The first autumn slipped by into winter and eventually, following many bleak days, spring arrived. After much back breaking and futile attempts to eradicate the Horsetail that choked the plot, I turned my attention to the less strenuous task of sowing.
(Gardeners' Herbal Soap)
Peony flowered poppies, the seeds and seed heads of which I use both as an ingredient and as decoration for my Gardener's Herbal soap); calendula (of which I use as a colourant for my yellow soaps); and nasturtium seeds were all sown directly into the newly prepared beds. Seed trays with sweet pea, sunflowers and borage, runner beans, peas and sweetcorn took up every sunny windowsill and ledge at home.
A spell of exceptional weather with cloudless, cornflower blue skies meant that at the allotment we were kept occupied with the essential task of daily watering along with the constant battle of fighting the war against weeds, which seemed to multiply as we watched. The carefully sown beds of poppy seeds flourished with a huge array of annual weeds enthusiastically trying to choke the seedlings.
The constant carrying of gardening tools to and from the allotment was not conducive to keeping a clean car interior, so the offer of an old shed was accepted gratefully and it was established at the bottom left of the plot in the shade of the thick hawthorn hedge. The old Belfast bricks that had been strewn haphazardly all over the plot were stacked neatly into a pile alongside the shed, waiting to be laid as a rustic path to the shed door.
As the season advanced and work continued, dramatic changes began to take place at the plot. Gone were the broken fences, rubble, carpets and weeds. The poppies in the top beds along the picket fence burst forth with huge double flowers in deep purples, pinks and reds;
and in front of the poppies - Borage with fragile blue and pink star-shaped flowers.
As the petals fell from the poppies so the sweetpea began to bloom.
Different coloured nasturtiums in yellow, oranges and reds scrambling along the wire fence and through the raspberry canes brought splashes of colour amongst the greenery. The air was full of the scent of the herbs and the sound of the honey bees buzzing as they swarmed around the herb beds gathering the nectar.
Peas clambered over twiggy pea sticks and runner beans began to climb, twisting and entwining around the bamboo canes. Fat pods swung merrily from the broad beans and the plump bright green lettuces remained virtually unscathed from slug damage.
The rhubarb suddenly had a spurt of growth and to my joy both the apple trees had born fruit. To my dismay a few weeks later, the little apples on the Bramley tree dropped one by one, until there were none. "June drop" was the diagnosis. However the branches of the Cox's Pippin tree were laden with fruit, drooping over with the weight of the growing apples.
Raspberry canes that for weeks had disappointingly looked sickly and feeble came to life seemingly almost overnight; the yellowy leaves turning a luscious green as berries ripened surreptitiously amongst the foliage.
It was less than a year since the allotment adventure had begun and already it was evolving into the vision I had on the first day. However I was under no illusions - there was still a long way to go!