Thursday, 26 June 2008

The idea of the Scattered Gardener occurred this beautiful June morning while on my allotment, in the furthest reaches of South London. I found some wonderful lettuce and "cut and come again" salad basking in the morning sun, waiting to be picked for my lunch. I haven't grown such a good crop of these before and I think it's because this is the first year I've given them their own space, rather than interplanting with other things. Or perhaps because it's been a cool wet spring.

Remember what a washout Easter was? It just poured with rain all weekend - so if I'm honest, it's been hard going clearing all the winter weeds and digging over before planting.

Still after lots of work over the last couple of months, I'm nearly there. And although I feel proud of my efforts and results, when I look round and see what my neighbours are achieving, my small plot is frankly, a bit skanky. Bindweed all through the strawberries (now yielding just a couple each time I visit, though I picked a large punnet every week through late May and June). And though I've had my allotment for a few years now, still about 20% is (nearly) untouched. I've had to cut back the weeds in this "wildlife area" four times already apres le deluge and I'm being threatened with eviction.

Meanwhile the other allotment holders seem to be able to keep theirs well managed and beautifully productive. Bill's sweet peas this year have to be seen and smelled to be believed, George's parsnips are lined up like a military parade. Charlie's raspberries are a labour of love; he takes them home by the box every day to his wife, who eats them all summer through.

So I'm the scattered gardener. I scatter seeds around my allotment in patches rather than lining them up. I dig it a bit at a time and plant whatever's coming along in my mini greenhouse ( a bit of an experiment, this, I only bought it this year). When I get to 4/5 of the allotment dug over, I have to give up digging to weed and water the crops that are growing. And I cheat - I have an organic veg box delivered most weeks, as despite my best efforts my allotment fails to present me with enough veg and fruit to feed my small family.

But I love it! My lettuce at lunchtime was luscious and all the better for being home grown. I get lost in the digging, the weeding and watering; sometimes I listen to the radio, mostly my mind drifts to other things, a problem that needs resolving, an idea, a dream, or thoughts of my dad, who loved his allotment and his garden too. The allotment site is beautiful, surrounded by willow trees and rich with birds and other wildlife, including slow worms, who sometimes colonise our compost heaps, enjoying the warmth. What better place to spend a weekday morning in the middle of the summer?