National Gardening Week - Looking Back At The Allotment

Our first autumn at the allotment

Happy Easter everyone! I just have time to write this before I spring into action prepping the lamb for the family dinner, what are you choosing to cook?

Like many green fingered people this week, I tuned into The Big Allotment Challenge on BBC2. I must say, on first watching I did feel it was more 'The Great Country Show Challenge' what with emphasis on jam making (from suspiciously out of season fruit? Hmmmm) and a specific flower arranging brief, not exactly what I was expecting! 
It seems i'm not alone when I say the format seemed rushed and far too stylised and simple, after all, allotments need so much of our time and attention, instead they were given an empty plot with brand new top soil. I wanted them to toil over that soil to get results in the first episode, keep it realistic and back-breaking! Our family allotment had brambles and nettles taller than we were, it took a lot of energy to improve it, and now we appreciate our organised plot all the more.
I also found the contestants lacking the camaraderie and banter of those on Bake Off, and I was disappointed the under 30's weren't represented. I did recognise Michelle from Allotment Wars as a contestant, read my 'Grumpy Gardeners' post from that show HERE.

There are 350,000 allotments in Britain, which is a good number considering the demands of hectic modern society, but that still leaves plenty of people who still buy their perfectly even sized vegetables in plastic. One particular irk for me was the radish judging, where taste didn't even come into the judging and only their uniformity and appearance was taken into account. I know these are the traditional rules of allotment shows, but when you have the responsibility of reaching non-allotmenteers on the subject, you need to be putting more effort into the cause for real vegetables! Some critics have said 'The series is basically an allegory for man kinds forlorn impotence in the face of Mother Nature's raging howl' - I think you'll find thats gardening as a whole, and there hasn't been nearly enough fighting against the elements yet, a droopy sweet pea is so far the extent of the drama! (Oh and when they put the sweet peas with lillies in the bouquet?? The horror!)

I thought I'd revisit some photographs from the first year of our Allotment to try and show the real side of taking on a plot, when you re-use and recycle at all times, wage war on rabbits and deers eating your greens, learn little tips&tricks from your plot neighbours over the fence and most importantly, put your blood, sweat and tears into that soil! I have such strong belief that gardening and allotments are effective therapeutic mediums and that everyone should be give a chance to be involved and benefit, so for that reason this programme is great for reaching a wider audience on the matter. If local councils could try and ensure the allotments are available for those inspired to take up the spade after watching, that would be a winning outcome for all!

All I would say is sometimes the bounty is fruitful and you feel a complete expert, other times your seeds are eaten by birds and mice within hours. Sometimes your first attempts at a vegetable feeds you summer-long, other times an old favourite lets you down for reasons you can't fathom. But it's our time to try and work alongside mother nature for the greater good, and very satisfying for the soul it is too!

Lets see how the rest of the show plays out, I only hope someone actually eats a fresh vegetable at some point! If you watched it, do let me know what you think, I could just be a grumpy gardener! Hope you have a wonderful Easter Weekend!



Gillian said...

What an interesting post, this got me intrigued - I didn't watch the show but I will now, on i-player. We don't have an allotment. I'd love one but my husband is not keen, and I know I don't have time to do it alone, not with the kids down there "helping" me... How can anyone judge a radish without tasting it? Nothing worse than a bland radish, they need to be fiery! x

Your allotment photos are so full of atmosphere, they are lovely. x

Katie Bedlow said...

I would recommend watching it, and I feel it will grow on me as the series goes on, but I was just annoyed it focused on all the 'window dressing' with not much substance.

Allotments really do need a large chunk of your week, I wouldn't have one that was more than dog-walking distance because I know it wouldn't fit into the routine for me! But they do pay you back with great satisfaction...once you've beaten off the pests!

I kept seeing people asking 'who eats radishes anyway?' on twitter which baffled me, they're missing out on a fiery crisp radish with lunch!
Thanks so much for your comment! :)