The first time we did any work on the allotment wasn’t until a couple of weeks after we’d signed for it. We’d had a couple of busy weekends, plus we’d both been busy with work and I’d been ill so we hadn’t managed to squeeze in a visit.
Weirdly, I look back on this photo now and the allotment looks so clear and tidy compared to how bad it got after another couple weeks of hot, sunny days and frequent heavy rain!
When we arrived at the plot, equipped with gloves, refuse bags and, erm, not much more, we were shocked to see how much it had changed in just two weeks. We also became acquainted with mare’s tail, aka horse tail, aka Equisetum arvense. As it was fairly early in the year, most of the mare’s tail on our plot had in that weird, rubber cone appearance. We had no idea what this strange stuff was sprouting all over our new plot – it hadn’t been visible two weeks earlier – but luckily a friendly allotment neighbour popped over to say hello and explained what it was. She also told us it was pretty much impossible to eradicate, and that the roots basically went on forever. I had a look round the neighbouring plots and common areas, and began to spot this strange looking weed EVERYWHERE, although not in anything like the same density as on our plot.
Lots of research on mare’s tail would follow over the next few weeks, but on this particular day, we focused on clearing as much rubbish as we could from the plot. We discovered a few pieces of re-usable wood, along with a lot of rotten stuff, piles and piles of broken glass, and surprisingly little actual rubbish (or maybe not surprisingly, given that people on allotments are very unlikely to leave litter lying around).We had also inherited a total of three hosepipes, a wheel-less wheelbarrow, and an assortment of bricks and paving slabs.
We started by creating separate piles for wood, non-recyclable rubbish, bricks and paving stones and spent a couple of hours clearing as much as we could.
Eventually, we uncovered the remains of a raised bed, although the wooden edging was so rotten it broke up when we tried to remove it. We also learnt – from another allotmenteer who popped over to say hello – that our plot had great raspberry bushes. We’d been told when we viewed the plot it had fruit bushes, but it was good to learn they were productive and had thrived despite a long period of neglect!
After a couple of hours, the two of us had managed to pile up most of the visible rubbish and debris from the plot, and it was time for the first of many allotment-related visits to the local council tip.