November 8, 2011: seeds of change

By Terry Walton, Tuesday 8 November 2011

Alphabet T Terry Walton, who shares his down-to-earth wisdom and wit with us every week on his allotment blog, is the much-loved allotmenteer of BBC Radio 2's The Jeremy Vine Show
Terry WaltonTerry Walton

With all this rain falling on our valley it would be little surprise if all our allotment holders got a little despondent. No such thing! Gardeners are an optimistic lot and are always in good spirits despite what is thrown at us. I am there on the plot most days and there is always a steady ‘stream’, no not due to the rain, of happy gardeners making their daily pilgrimage to their hallowed piece of ground. They come through the clanging gate, walk to their plot after a cheery hello to anyone they pass on the way, traverse their plot then often make their way to their greenhouse to escape the monsoon rains that fall almost daily. There they will spend an hour or two finding some task or other to perform just to keep their gardening hands in. Then they set off home with a spring in their step and contentment in their mind. This is why gardeners are a relaxed, healthy group with a happy disposition.

These routines are a far cry from my early days on this allotment where there were no buildings of any description other than the large store sheds housing the allotment shop. In the late autumn and deepest of winter there would be very brief excursions to the plot to harvest a little winter vegetables and then scoot off to the warmth and dryness of home. No cheery smile upon the faces of these single minded gardeners, just the task in hand to be completed in double quick time. All the smiles and chatter were kept for the warm days of spring and summer.

Allotments have changed to a more social affair these days and sheds have become regular meeting places with all the mod cons of home. There are gas stoves which can provide those welcoming cups of beverage the year around and a warm meeting places of like minds. There are chairs of comfort and the ability to produce anything from a piece of toast to a bacon butty during an hour of stimulating conversation. It is not all gardening related and the work of the United Nations and many other worldly problems can be solved in the congenial surroundings that these places exude. The answers to many questions are forthcoming but fall, unfortunately, on deaf ears and all this wisdom is wasted. What a more contented world we would live in if the rules governing it were the same as those on an allotment. There would be no theft amongst members and help is always at hand for anyone who needs it. There is a caring, sharing community who help out at any opportunity and no ones leaves the allotment without a generous donation of vegetables if they have failed with their crop. Money is not the driving force but the good old fashioned system of barter is still the predominant currency and most excesses of produce can be exchanged to meet all our needs.

However there is one place that money must change hands and that is to purchase our seeds. But in this arena the thrifty allotmenteer has many tricks up the sleeve. Bulk buying can usually bring great rewards and seed orders are all combined as a group and savings of up to fifty per cent can be made. Seed potatoes can be bought in sacks and shared out among the many plot holders to bring out a significant reduction in cost. This manner of buying requires a great deal of trust among the various members and once again the nature of an allotmenteer comes to the fore and everyone is happy.

There is much that can be learnt from this way of life and spending wisely is a creed by which the gardener lives. There is also the necessity to make use of many discarded objects that society glibly throws away and this in turn saves landfill and, most importantly in these austere times, keeps our money in our pockets.

The motto of a dedicated allotmenteer is ‘never buy what can be reused or borrowed‘ but where necessary use your money wisely and the harvests will be both plentiful and rich. I have found this philosophy has kept me in good stead for not only in my gardening life but to my life in general.

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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 Saga Bookshop.

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