Allotment-holders up close

This is the Chair of my local Allotment Association – Andrew Faulkner. He says all he has to do as Chair is head up the AGM and sign the minutes, but I suspect his wry, convivial nature makes him an ideal figurehead for a bunch of highly individual and dedicated allotmenteers. He’s been an allotment holder since 1983, when he didn’t have a garden so thought he’d get an allotment … his mother became interested and helped him work that plot until she was eighty-four!

Since 2006 he’s been sharing a new allotment with Dick, whom I haven’t met yet, because he’s been on holiday, and who spent around 200 to 300 hours rebuilding the greenhouse on the new allotment. It’s a masterpiece of ingenuity – it has a rainwater irrigation system that funnels off the roof to fill both the water butt and the pond, which contains a newt and has been thronged with damselflies every day I’ve visited. Andrew has a surprise for me, and for his co-allotment holder, he’s installed a pretty little waterlily in the pond. He’s faintly apprehensive about it (Dick says waterlilies are invasive) which is why he waited until he was on holiday – and he’s bought a peace offering too, a new bird-feeder for the allotment, which he hopes will offset any waterlily-related problems!

Waterlilies apart, the two men get on brilliantly, although they are only on the allotment together for about an hour every day, and the allotment shows it – there are melons and globe artichokes, a tiny wildlife meadow, salad vegetables, fruit trees, onions, the famous tobacco which Andrew is growing for his pipe and maybe some cigars and a beautifully comfortable and well-insulated shed where we drank squash while I interviewed him.

It’s not all fun though; in the 1987 hurricane his allotment greenhouse blew away, and its replacement was taken by a storm in 1989 and last year, he had a terrible attack of sawfly on his gooseberries – because there’s no natural predator for them, he had to go and squash each one by hand! Andrew’s been a pioneer of organic gardening, switching from pesticides in 1987 because he became persuaded that there was a logical balance in nature that provided a predator for every pest (except the sawfly!)

What advice would he give somebody wanting to take on an allotment? “Don’t accept a corner plot, garden organically, provide plants used by small mammals and invertebrates so that you’re doing your bit for nature.”

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Monday, June 25, 2007

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