lifestyle

The joy of working together on the plot | Allan Jenkins


There is an element I love about allotment life: the communal corrective. People gathering together in spring and autumn to clear unruly paths and overgrowth. Pitching in, cooking over a barbecue, bringing food and wine. Someone sometimes breaking into song.

There has been an absence of working parties in the past year or so, since Covid came at us. Many of our gardeners have mostly stayed away. In their absence the wild has crept back, their plots conquered, quickly reclaimed.

The more determined garden souls hung on. Patches of cultivation shining among the fallen apples, the tall nettles, the ever-longer grass. There have been rows of salads. There has been summer squash and corn. A few plots with climbing bean poles.

One or two others scattered flower seed in spring. A neighbouring plot was bright with beds of cosmos, calendula and other annuals. Another simply sowed poppies. Though they’ve all faded now in the cooler nights.

Mary, a part of whose large plot we also work, has been constant. A gifted and determined grower, there are always runner beans, giant sunflowers, tomatoes, garlic, chillies, courgettes and pumpkins of many kinds.

Recently she was in need of help with some late-season tidying and packing away. So come one Sunday, Howard and I turn up with power tools and sharp spades.

There are prized plants to re-home, echoes of previous years to be potted. Patiently waiting on their new space. There is a fruit cage to be cleared and stashed away.

There is real pleasure is heavier garden work sometimes. Taking down structures for winter. Clearing and preparing for another spring.

Within a quick couple of hours or so our work is mostly done. We level summer’s poles on our part of the plot, leaving the last two ‘wigwams’ decked with late morning glory and nasturtium vines. November frost will soon have its way. We pick and pocket tagetes and nasturtium seed and think of the coming of spring.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com



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