I awake with a dull ache in the whole body region. Nothing is actually sprained or painful but every small movement tells of some untold physical ordeal yesterday. A creaky descent of the stairs leads me into the kitchen where a glance out back yields the first clue.
A mysterious wooden box has crash-landed into the garden. My resident blackbird pecks around it to evaluate any worm potential. A squirrel eyes it suspiciously from on high as it plots some act of destructive action.
There are more clues in the conservatory. Once a clear and airy space devoted to relaxation the scene this morning is altogether more … earthy. The tiles are powdered with soil. Every surface (and there are new ones) is covered in pots containing green or purple shoots.
The greenhouse – because that’s what it is now – is a production line for vegetables. The box outside is a newly constructed raised bed in which to plant them. The aching body is what you get when you swap a relatively sedentary life for that of a gardener. Except that I’m not only a gardener. As of a week ago I am also an allotment holder…
It is still not clear to me how it came to this. For years I have fought a battle with my back garden in an attempt to produce life from a space which, while adequate in growing space, lacks direct sunlight and ground moisture due to the extended canopy and root structure of the mature trees that cast their shadow long before builders laid the foundations for my home.
I have won some battles, most notably in my herb garden where the rosemary, mint and oregano positively thrive. In some years I have coaxed green beans from a side bed while my plum tree begrudgingly produces some sort of crop in alternate years. Overall though the war has been won by the trees – or so they thought – but they reckoned without my partner who, despite a lack of any green fingered credentials, went out and bought a seed collection to rival the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Buoyed by her enthusiasm my paternal instincts kicked in and with it the needs to find a home for our infant vegetables.
The scant 5 minute walk to my allotment is bittersweet. Sweet because there is an abundance of space in which to plant. Sweet because the open aspect will enjoy full sun throughout the day. Sweet because short walks like this are no longer cyber-headed marches but fascinating opportunities to inspect other peoples front gardens and gain planting inspiration. Bitter because…
…well, it’s hardly a bed of roses. It needs work. Lots of work. I’m a list person and my list of jobs for the back garden and now the allotment has entered continuation sheet territory. The sheer size of the plot is daunting. There are pernicious weeds. There are areas of heavy clay soil. The shed is too small. The water butt needs attention. There will be man-weeks of weeding, digging and general maintenance before this space is anything but a bad neighbour to the well-maintained adjoining plots.
All of that is to come and yet before a first fork has been plunged into the earth I feel that I have changed. I’m starting to think like an allotment holder. My old garden fence will break down nicely to create the walkways I need to lay across the plot. Plastic water bottles once destined for the recycling bin are now treasured as growing containers. That list of jobs will shred down and rot nicely into compost.
What have I let myself in for? Will I be living The Good Life over summer (damn that catchy theme music!) or am I heading for the back clinic and an account with Ocado? Only time will tell.
Now where do I start?