I’m locked out of the allotment, but dream of new life and new planting – The Guardian


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New year, new plot, new soil. We have been exiled now from the allotment site for six weeks or so. Another six weeks – we hope – to go. Locked out from working land in winter, from digging and planting. Just being there. The garden rituals and camaraderie that get us through.I pine for the plot but we are currently persona non grata. A survey discovered asbestos on ours and another nearby allotment site. I suspect it is perhaps not uncommon in London. There were council plans at first to build raised beds but costs put paid to that.In mid-November, planning permission was given for the plots to be covered with geotextile and half a metre of new soil. The earth work we have done is now buried.I walk close to the gate sometimes. I almost press my face to the future. Everything we could save is sitting waiting on the banks at the edge of the plots. Tree and other treasured plants have been potted. Impatient on our return. Structures have been packed away. Fruit cages now without fruit. Poles waiting for beans and peas.In homes around north London, cuttings and saved seed sit quietly. There will be work to do to bring the new soil to life. To invite worms to return. Organic matter to add. At least, for now, it is winter.I wonder about the foxes, the feral cats, the owls, our robins and other birds. Where the other gardeners are. What plans they’re making for the new growing season. We have uprooted fennel and verbena waiting in Howard’s greenhouse. At least now we will have to thoroughly sort the seed.New life will return. The new year will see the return of old and new allotmenteers. Heads full of plans. Plot 29 will be carefully unpacked. Much-loved plants from before will be re-homed. New plots and new planting. New life will return. Until then at least, there is last year’s amaranth seed to sort.Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com
As you well know !