If you've been following my "year in review" posts you'll know that they've been full of things I've enjoyed, and this one is no different, but it's also been a year of challenges. We knew when we took on our overgrown plot that it wouldn't be easy, but I don't think either of us realised quite how hard it would be either.
That said, it's still been rewarding, just a little bit more back breaking and soul destroying than we'd hoped for. And eating produce you've grown yourself makes your back ache just a little bit less, although in my case that wasn't helped by my "allotment tan" that gap between my shorts and my t-shirt, ouch! (It's still brown now!)
But 2018 is a new year, and once again I'm already itching to thumb those seed catalogues and start planning where we'll plant things this year. And I'm determined that this year I'll make that cutting patch...
My allotment year in 2017 was a shorter year, in fact not a year at all as my posts only cover April to November, so there's another lesson for me and that's to get out there digging earlier this year.
If anything I think these two first two photos from my post in April checking in with the plot were to be indicative of our growing year - the celeriac above ground looked to be doing well, but below was just a mass of roots without the lovely celeriac bulb. We'll try again - hopefully with more success - I'm sure.
But I'm grateful for one thing for our first visit last year, and that's one of my favourite photos of the year - yes the one with the lichen, and yes I still liken my lichen a lot!
Later that month I had potatoes chitting everywhere. Almost every surface was covered with them and it felt like the potatoes had taken over the asylum, and that's still true today. We're still eating potatoes we harvested in autumn last year - I told you there was a lot! And that gives me a dilemma, as it's apparent we're not big potato eaters so I should grow less, but then they've done wonders for our soil, so we'll be growing them again.
...perhaps I should look for a different solution, it would most definitely be easier to start eating more potatoes!
By May my broad beans were planted out and our plot was looking semi-respectable again, and the battle of the onions lay ahead of us. We took a new approach to the weeds too and rather than dig them up, decided to try blocking them out with soil in a raised bed.
The next month or so saw me wage that battle with the foxes over the onions. I'd like to call it a truce, but I think in reality they won and my onions never really recovered. It's the second year I've had no luck with onions so I'm going to give them a miss for a bit and hope that when we try again the foxes have forgotten, or moved on.
We did have a bumper crop of strawberries, and later raspberries and later still apples and it's these small wins that made having the plot so worthwhile. Especially so with the strawberries as they were off plants I'd moved over from our garden - most of them free plants too from the runners, and you know how much I like free plants. And strawberries!
The plot next to ours continues to inspire me, but there's also an element of envy too. I know how much effort our small progress has taken, and at times I think ours will never be quite as together as this, but I also know that having it right next door gives us something to aim for. I suspect our neighbouring plot owner looks at ours hoping we'd hurry up and get it sorted, but I'm sure they also know just how much effort that will take.
In August we were back on the plot and making good progress, although there were notable losses - pumpkins, tomatoes and cucumbers, I'm looking at you, but once again we did have some beautiful sunflowers.
In September we were overrun with red and green bounty and feasted on borlotti beans and rhubarb - not together and all was good with the world. Our biggest harvest was later this year than the previous year, but it was much needed and our energy and enthusiasm was renewed. Phew.
But that wasn't the last of our harvests, we still had the potatoes to come. In the end that took us two attempts, and I think we've still got some in the ground (mental note: need to check on these soon) and as I said earlier in the post, we're still working our way through the almost 10kg of potatoes.
So thankfully there were highs in our allotment year, but there were also lows too, and lows that were lower than I'd expected to feel and I seriously questioned if we should keep our plot. There is still so much to do, but we have a plan to bring a new section of it into fruition this year, and I'm hopeful that won't be quite as bad as we hope. The section in question has been covered with tarpaulin since we took over the plot so at least there isn't the grass (above ground) to dig through.
Wish us luck - we're going to need it - and I'll keep you updated with how we get on.