Normally I would not worry about going away and leaving the allotment for a week or even two, but this year has been different, and we haven’t been away since February and that seems an age ago. During that time Lottie and I have been at the allotments most days and it’s looking good and been a sanctuary for all in these difficult times.
So now Annie and I are off for two weeks and Lottie is off to her doggie hotel. I think she knows as she is not letting me out of her sight. She too has grown accustomed to going to the plot every day and having us both around all the time. With dogs it is all about routine.
So what will happen? Will the plot suddenly become bare and unloved? Will Lottie be lonely? Will the birds, squirrels and foxes plunder all the food?
The site is very lucky in having a good group of allotment volunteers. Maite is one of these diamonds who just loves gardening and helping out. She is on our waiting list but like many just can’t wait so she often helps out at the Canary Wharf Crossrail allotment and rooftop gardens and has also been looking after our Site Manager’s plot while he has been in lockdown. Now she is going to take care of my plot while we are away.
My neighbour, who I wrote about a few days ago, will be back next week but I don’t want to burden her with two plots as she gets back from 16 weeks of lockdown so I’ve asked Maeite to water mine but keep an eye on both plots. It’s back breaking work watering two plots that are full of produce and I often give up counting the number of watering cans used and just turn into ‘robowaterer’.
‘Why are you arranging for her to have your key?’ asks Lottie as she watches Maite walk away down the allotment path.
‘She is doing something for me next week.’ I reply quickly looking the other way.
‘Why were you showing her what to water?’ Lottie gives me one of those doleful looks, ‘You’re not leaving me are you?’
‘Just going on holiday’ I reply.
I quickly move over to the beans and pretend to inspect them noting the blackfly are at last no longer taking over but that the snails are now heaving their houses up the stems to take over and experience skyscraper life. I pick one big one off and send it flying across to the disused bank area. I wonder if he will make a soft landing in the brambles and join the little estate I have rehoused there?
Glancing at Lottie she still has that unfinished conversation look on her face but is now flopping down on her cushions for a nap.
It’s strange to go away just as everything is coming into its own. But that’s life, and it is good to be able to let Maite have whatever is ready to pick for her kind labour.
I look around the plot and wonder, should I have sown those lettuce and beetroot seeds and will she remember to water them? Will she remember to water the vines on the bank and Cape gooseberries on the deck? Will I have any tomatoes or French beans left to harvest? Do Spanish water as much as we do?
I remember a few years ago my daughter looked after the plot while we were away. The sweet corn looked great and nearly ready when we went away and when we returned it had all been picked.
‘What happened to the sweet corn?’ I asked.
‘Had to pick it before it went past it sell by,’ came the response.
I said, ‘Any left?’
‘No but it tasted really good. You should grow more next year.’
I said, ‘I’ll have to, but sow later I think’.
You have to let those who care for your plot have some reward. It would cost a bomb to pay someone and they would still want the pickings.
Well it’s off to sea, sun and friends and see you all again later in August.