You know what’s scary? New things. So, when I finally got the call to say I had been given an allotment space after nearly two years on the list, my excitement quickly turned to nerves.
As a container gardener who has spent five years gardening pretty much vertically in a small space (and on a tight budget), the thought of having a large space to grow in was overwhelming. I told myself this was going to be a totally different kind of gardening, with totally different rules! I was going to have to step out of my gardening comfort zone.
It seemed rather intimidating to have so much space and so much more to learn. I don’t know about you, but it feels like a lot has changed in gardening in the last few years: it seems there are lots of new ways to garden.
Of course, there is the old dug bed vs raised bed vs sunken-raised bed quandary but now there is also no-dig, double dig, triple dig – with many allotmenteers adopting one way above all others as their guiding philosophy for growing!
With this in mind, I wanted to tell you about what I’ve learned so far about gardening out of your comfort zone.
Get Over Yourself
In container gardening you can make your space look beautiful really quickly. If you have a good sense for colour then you are pretty much set. You don’t really get bogged down in the planning of the structure of the garden because if a pot does not work in one position, then you just move it.
In allotment gardening, things are different. Your plot is not going to be everything you want it to be in the first year. You have to surrender that wee bit of control and realise you are in it for the long haul. In other words, you have to get over yourself a bit.
If you are not going to have the garden path ready this year because you don’t have enough time, fine! Let that be a job for next year. If you don’t have the money to get a greenhouse, no problem! Make it a goal you can save towards. Allotment gardening is teaching me that not everything is going to look perfect right away and that sometimes we need to just chill!
I’ve never been the type of person who refuses help but when undertaking this allotment project, I completely underestimated the amount of help I would need. I took on a plot with a massive, half-collapsed greenhouse, so I’ve needed help: judging if the foundations were structurally sound, dismantling the unsalvageable parts and now I am going to need help rebuilding it to a useable (if not glorious) state. There are some things you just can’t do alone.
For advice I turned to a variety of sources but mainly my lovely, fellow allotment holders. Get to know your neighbours, you never know who will be kind enough to lend you their rototiller when you need it or who will be wise enough to tell you, “Yup, your greenhouse is a danger to us all and must be demolished immediately.”
It’s worth remembering why you are growing: to connect with nature, to grow food, to have a beautiful space to reflect, as starters. Even when you are intimidated by the tasks ahead, bear in mind your end goal and think about what gets you fired up about creating your space. To do this I look online at allotment Instagram accounts. There are a wealth of allotment-based accounts full of gorgeous pictures of perfect projects, filled with colour and joy. The can-do attitude of the growers always give me that much needed kick in the bum.
Lucy Bloom is a container gardener living on the side of the Forth and Clyde canal. Lucy has been gardening for five years and has been on Beechgrove three times showing off her wee balcony in Maryhill. Her gardening philosophy is: buy local, recycle, keep it cheap, and balance beauty with practicality.