The miracle of the allotment

My radicchio - how to grow it is a mystery to me but it seems to be OK!

My radicchio - how to grow it is a mystery to me but it seems to be OK!

went to the allotment this Sunday for the first time in two weeks.  With the days getting shorter after work visits are out of the question and I have so much I want to do during my precious two days off a week that there is only time for a visit of a couple of hours, normally on a Sunday morning.  Last week my visit was cancelled due to thick fog which lingered all day, this Sunday I awoke to a heavy downpour and thought there would be another aborted trip.  However the sun came out and so off we went.

It is ‘we’ as my eldest son was building me a raised bed and had prepared all the wood a couple of weeks ago and was just waiting for an opportunity to install it.  As he is a busy chap with lots of voluntary commitments as well as a full-time job and a social life I have to grab his time when I can.  So, as normal, we were the first at the site early on Sunday.  However, our solitude did not last more than a few minutes as my parents arrived.  In the past this has led to mixed emotions as at  the beginning of the year they helped me tame my plot but then it was difficult to regain ownership.  But this has all changed now and my mother has acquired half a plot of her own. I cannot begin to explain what a difference the allotment makes to her.  As I said to her on Sunday asking them to help me clear the site in February was the best thing I did this year even if it did send me mad at times.  Many people say that gardening is good for you health wise both physically and mentally and although I have always endorsed this view whole heartedly seeing the effect on my mother this past year has been wonderful and I suppose humbling to watch.

As long-term readers of this blog will know my sister died suddenly just over two years ago.  I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a child, its something no parent should experience and I watched both my parents visibly age in front of me.  They tried in their own ways to cope and for them being busy was one way, it kept the mind occupied but there is only so much decorating you can do and in the winter it is difficult to keep busy in a small suburban garden.  I didn’t realise when I reluctantly asked for help that I was actually helping them.  They had a purpose each day to get up and tackle the allotment for an hour or so.  They found themselves getting fitter and had a sense of purpose in helping me achieve a goal.  As the new site started to acquire more plot holders  they met new people, some who they got on very well with and even told about my sister which I thought was a very positive step forward.  They were intrigued with the politics and all the comings and goings and gossip especially about the ins and outs of what was happening at the old site where many of the plot holders were having to move from.  Personally I’m not interested in all this side of allotment life though it can be amusing to listen to but this new cast of characters kept them intrigued for months.

A small corner site appeared only enough for a few potato plants and some brussels but the committee members agreed to Mum having it as my site was so immaculate they knew she would look after it well. Having an engineer as a father meant that their small corner soon had a raised bed, path and recently piped drainage!  They kept going down and chatting to people, there were other available  bits available but at the other end of the site and my parents like our end, they like the people there so they declined.  Mum went on the council waiting list and prepared to wait.  I should  say at this point that my parents have never been keen veg growers apart from some runner beans but it was the whole aspect of the site, surrounded by open fields, the exercise and people that Mum loved.

Recently in a move to get all the plots up and  running they were asked to help out  by looking after half a plot and on Sunday they were starting work.  Dad was there with his strimmer cutting back a years worth of weeds and Mum was busy digging.  They are two plots from me, near enough for privacy but close enough for shouted queries, such as “what  sort of raspberries should I have?”, “I’m thinking of growing Pentland potatoes”, “Can I leave my rhubarb on your site for the coming year” etc.  The joy on my Mum’s face as she set to (at the age of 73ish) on a quarter plot covered with thick weeds was wonderful and made me quite emotional.  She is visibly excited about it, not bad for a self-proclaimed pessimist.  She has planned what she will  be growing.  Added to this she picked her first sprouts from the old corner  bit which she will be giving up and we had to admire them.

So if  anyone ever disputes that gardening is good for you I would tell them they are talking complete tosh.  Gardening is not only physically good for you but, and more importantly, it is mentally good  for you and has helped my parents, particularly my Mum, move a little forward in coping with their grief. As Mum says she has a purpose when she gets up now  and something to distract her.

This was not the post I meant to write when I started typing I was going to tell you about my leeks appearing to have recovered from leek moth, my nice raised bed and my tiny cauliflower. But this is the post I have found myself writing and it is good for me to remind myself how important this is to my parents and how when they are pestering me with questions about watering, weeding etc that I  should try to be patient and thank whoever for giving them, and me, this helping hand forward.



21 Comments on “The miracle of the allotment

  1. Helen I am so happy to read this post.
    Anything that can keep your mom busy and interested and turn her thoughts from her grief is good indeed. Believe me there is NOTHING like loosing a child, it takes YEARS just not to cry at the slightest memory.
    My garden might also have saved me.

  2. What a wonderful post. Giving them something to focus on. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. I loved every word of this. And, I’ll confess I shallowly tuned in when I saw Radicchio. I spent time in Italy earlier this year and they boil the Radicchio with risotta, turning it purple. And, delicious. But, back to the folks. This may not have been the post you planned to write but it was goodie just the same.

  3. I love it when I start to write something, and an entirely un-thought of idea develops and takes over. Writing really does help us sort out our thoughts and ideas. And it usually starts with the garden….

  4. Gardening can be therapy, exercise and a whole new world of social interaction. Heart warming post, Helen. All the more so as it wasn’t what you set out to write!

  5. I’m glad you ended up writing this post I found it very heart-warming – gardening in whatever form is food for the soul and everyone gets something different from it.

  6. A most moving post Helen. You must be delighted that your parents have that sense of anticipation and looking forward again, which comes with tending to an allotment or a garden. Your radicchio looks most resplendent too.

  7. What a lovely post (recommended by Alys Fowler on twitter this morning)
    I’m so pleased that your parents have got their own allotment. New friends, fresh air, exercise….being close to their daughter – it sounds as if this really has been a year of emototional growth as well as getting the veggies growing.
    Also for me, time goes by so quickly at the allotment I find…. another plus point for your parents I would think…in the early long days of grief, time can by so slowly and painfully.

    I know that sometimes I’ve gone off to the allotment in a mood…a few hours of furious digging helps me let off steam…and jsut seeing new lovely stuff that I will soon be able to eat always makes me feel much better !.

  8. There are so many people whose lives have been saved by gardening: I’m always amazed by the power of the simple act of growing plants. It’s hard not to be evangelistic about it as most people can’t see what you’re on about – until you persuade them to pick up a trowel and get stuck in. Thank you for a lovely, moving post Helen – you’ve reminded us what it’s all about.

  9. When gardening = work it can be a little hard to maintain your passion, especially in winter. However, this is a wonderful post, it really made me smile, remember why I do this for living, and how lucky I am!

  10. Lovely post, and good reminder of the therapeutic power of working in the garden. I’m glad that your parents have taken to allotment life so well, a timely gift for them now that your plot is up and running in your capable hands.

  11. Oh, this is such a lovely post! I’m so pleased for your Mum – and pleased for you, too.It seems the perfect solution – you can share the experience, and spend time together, but not be on top of each other.

  12. Wonderful post!

    Perhaps it is the creating of new life and nurture it that is so healing? It was after losing our first baby and then a longish wait to have another that I really threw myself into gardens: reading and offering help to friends. I did not have my own at that time, but stored up my enthusiasm.

  13. What a lovely post – and what a wonderful way to confirm how life-enhancing gardening is and can be… and gardeners, too.

    (A friend of mine lost her partner very suddenly, and I swear the only thing that kept both her and the kids going was the allotment. Everyone rallied round to help, and they made friends of people they’d not really known before.)

  14. What a fabulous post Helen, so wonderful the way it has turned out to be such a good thing for them – and I’m also glad you get company but also ownership of your plot. Pretty close to perfect.

  15. This post moved me to tears. Yes, gardening serves the gardener as much as the gardener serves the garden. After all, it has been proven to be psychologically and physically therapeutic. Besides, gardeners are such wonderful people to befriend because they understand the meaning of nurturing and cultivating.

  16. Pingback: Three years on | The Patient Gardener’s Weblog

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