On Saturday, I visited another allotment site here in Woking: Derry’s Field. They had a site open day, due to it being “National Allotment Week“, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a good nose around.
After all the usual Saturday morning clubs, activities and general family faffing around, we arrived quite late in the day. I was slightly peeved to see a sign forbidding guests to pass a certain point alone (although I could understand why), so I quickly found someone willing to take us across the check point. One of the friendly plot holders took us down to his plot, offered the kids some of his raspberries and chatted with me until I’d built up enough trust to be let lose. And so, after we’d seen his plot, tasted his berries and heard all his gossip about his neighbours, we had a chance to wander around freely.
In the short time we were there I was able to discover several new ideas and techniques for growing fruit and veg and those were originally meant to be the entire subject of this post. However, the most important thing I learnt while at Derry’s Fields was this: It’s important to pop the allotment site bubble.
Here’s what I mean.
I try to walk around my own site at least once a month in order to gather ideas and inspiration for my own plot. There’s over 100 plots at our site, so there’s lots of people, growing lots of fruit and veg. But, after having visited Derry’s Field allotments I’ve realised that as an allotment site, despite our size, there’s a big risk that we’ve created a “bubble” inside our oak tree-lined oasis. The physical allotment site seems to have created a crowd mentally, where plot holders share the same planting cycles as we tease each other over whether we’ve sown our first seeds of the year, started chitting our potatoes or got the broad beans in the ground yet. We share seeds and swap plants. And at another allotment site, the same thing goes on, although it’s different people, with different seeds and different plants, they are stuck in their own bubble too.
My field trip made me realise there is a risk of becoming isolated within a single allotment site, and you know what, without visiting other gardens and without the access to inspiration I have via Twitter, I’d be growing the same things as my neighbours, the same things Bert (name has been changed to protect the innocent) has been growing on his plot for 40 years (bless him), and nothing more.
There’s a risk of the same thing happening on Twitter, although it hasn’t. After all, at the end of the day, most (not all) of the people I follow on Twitter who have allotments, are also relative beginners and we probably all started out by reading the same allotmenting books off Amazon and Kitchen Garden magazine. If we weren’t careful, we could lead ourselves into a lazy and false security that we are learning from each other and that’s enough.
However, that hasn’t happened and it won’t because, in the short time I’ve been on there, I’ve met a hard-working, diligent bunch of people who love gardens. I’ve seen all sort of idea cross-pollination and posts about amazing days out to discover new gardens and learn from the people who grow them. Just this weekend Annebelle (Life at no27) visited Kew Gardens and Michelle (Bohemian Raspberry) visited Darren’s cottage garden (Darren Larkin), and Darren visited Rob Smith’s Allotment (Robs Allotment) and last week Nichola (Pint Sized Gardener) visited Wynyard Hall Gardens. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AND, I get to read about all of it. Visiting that allotment site yesterday exposed me to a new and different bubble containing different plants, plots and people, who had different ideas on how to do things. Although I was only there for 45 minutes, my eyes were opened and via the magic of Twitter and my new blog I can share everything I learnt with you.
Amateur gardeners have the opportunity, via Twitter and blogs, to mix with not only other amateur gardeners, but also “classically trained” experts in horticulture, seed companies, head gardeners and chefs.
Isn’t it great?!
We, as a community and as individuals must do all we can to expose ourselves to new ideas and plants and share our discoveries with others. It’s so important to visit other sites, gardens and estates to learn new techniques and fall in love with new plants.
It’s important to burst the bubble.
So, now after all that, I’ve almost entirely forgotten the point of this post. Which was supposed to be the highlights of my field trip to Derry’s Field Allotment. Remember that? I might just publish a second part to this post on that later this week.
Here’s at least one thing I saw at Derry’s Field, which I loved: