The allotment has been my salvation and source of sanity during the 100plus days of lockdown. When the Prime Minister told us to stay at home and save lives on that Monday evening back in March, I was straining to hear what he had to say about allotments. Please, I said to the cat sleeping contently on my lap, her belly full of chicken, keep our allotments open…. She opened one eye and made a little farty noise. Cats, eh?
Boris had nothing to say on allotment matters, I think he had more on his mind that my Maris Piper chitting in the conservatory, onion sets waiting patiently in their little net bag, and seeds sprouting in the greenhouse. If push came to shove and allotmenteering was banned, I had a contingency. I could head down to the lot at midnight and plant the potatoes and onions they could get on with their growing while I dug up the garden at home for the peas and beans.
Fortunately it didn’t come to that, lockdown allotmenteering was allowed and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Social distancing is never a problem there, sometimes I’m the only one, with nothing but the birds and badgers for company. The birds sing and the badgers dig up the plants and leave their poo, there’s a lot of poo.
During the past 100 days or so, it’s been a place to find normality. Nature has got on with its thing, growing, flowering, multiplying, and that’s just the weeds. I take my flask and radio, dig a bit, plant a bit, chat a bit to neighbours at the prescribed social distance, or just sit and stare around. It’s as if the world hasn’t gone mad after all and that the times are not strange, they are just times.
Unfortunately this year we’ve all had unwelcome visitors in the shape of the allium leaf miner, or wiggly wiggly as I know the little buggers. I thought my onions were just being creative when they started to send their leaves into curls. But no, the little mothy thing which came to this country 18 years ago, is sucking up the sap of our spring-planted onions.
It’s bad news for the onions, though good news for my work-out regime. I’ve had to dig them all up, which has worked up a right sweat, I can tell you. They’ll have to be burned or put in my hot bin to make sure they are gone, another workout, eat your heart out Joe Wickes.
Looking around the lots, most of the spring-planted onions have the wiggly wigglies, we’ll all have something to chunter about and we do like a good chunter, it’s all part of allotment life. We do like a good chunter, in fact we’re a bit disappointed if everything’s going well, we are from Yorkshire after all, chuntering is what we do.
In the grand scheme of things, the arrival of the wiggly wigglies isn’t a massive problem, just something else in the great Book of Allotment Learning. I for one have just ordered autumn onions, you can put that in your pipe and smoke it, mothy things.