Monday, 27 February 2012

Garden Makeover

Our back garden has been untouched since we got our allotment in May 2006 - so that is six years of neglect.  And it really shows.

The trampoline has completely killed the lawn.  The climbing roses have gone wild with 12 foot demon-stems shooting out through the trees, the honeysuckle has tried to choke a small apple tree and the escapee bunny rabbit has eaten pretty much everything that shows any sign of being green and leafy.

And worst of all the garden has become a dumping ground for various broken down or redundant items like our old tumble dryer, the children's outgrown slide and our cracked roof box as well as multiple chipped, cracked or broken plant pots.  In fact it closely resembled the local demolition yard.

I have taken plenty of "before" photos but I am far too ashamed to show them here.

But finally we have a plan.

The lawn has been destroyed and we either need to completely re-turf it or remove it altogether and we have decided to go with the latter option.

The garden isn't huge, and even with digging up the lawn we will only have a growing area of about 7 metres by 4 but the plan is to have a curving gravel path to the shed/playhouse with two large beds either side that we are going to grow as an ornamental kitchen garden - a mix of flowers and vegetables and fruit.

We have gone back in time by ordering the lovely Geoff Hamilton's old TV series - Cottage Gardens, Paradise Gardens and The Ornamental Kitchen Garden on DVD - programmes that were last shown in the 1990s and were our very first inspiration to garden when we were newly married.  The poor little Lockets are completely fed up with us watching episodes back to back but they are so gentle and charming - and very inspirational.

But the biggest questions is do I give up the allotment?

I have been struggling to keep up with the work up there for the last couple of years - especially when I was unwell.  I had let another lady use part of it last year but she has now left so I have the whole plot to look after and it is huge.

When we first got the allotment the children were much younger and used to love coming up there for the day because a lot of my friends took allotments on the same block so there was a gang of about 9 children happily playing good old fashioned outdoor games for hours on end.

Now, apart from Dot who is quite keen, we have to cajole and occasionally insist that the children come with us and it is rarely worth the effort because they are unhappy there and just want to go home again.

Obviously I could go on my own or with Dot but that excludes the other children and means that I don't get Mr Locket's help too.  And really I need all the help I can get.

When I think about the allotment I feel overwhelmed and burdened because I know that to do it properly I really need to start all over again and really "bottom it" - the paths need clearing, the borders with my neighbours need sorting, the compost heap needs to be cleared of nettles - all before I start to try to dig the beds.

So the answer would be to let it go.

But I am worried that if I do I will regret it.  The waiting list for an allotment is so long that I wouldn't get one back again and certainly not one on the same block as my friends so if I let it go then that's it for good.

But maybe I need to accept that I am not really a passionate gardener. I like gardening and I love growing vegetables but I am definitely a fair-weather-gardener and as we have to drive 2 miles to the allotment I can't easily pop there for 5 minutes in the evening to pick a crop of peas for supper for example and I often end up with unharvested crops that go to seed.  And what I really like doing is sitting in the garden with my knitting or a book!  If we leave the allotment and concentrate on the garden at home I will be able to have somewhere really nice for the whole family to enjoy on a daily, hourly basis without constantly having the guilt of knowing I'm not looking after the allotment OR the garden properly.  Another consideration is the fact that all three children seem to be quite enthusiastic about the garden project and have been out helping us this weekend - something they haven't done for ages.

Sorry, I'm going on - but I am trying to work out what to do.

Part of me wants to just let go of the allotment and breathe a sigh of relief and move on and part of me is terrified of letting go.

What would you do?


Anonymous said...

I'd shower lots of love and care on your own little garden and make it into a haven that you can open your back door to at any time, or glance out of your sewing shed window and watch all of the wildlife which will visit. Somewhere you can potter and spend time with all of the lockets. Mostly I'd say follow your heart and from what you've written I think you've more or less decided - and I personally think it's the right decision.

periwinkle said...

I was in a very similar situation to you Lucy, I had the allotment that I really wanted to do but no-one else in the family did. Then I got my little job which meant even less time to spend there by myself and so I used to worry about it and feel really bad that it was just sitting there and maybe the other allotment guys were tut tutting about it just sitting there so I gave it up. It was a really hard choice to make but I do feel better for it . At least you still have some 'dirt' area where you can grow veggies etc and like you say it is now right on your doorstep where you and all your family can enjoy it... plus it's easier to get to the loo :-)

Thimbleanna said...

Boy, that's a real dilemma Lucy! I will say that you generally don't tend to get lots more energy as you get older, so maybe it's time? It sounds like you're lucky in that you'll still have a place where you can grow some vegetables and have an enjoyable time outside? Good Luck with your decision!

Stephanie Pettengell said...

Let it go Lucy, there is a time for everything in life, you have to grow and move on. If you decide later that you need more than your own special garden then you can move on again to something new. Achieve with what you have, don't struggle to do everything. love to you and keep happy and smiling.

rachelmp said...

I would say do what takes the pressure off you, so you can spend time doing more of what you want. If there is a big waiting list for the allotments then maybe it will give someone else a lot of joy

JB said...

I am confused as to why you took up an allotment when you had your own yard already. 2 miles to do some weeding would have ensured many weeds went to seed and multiplied. Stay home and turn it into a productive paradise. Much easier to cajole some husband help and it will inspire the little ones. 7 by 4 metres is not a large space so it is totally do-able and it can't get to out of control. Good luck with it all!

Christy said...

Spend the time on your back garden. Make it a haven, there's so much you can do in a small space. It's something you can look right out the window and enjoy. Plus someone might really like to have your allotment and have the time to spend there.

Lil Bit Brit

French Knots said...

I never seem to get much time for my allotment so I know what you mean about feeling guilty. Would it be worth asking the allotment committee about sharing the plot with someone on the waiting list just so you feel you've explored all the options?
My lawn is a disaster area, the trampoline has killed some of it and the gerneral wear and tear/football has finished off the rest but I think I'll try to save it as it's nice for my youngest to play on.
You'll reach the right decision.xx

sandra said...

I say let the allotment go and concentrate on your yard. I think you will be much happier.

trash said...

Let it go and stay at home Locket. Thus spaketh 'The Great Gardener'. (I listen to GQT so I know everything!!)

Gina said...

I would give up the allotment and concentrate on the garden. I manage to grow plenty of veg in my garden. Good luck with your project whatever you decide.

dottycookie said...

I am in a similar situation. We had actually decided to give up the allotment, but had a change of heart and we're giving it one more go - mainly at the request of the children though so not quite the same thing.

If it's adding to stress, then ditching it sounds sensible but I really do unstandardised your reluctance. We have tried growing veggies in our back garden and it just doesn't get enough light so for us, giving up the allotment would be the end of growing our own.

loulee said...

Sounds to me like you already made up your mind. :-)
The garden may be smaller than the allotment, but it's easier to access for work and for pleasure. Just think, no having to climb into the car to get a few peas, they will be on your door step. No getting there and finding something has gone too far. You can potter about to your hearts content, or just sit and knit.

julie said...

I understand completely your dilema and the sense that you might regret it if you give it up but it sounds like this is the main reason that you are holding on to it and that there are lots of other good reasons on the side of letting go. I think your plans for your garden are wonderful and the best thing about growing in your garden is that you can wonder outside in your jammies first thing on a summer morning before everyone else is up and pick whatever is ripe - you don't need to get dressed, pack things to take with you or plan because it's right on your doorstep. It sounds like restoring the garden will be wonderfully inspiring for you but a lot of hard work so maybe giving up the allotment would be a good thing? I really look forward to seeing your garden develop - I think it will be beautiful xxx

Marie said...

I tend to believe that making the decision is the hardest part. We can always learn to live with the outcome. If it were me I would probably (sadly) decide to forgoe the allotment and concentrate on the garden patch. If nothing else, just think how much of a lovely surprise it would be for the next person on that very long waiting list to get a call to say there is a plot if they want it. Much less stress for you, much more enjoyable for the family all round and you've made someone else's day. Sounds like a win-win to me.


Marie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spinningfishwife said...

I am in the middle of making exactly the same sort of decision. I've had my allotment almost 16 years but my health isn't as good as it was and the plot is now a bit of a millstone. So I've decided to have one last summer there and at the same time, I'm turning over some of my back garden to vegetable beds. Only four, compared to 26 on the allotment, but it will be easier. And having a transitional period means I've got time to plan, and take cuttings, and get plants estasblished in the garden properly. Can't live without rhubarb!
It's still a wrench though. I love my plot. So I understand where you're coming from absolutely.

Ali said...

I think letting the allotment go sounds the wiser option - and I am sure that if you do feel a hankering for allotment time, one of your friends would be pleased of the help on their plot!

Ypor garden plans sound wonderful (and plenty of work to keep your hands muddy!)

Julie said...

Oh, what a hard decision. I think you have to go with your gut feeling with these things. We don't have allotments locally so I can't even dream about joining a waiting list.....still, not sure where I'd find the time, and I guess that is the problem you have too. Juliex

Adam Thomas said...

your explanation is good for garden decoration....thanks
Turf Manchester

Helen said...

My advice . . . move on and let it go.
Life is hard enough without the backbreaking work of an allotment. It doesn't seem to me, from what you have written, like your heart is in it anymore? Plenty more challenges out there to take on. Allotment . . been there done that!!
Lots of love Mrs Locket

wonderwoman said...

if i were you Lucy i would let it go, when something brings more problems than happiness its time to move on. I think your new back garden sounds an exciting project and its great if the children are keen on it! xxxxxxxxxxxx

ladydi said...

You will be amazed at all the things you can do in your own back garden. I agree that that's where your time and attention should go, and you'll have your own paradise!

Twiggy said...

We have sorely neglected our garden in favour of the lottie but like you only have so much time. In your shoes, I'd work on the garden and have a ittle veggie patch in it.
Thanks for your lovely comments about my sampler - what a labour of love!
Twiggy x

Suzie Sews At DOTTY RED said...

do what your heart tells you. Funny how at different stages of our babes lives we want and do different things. When my babes were littlies I baked all the time and the house always had people siting round for tea...I can go weeks now without baking a cake and the kitchen table... well most of my friends have gone back to work and are past the chatting over a cuppa stage. Ahhh as for my garden.... no comment!!!!

Thomasina Tittlemouse said...

As someone who likes the idea of gardening but doesn't have time or make time to do it properly I have a lot of sympathy with you. I think you'll get more satisfaction from keeping on top of a small patch than constantly feeling guilty about a bigger one. And think of it this way, if you give up your allotment you will make the day of someone who has been waiting on the waiting list for one for ages! Happy planting anyway!

silverpebble said...

Hi LUcy, Just taking a break from the making to pop in and say I reckon focussing on your own garden is a top plan. Having a little green patch you can step into a sit and knit in is invaluable I reckon. I think the crops would be less likely to go to seed and just scattering a few kinds of annual seeds like californian poppies, marigolds, candytuft etc would make gorgeous colour in just two or three months. Those are my thoughts anyway - Can't wait to see what you decide!