The Allotment Ecosystem

There really is nothing better than getting outside and getting stuck into digging to clear away the cobwebs after feeling under the weather. The relatively dry weather over the past few days has meant that our usually water-logged plot seemed like it might be dry enough to dig over without running the risk of sinking knee deep into the quagmire. Side note – yes, this has happened and yes I walked home in bare feet having lost both shoes and socks much to the amusement of Cliff who was watching the whole debacle!

Before I armed myself with the spade, I went to feed the chickens. Maude and Mavis are doing really well although their new favourite hobby seems to be throwing their food all over the ground then refusing to eat it! But I know better than to argue with those two! In the Main Coop, our four big girls were happy to see me with Flora positively relishing getting under my feet as I tried to sort out their treats.

Over in the New Coop, I found some early hints of a friendship developing between Gertie and Bonny. Bonny is definitely quite introverted and is often on the edge of the group. I’m hoping she can help Gertie and keep her company. Gertie is definitely beginning to gain a bit more confidence when I am in the coop and she does like being on my hand when she eats. I think she likes it because the others can’t get too near her and she can focus all her attention on getting at the food. When my arm began to ache, I tried putting her back down but she was having none of it! I suspect that I may have a little feathery shadow in the coop whenever I visit from now on!

Now that all the girls were sorted, I walked back to the plot and collected the spade. The entire plot needed digging but where to start? I decided on the sunburst beds as they are the four smallest and would be the quickest to do. It turns out I needn’t have worried about the soil being waterlogged, it was clumping together, as expected for clay, but I was able to dig relatively easily. I made quick work on the sunburst and moved onto the next bed.

All the effort of splitting up the plot into these beds pays off massively on days like today. There’s something psychological about digging over a bed, seeing your progress spurs you on. Whereas when the plot was a vast expanse of ground, it was so difficult to get it dug over and it seemed never ending! I was getting tired but I thought I would tackle one more bed, the one by the pond. The wooden board which marks the end of our plot has been half knocked over for months, possibly years. Using the spade, I managed to lever it upright and aside from a new stake or two to keep it in place, it looks much better.

Now of course, there was only one bed on this side of the plot that hadn’t been dug over. It seemed churlish to leave it especially as it had lots of weeds growing. A mere ten minutes later, it was done. All that’s left for another day is the three beds on the other side! I was rather pleased with how much better it looked!

As I had dug along the willow arch, I noticed that the plot side needed some pruning. It’s definitely much easier to cut it back when it’s not swarming with insects or you are trying to avoid crushing your crops! The top still needs doing but as the light would run out fairly soon, I left it.

My final job before I left was to go back and check on Gertie. She was huddled in the corner with Bonny. I picked her up and sat with her in the corner of the coop as she had another go at the food bowl. She seemed quite happy to be cuddled after finishing up her food. When she got restless, I put her down next to the water bowl, she had a long drink with Bonny.

As I walked back to the plot, I spotted Bertie. Bertie is a regular on the site and I have seen him on the prowl, ruthlessly dealing with any mice. Usually, he takes one look at me and runs away, assuming I would chase him off the plot. I’ve spent ages trying to get him to come near me but for some reason today, he felt friendly. He clearly has a favourite spot, just behind his ear which he prefers to be scratched. It was lovely to actually interact with him and I hope he will let me make a fuss of him another time.

But I named this post Allotment Ecosystem for a reason. Whether it be cats on the prowl around the site, a visiting hedgehog snuffling in the boundary hedge, a sly fox searching for an easy dinner or a mouse curled up warm in the corner of a nest box. All of them and countless others rely on a complex web of interactions, affected by changes in the weather, sunlight hours and human disturbance. When so many of us have lost contact with the natural world, it’s important that we take time to appreciate the wonders of the world around us. Even if it’s a small allotment site in the middle of Crewe.


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