A lot to lose

DSCN3728-copy-2© Mike Edwards

In the fifth of a series of articles by plot holders at the Redbridge Lane West allotments – which are under threat from the adjacent gas works – Mike Edwards explains his green-fingered journey

One winter’s afternoon over 15 years ago, my partner Kathy and I went to see an allotment she wanted to rent to test her planting ideas for her then garden design business. We met the council representative and I looked unenthusiastically at the mud and a few leeks on our proposed plot!

But we took it on, and Kathy suggested I might like to grow some vegetables. Why? What was wrong with our weekly organic veg box? Sullenly, I agreed to give it a go.

However, with the wisdom and encouragement of a helpful allotment neighbour, I got stuck into, not only the mud, but ordering from seed catalogues. In the warm spring sunshine, I was sowing lines of seeds and happily getting earth under my fingernails. I felt content, and when the first seedlings appeared, and then the first tasty harvests were on our plates, I was hooked.

A couple of years later, I took over a derelict neighbouring plot and built raised beds and compost bins from discarded timbers I found in skips. By then, I’d seemed to acquire green fingers from somewhere and was growing everything from asparagus to zucchini.

I might be weary trudging back home with bags of onions, squashes and spinach, but knowing that my food miles are nil, my produce is fresh and free of pesticides, and that I’ve nourished the soil for the benefit of wildlife, a spring comes back into my step.

As well as the vegetable areas, after all these years, we have mature blackberry, blackcurrant and blueberry bushes, pear and apple trees, and an inherited fig tree, as well as a beautiful area that Kathy manages for cut flowers, and a wildlife hedge, comprising at least 10 different plant species.

Over the years, I’ve had to deal with a bigger variety of pests as the climate has changed, with warmer, wetter winters, badly timed cold spells and huge downpours, which all bring their challenges. As a result, every year is a learning experience, and I accept that occasionally, there will be a complete lack of a certain crop. I won’t use damaging chemical products to deter pests, as nature’s predators invariably come along to do the job naturally, but the scarcity of certain birds, amphibians and beetles as a result of man’s actions, means there is still a shortage of predators.

I will not be deterred, but the time has come for me to seek assistance with some of the heavier tasks in exchange for fruit and veg, and hopefully, some beneficial knowledge, so we can continue to share the undoubted health benefits of our allotment.

If you would like to assist Mike on his allotment, email editor@wnstd.com

To view the petition to save the Redbridge Lane West allotments, visit wnstd.com/rlw