Graham Turner: My allotment woes

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Form an orderly queue . . . I’m thinking of giving up my allotment. It’s been a disastrous year on my plot and I’ve lost heart.

Apparently, I’m not alone – I read a report last week that said thousands of allotment holders are being ‘evicted’ because they’ve not kept their bit of land up to scratch.

According to the ‘experts’, TV gardeners are to blame – for making tending an allotment look too easy. People don’t realise how much hard work it is and get behind with the weeding and digging.

But I’m not sure if that’s fair. It’s been a terrible couple of years - too dry, too wet, snow . . . the weather alone has been enough to put anyone off.

In my own case, there are a number of factors that are pushing me towards quitting, not least my family’s lack of enthusiasm for what I grow.

Each of the three years I’ve had the allotment, I’ve grown a different variety of potato. My first year’s crop (according to the cooks in the house) were too floury; last year’s were too small and had thick skins and this season’s, it seems, just weren’t very nice.

My lettuce have bugs in them, the peas are like bullets and though the runner beans have been okay, they come in a glut and ‘you can only eat so many’.

Then, of course, there are the muntjac deer, the mice and the pheasants helping themselves to whatever they fancy.

It sounds as though I’m blaming everyone but myself for my allotment woes, but I’m not - I admit I’ve made mistakes and I should have worked harder. After all, I only actually have a third of a plot, it should be easy.

The other ‘allotmenteers’ are helpful and make encouraging noises when they see me fighting my losing battle against the weeds, but I’m sure they secretly wish a more capable gardener would take over.

My immediate ‘neighbours’ are great chaps but, annoyingly, they have two of the neatest and most productive allotments. And I don’t know how they do it! They’re cultivating the same soil, fighting the same pests and battling the same weather, so how do they do it? How, in a week when it seems to rain continuously, do they manage to dig over their whole plot when I’ve not been able to get out of the door? Is there a secret someone can reveal (other than retire and devote my whole life to gardening)?