November 07, 2014

Behind The Hedges // The Beans Are Growing Strong

This year is our first year as allotment holders. Tucked away on Sheffield’s hillside, our plot is lined up with 29 other gardens. With keen garden neighbours all around us, advice, tips and help is never far even in the most daunting situations. In Behind the Hedges I would like to share my experience in gardening and being part of a great community that is our little allotment society.

This summer we did the unimaginable in gardener’s eyes: We left our little green space unattended for 5 weeks! Yep, in the middle of summer when watering was crucial and the ripe fruits couldn’t be picked quick enough, we decided to leave it all and fly to the other side of world. Although we took a few safety measures to keep the garden alive (basically asking our trusted Jamaican allotment neighbour to check in every now and then), we secretly readied ourselves to start all over again. In our minds the lotty (that’s right we have a nickname for our garden) would be covered in dead plants and sad, hanging leaves and invaded by slugs upon our return.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. Well, the slugs were around plenty, and the cabbage certainly gone. However, upon stepping into our garden after our return we were greeted by the ebb and flow of a sea of green. Kale leaves as tall as me were slowly waving in the wind (yeah!) and the strawberries were buried under weed (bummer!). We spotted ripe tomatoes and raspberries and cucumbers – and our pumpkin plant, the little seedling that starting off with three leaves, had taken over the whole of the bottom plot, carrying not one, not two, not three, but SEVEN pumpkins.

Although it wasn’t until our eyes fell on the beans that we stopped in disbelief. There, under a huge wave of thick green leaves, our A-frame had collapsed! Collapsed under the weight of the beans! The thick dowel on the top of the frame was barely visible but had clearly snapped in half with plenty of beans still hanging on the stalk. “We couldn’t pick them fast enough”, our trusted neighbour said and informed us that even the Englishman’s parents had to come around and fill their freezer with bucket full of beans.

Obviously we didn’t know what to expect, but this lushness was certainly not it. Yes, we had to count a few losses: The cabbage had fallen to the slugs and so did the turnips, it took us a whole weekend to free the strawberries from the weeds and our peas had definitely seen better days, but the beans, the beans were growing strong. It wasn’t until the end of September that we harvested the last of the beans, before we were finally able to take the A-frame down and repair it.

If there is one thing we would take away from this experience, it is not to worry too much. Surely there is always plenty to do in a garden and we could keep busy every day. But we don’t have to. We can relax and let nature do what it does. Although we already decided on a winter holiday next year, so that we can spent the summer on our garden bench – relaxing and kicking the slugs in their slimy bottoms, ha. Next year’s cabbage is ours!

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