The first thing I ever grew was a sunflower. I was ten, and it started life alongside 35 other milk-cartons on a school windowsill. I took it home for the summer holidays and it grew to be taller than me in the front porch. I was hooked.
In the years after, I slowly expanded into marigolds and dabbled in poppies and snapdragons. When I was 15, we moved house, and the very first year an unspoken rivalry began with my new neighbour to grow the tallest sunflower. He always won, until I discovered his secret weapon (tomato food). I grew some peas one year, herbs another, and slowly my interest grew.
In 2006, I bought a house with my sister and suddenly control of the garden was mine! We dug up most of the back garden, I planted raspberry canes, lettuce and carrots and even grew courgettes in the front garden. Growing our own food was a revelation – how good a radish tasted, fresh beetroot, crisp salad leaves. But it was a small garden…..
In September 2009 I was dreaming of having more garden, more space, more potential to expand. I came across a site about private allotments in Donabate. I rang the owner that afternoon, went to visit an hour later, and signed my lease the next day. I now had LAND.
And it looked like this:
Going from grassy field to what the plot is today was a very gradual process. I did some things right, a lot of things wrong, and learned so much. This is how my plot looked last month:
This is after two years of hard work, and with a lot of help from my family. This assistance has ranged from helping me assemble my shed on a freezing day in February 2010, to turning up with lunch at just the right moment, to digging a pond and helping to eat mountains of courgettes. Having an allotment is a communal enterprise.
This blog will hopefully give anyone who is thinking of renting an allotment an insight into what’s involved – the hard work, the benefits, the highs and lows.