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Women who garden

I know that allotmenting isn’t particularly exciting. In fact, I wanted a plot because it is an extension to my home. However, one of the things I love about allotmenting is the way that, every time I go there, I feel as though I’m going to find something new.

It has a life of its own that carries on when I’m away. Part of that is due to the snails and other pests. Allotmenting has numerous hidden pests and weeds. But there’s not only pests – there’s also a chance for substantial growth from one tiny dot. Out of a packet of seeds you can grow months and months of food.

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“Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup”, a quote from Wendall Berry, is a good thing to remember when feeling angry at the world. It’s about being able to appreciate something small. It’s a basic thought: the fact that good things exist.

Think how much any allotment changes through the seasons. Plants, debris, animals, compost and carbon sequestration. Shared land. Some of us are skilled at working the land, some not so much, but we all enjoy being part of it – and we take part of it back with us.

Each small seedling we put in the ground expands and grows, making us feel like this is our own homegrown piece of the world. That is the potential of gardening.

Of course, as a woman, I stick out like a sore thumb. This is exacerbated by the fact that I am an apologetically wild gardener.

The first thing I saw when arriving in my plot today was a nagging old man complaining about some unfortunate person’s untidy plot, the last thing I saw before leaving my street was a Stepford wife judging the state of her next-door neighbour’s front lawn.

I know that pettiness exists in every walk of life, but I was hoping that it would be slightly hidden away here, like the frogs sheltering under the lettuces and calendula.

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The allotment is not a safe haven to flat-capped old men, or Guardian reading women. The straight line obsessed old man by no means ruin how fantastic it is to grow my own food. It’s lucky that gardening doesn’t require such strict order.

While we all enjoy growing our own produce, there’s room for different growing styles, in one shared space. So walking through the allotment, I can see all the different vegtable-y ideas, coming together in a way that requires a similar amount of care and attention.

Looking at it this way, our allotments – and especially the persistent plants, the fixed structures, the places dedicated to wildlife – have a nice history behind it. For example, I was bewildered by a headstone that leans against my neighbours apple tree.

I saw that the name engraved on it is the same as my boyfriend’s brother-in-law – that this part of the world is very small. And that there are two things I know: this man loved this plot enough for his headstone to be put here, and that the apple tree belongs to him.

I’m not used to thinking about how we influence the land. I don’t usually think that if I put something in the ground, it can go down generations in terms of consequences. But it strikes me that this is true – and it’s strange to see that in front of me.

When the current plot holder goes, will this man’s headstone remain? Will this plot belong to him forever? Or will more headstones be placed there each time a plot holder dies? Put like this I can really see that I have a responsibility to the next plot holder. I want them to love this piece of land as much as I do.

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Gardening is about change. There shouldn’t be the assumption that you know ahead of time exactly what will grow. When you start to grow things on your plot, you’ll begin to see that there’s something before, perhaps dormant for years. Or something permanent that won’t be removed.

On the one hand you are limited by the constraints of the soil, but on the other and you have a whole bit of land to call your own. Just as every allotment will have a fair few old geezers, the likelihood of finding women on Instagram is increasingly common. I find this reassuring.

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