Allotment Month 33: today is a good day

This was the best day on the allotment all year, a breeze and drizzle, the air warm, everything quiet and the world relaxed.

All of the plants I could see had not sprung back into life with the recent showers. The soil still dry an inch below the surface, grass still brown. Instead, we all breathed a sigh of collective relief, the plants slowly recovering from the drought and heatwave. Me granted a day off watering to potter and explore.

Tomatoes are ripe and apples are growing in size, their dusty felt glowing, as beautiful as anything. Some of the tomatoes had blossom end rot caused by the drought and a lack of calcium to be drawn by the roots. Though most were ok and picked to be eaten.

I went through the ritual of planting my only Echinacea pallida seedling into my herb bed. I like to put a little circle of stones around perennial seedlings these days. I don’t know why, it’s as much for fun as it is to help me remember where they are among the weeds. My allotment is full of pebbles.

The herb bed is a labour of love I’ve slowly been planting this year. There isn’t a set design I’m working to, well, there’s a bit of one but I have in my mind mainly a feeling, fragrance and colour scheme I want. This bed is productive for seasoning and also for teas and nutrition from healing plants. I don’t much buy into herbal use without scientific evidence, it’s less romantic but I like it when I hit on a plant scientifically proven to benefit our bodies. Then, when I have that information I can go back to the comfort of a tea, like nettle tea, enriching my body.

In my mind this knowledge of understanding what’s in the food we eat feels useful for the future but heaven knows what for.

Cobnuts are hardly a feast, I have four. But it’s their first year and these little hazelnuts tell me of future harvests to come. My new mini orchard has survived the drought; the gooseberries, hazels and pear saplings reduced to twigs with the threads of crisped leaves hanging onto life. There are new buds forming however, we have made it together. The trees and this gardener.

It’s been a disappointing year so far but not an unsuccessful one. Unsuccessful would be not trying, not getting better for next year. Disappointing because the chinks in the armour of the distance of my allotment were laid bare. Had I have been able to visit every day or every other the drought wouldn’t have mattered. Instead the biweekly water – as laborious as it truly was – wasn’t enough for many crops to flourish. My salad bed a distant memory.

So we’re battered but not beaten, the plants and I. And despite everything looking a little crisp and nutrient starved, we have harvests of plenty. Plenty enough for our two person household anyway.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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