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Where to Start?

Do you ever just sit there, staring, as the weeds gradually take over, inch by inch, slowly but surely choking the life out of your allotment or garden? You know that sitting there motionless does absolutely nothing to aide your cause, but for some reason, sighing and solemnly gazing over the overgrown mess you have in front of you seems to be all you can muster at that point in time.

The dreams of a neat, tidy and bountiful space you had in your head at the start of the growing season becoming a distant memory as your plot gradually begins to turn into a nightmare!

If you are reluctantly nodding along as you read this then don’t worry, you are not alone.

I found myself doing just this on my allotment visit today and it is definitely is not a fun position to be in – forcing yourself to stand up, saying ‘right’ out-loud to yourself in the vain hope you will be overcome with a wave of motivation.

Thus far 2023 hasn’t been great when it comes to our allotment which is of course thanks in part to our wonderful and unpredictable British weather.

We sow almost all of our fruit and veg in an unheated greenhouse, starting early in the year to give our plants a good head-start before planting them outside when the frosts are a distant memory and the weather finally warms up.

Of course, it’s understood and accepted that this is a very risky method of starting seeds. Tender and long growing edibles such as chillies, tomatoes, aubergines and sweet peppers in February/March is always a gamble thanks to the possibility of late frosts and cold snaps, but a risk which is usually worth taking. Unfortunately, an exceptionally cold and wet April negatively impacted germination on all our early sown fruits which resulted in very poor seed gemination with few seedlings surviving the low temperatures.

June came along and baked us all with a heatwave, keeping us fit with multiple trips backwards and forwards to our water butts and taps frantically trying to keep our precious produce from being fried. Our soil is very sandy at our allotment which means it dries out at an incredible rate. Combine this with our ‘no hosepipes allowed’ rule on our allotment site - keeping our sweet pea flowers, beans, squash and peas alive felt like a full-time and exhausting task.

June was certainly a challenge, but nothing would prepare us for what July had in store!

The subject of allotment small talk would be no longer about the amount of watering we all had to do – no. The topic of conversation would now be - there is far too much watering taking place thanks to the persistent and relentless rain.

I never thought when I was little, I would lay in bed at night and smile to myself when I heard the heavens open and a downpour commence. Any gardener will tell you a good soaking courtesy of Mother Nature is better for your garden than anything we can provide by way of a hosepipe or watering can. Everything certainly is lush and green wherever you look which is just marvellous especially when thinking back to summer droughts and heatwaves of years gone by.

As much as our lovingly grown produce adores this extra watering, so do the unwanted native plants aka – weeds.

These unpopular plants are extremely resilient and will gladly take advantage of this extra watering and humid ‘summer’ conditions, taking over your allotment or garden at an incredible rate.

Seemingly in a blink of an eye, your once neat, tidy and productive plot can turn into an unkempt, overgrown mess which is frustrating, demotivating and extremely disheartening. This not only creates more work for you, but it actually makes you less likely to want to visit your plot because it creates anxiety which is the complete opposite of what gardening should do.

This is the position I find myself in right now and if you are too, here’s how you remedy it (or at least make a start).

Have a plan

Make a list and prioritise areas of your allotment/garden of where you’re going to start. Get yourself a note pad and pen, use the notes section on your phone or tablet or just make a mental note in your head – just make a plan and stick to it. It’s so easy to start something, notice a weed or problem out of the corner of your eye and move onto that. I know I do that lots and have to consciously stop myself from getting distracted.

Bite-sized chunks

It doesn’t matter how big or small the area is you’re tackling, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks or sections is key. It’s great to see your achievements as you chip away at an area doing it this way and it makes the task in hand much more manageable.

Make a start

It’s easy to say, but get stuck into those weeds, regardless of how little time you have. The advantage of this wet weather is any unwanted plants can be pulled out by hand easily. You would be amazed at how much of a dent you can make in those weeds in a little as 30 minutes.

Don’t let it get on top of you

Remember you are not in competition with anyone else, we garden for pleasure, so there ‘shouldn’t’ be any pressure. By letting it get on top of us makes us anxious and stressed which is the complete opposite to what it should be doing for our physical health and mental wellbeing.

Don’t compare

I heard a wonderful expression a few years ago and it’s something I have to remind myself of sometimes:

‘Comparison is the thief of joy!’.

Comparing your achievements to other gardeners is the worst thing you can do. If you have an immaculate allotment or garden neighbour next to your currently ‘rustic’ looking plot, don’t be tough on yourself. Your neighbour may have completely different circumstances to you. They may be retired, work part-time or have lots of extra pairs of hands to assist. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re juggling work, family, running a house and an allotment or garden.

Appreciate those goals you do achieve and remember- you are doing an amazing job whatever you get done or are able to accomplish.

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