My love affair with allotments started when I (temporarily) went up in the world and bought a basement maisonette in a smart Georgian terrace. It was below road level at the front, gloomy and noisy, but at the back it was on another level altogether. It was another world.
For the first time I had a garden of my own. It was small, walled, and had one-too-many overgrown trees. Shady but mature, with gravel and stone slabs, it didn’t need much attention… which I liked. As a 30-something career-minded city-dweller, I had lots of other interests and I had no inclination to be a gardener like my mother. Even though as a small child I’d play around her and ‘help’, listening with one ear to her gardening hints and wildlife observations, by the time I was a teenager I would inwardly groan when she wanted to take me on a tour of her garden. I would roll my eyes when she asked me to pick the beans. Or worst of all, dig a trench!
My own garden would be without chores. That suited me just fine.
Yet one of the reasons I fell for this flat was that just outside the back gate was a field of beautiful allotments. Despite being in a busy part of the city, they were hidden away by trees and sunk in a valley of land between the terrace and a large park. Even as a non-gardener I could tell this place was special. As there was no such thing as a waiting list for allotments at the time, I was able to immediately adopt a large overgrown one just outside my back gate. Almost an extension of the garden when the gate was open, but out of sight (and not my concern) when it was closed, it seemed a lost opportunity not to take it on.
Of course I had to keep it reasonably maintained to hold onto the lease, so I found out where the nearest garden centre was and bought myself a spade.
Several weeks later I was a die-hard gardening fanatic. I spent every spare moment out on that allotment. When the one adjacent to mine became available I jumped to take that on too. I had become a grow-your-own addict.
When my daughter was born, a year later, I’d take her out with me in her pram. As she got older, she could come and go as she pleased, helping to harvest and popping all the peas, collecting snails and ‘testing’ all the tomatoes. Flower picking was her favourite.
We have moved five times since we left those allotments behind. My daughter is almost a teenager and doesn’t show much interest in gardening with me anymore. She groans and rolls her eyes. She does occasionally dance around the beds and she still likes to pick the flowers. But I really do believe that those early days spent with me on the allotment have planted The Seed. And one day, when she has a garden of her own, she’ll have all she needs to take to it like a natural.