently a well-known store has come up with a scheme where you can rent an allotment on the internet. The scheme called I-grow allows you to pick an allotment and choose whatever vegetables and herbs you want to grow. You get weekly photographs of your patch's progress and the produce is delivered to your door when ready. Is this the solution to lack of allotments and is the modern day way of gardening from your computer?
To hardened gardeners like me, this takes away the pleasure of being out in the open and enjoying the daily battle to get that super-fresh produce.
My Life On A Hillside Allotment
Terry Walton is a regular contributor to The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and has written a book called My Life on a Hillside Allotment, published by Bantam Press. Buy this book at a discount from the