It has been so good to welcome villagers to the allotments. They are often residents who have never visited the site or who came along when it was an overgrown wilderness. Their comments and general surprise at how productive and attractive the allotments look have been most encouraging. One long standing resident of Heyford said to me the other day: “Last time I came here it was a jungle and all a bit depressing really. Now look at it! The allotment holders must be very proud of what has happened”.
The sharing barrow in the community picnic area has been used by allotmenteers to off-load excess produce (particularly courgette’s). It is good to share and exchange what would otherwise be wasted. Even more encouraging, has been the increasing number of allotmenteers and villagers who have taken the opportunity to cut some of the beautiful flowers on offer. Virtually all of these flowering plants originated from donations, so many thanks if you were able to give us something earlier in the year. When you come to tidy up your seed box in the winter or begin dividing plants, do spare us a thought. Those items could be the basis of next year’s bounty.
If you are picking flowers, try to use a pair of scissors or snips and, if time allows, give the plants a drink, using the watering cans we have left out in that area. A water cistern can be found nearby.
Soft fruit in our community fruit patch has been better than we anticipated, particularly as the bushes and canes were only cast-offs and did not look too promising when we planted them during the winter. Do feel free to pick fruit from this area if it looks ripe. We know for a fact that many villagers have already used this resource to make jam, fill a freezer box or even produce gin!
Allotments are cool?
We recently dug up the early potatoes on our own allotment, enlisting the help of our grandchildren. There is something quite magical about a child’s face when they unearth a large clutch of potatoes from the soil. For them it must be like finding buried treasure. As we finished and surveyed our haul, Nick, our eldest grandchild said: “You know grandad, allotments are really cool aren’t they?” I gave him a hug, there and then.
People used to have this stereotypical view that allotments were the preserve of old men in tweed jackets and flat caps. Those wise souls of more mature years are still a vital part of the growing community, but as Nick so wisely noted, allotments are “cool” and have attracted a far wider group of people. This has become so obvious in Nether Heyford, for our allotments are now tended by people of all ages and from all sorts of backgrounds. They have all discovered the joy of growing their own fruit, veg and flowers and long may it continue. Perhaps, as I approach another big birthday, I may even need dig out my tweeds and flat cap!
Despite the ridiculously hot weather we’ve experienced during much of the summer, the crops on the allotment have held up well – due in no small part to all the watering that allotment holders have done. However, we have found that cropping has advanced, in many cases by as much as a month. We are already picking autumn fruiting raspberries from our own allotment and sweetcorn is in danger of “going-over” if we don’t get a move on! I suspect that is a trend all gardeners will have to come to terms with as our planet warms.
A recent inspection and some routine maintenance of the fruit trees in our community orchard has revealed that all the trees, planted just eighteen months ago, are thriving. Earlier infestations by aphids have all but disappeared – largely due to the increasing number of predators like ladybirds and wasps. The excessive use of pesticide just isn’t necessary if you wait for nature to take its course. New growth on the trees is strong and they are beginning to take on that classical shape which should herald good harvests in the coming years.
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish email@example.com (01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.