A Year Spent Plotting
I probably should tell you that the best time of year to be at the allotment is when it's harvest time, when you gather up the hard-earned produce and scoff until the thought of another courgette brings you out in a cold sweat. However, on a chilly winter’s morning when the ground is coated in light frost and the air filled with bonfire smoke, an allotment is atmospheric beyond belief. On a day like this there is nowhere else I would rather be - but over the course of the year it certainly hasn’t always felt that way.

On more than one occasion I have had a love/hate relationship with my plot. Back in the winter last year, I dug 125 square metres of soil by hand on some kind of crazed cathartic mission, only to see the weeds return 10-fold while I wasn’t looking. I nurtured and planted more than 50 bean plants with such care and attention and, in return, they callously died. I took a two-week holiday in the summer and returned to mutant veg I had to ashamedly compost. Other low points include being caught having a wee behind my compost heap, and serving fists full of weeds with my spinach as I didn’t know the difference.

Guilt, and the acceptance of it, is one thing I have had to come to terms with while being a plot holder. Some of my allotment buddies tend to their plots daily, but this is a commitment I haven’t been able to make and my plot, sensing my weakness, became adept at emotional blackmail. There cannot be many people who sit through a Year 1 assembly, adoringly watching their child, thinking: ‘I should be netting the cabbages as the pigeons will be eating them. Why does this song have so many verses?’

I mistakenly thought I was in charge at the allotment but instead I was at the beck and call of a fruit and veg dictatorship. I watered, I gathered, I batch cooked and froze, I became vegetarian for about three months and then after all that, I mourned the glut when it ceased. I felt like a traitor in the veg aisle at the supermarket. I have lost count of the number of times I have served fruit and veg with the accompanying sentence ‘they don’t taste as good as mine’ and then, more recently, the angst I go through when I have to say ‘no, I didn’t grow that.’

A new year at the allotment presents new opportunities, new discoveries and hopefully an improved ratio of success versus failure on the planting front. It’s also a time to reflect on the year I’m leaving behind. Growing fruit and veg for my family has been immensely satisfying in the truest sense of the word, but none of this would have been possible without the sage advice I have received along the way. I had not anticipated the camaraderie of having an allotment plot nor the generosity and kindness of fellow plot holders. Heartfelt thanks for all the encouragement I have received both in person and via twitter – it really has made my year!

• Follow Rachel’s allotment adventures on twitter @treatlikedirt

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