Back to the allotment (550)
by Max Akroyd
My dream of self-sufficiency was born about six years ago in the village in North Yorkshire where we then lived. Awoken early by our crying baby, I decided to take him for a stroll down to our allotment. It was a beautiful late spring morning. As we approached my plot I was surprised to hear sounds of activity. I assumed it was the Nice Old Bloke on the allotment next door tending to his hens. In fact, embarassingly for both of us, it was the aforementioned Nice Old Bloke stealing a load of my stuff! Before this moment I’d worked out that having a family without productive land was about as sensible as building a house without a roof. After this moment I realised I needed my own land.
I was reminded of my old allotment as I rejoined the battle to cultivate the soil in the polytunnel: just like my old plot this soil is compacted, lifeless and full of broken glass. I’m not sure why this is the case on the section of ground the polytunnnel occupies, but my allotment had previously been a car park and an industrial waste site.
My present task involves trying to breathe life back into this dry-bone soil which has had the marrow sucked out of it by the giant trees next door. I could just create pockets of fertility to plant next season’s tomato plants into… the soil would then just be a holding material – conventional horticulture in a microcosm really. But organic gardening demands a living soil and, more importantly, so will the winter salad crops that will be a mainstay of my winter diet in the year of self sufficiency to come.
But it took all morning to open up the nine metres of bed pictured above. It’s going to get a thorough liming next and later lots and lots of manure. At least the soil and I were sheltered from the occasional squall in the polytunnel. The farmer’s field next door shows it was no morning for any interaction outside: