The allotments were first brought to our attention in an article placed in the Carrickfergus Borough Magazine 'Compass' (issue 16); a pretty good quarterly. Once my Husband saw this, he was on the phone and e-mail to the Head of the Parks and Countryside Section- Stephen Daye. After filling in an application form on-line, we received an anxiously waited for conformation letter on the 14th April - we had an Allotment - A24(a); a half plot. It is 13 x 6.5 meters sq and costing a mere £35 to rent per year. We were very happy.
I think it was that day, or before that let's be honest, that we visited the site off the Beltoy Road. The Allotments were, a field, just a plain old field....
As you can see there were some mown lines to delineate the plots but that was it, eek! It looked so big. In this picture, apart from my shadow, Andrew is over by our plot if you can see him, hehe. Follow my shadow and go left a bit, that's A24(a). On the other hand you can click on the photo and see it large scale.
It's funny looking back now, that the council hoped there would 'be a good response and [they expected] to have all 36 places filled' by the end of April. There are at least 96 plots (including whole, half and quarters) now and more are planned. We already have a Field B and C and there are talks about a Field D being given over to Allotment-ing in the near future.
Anyway, it wasn't long before we got our key to the main gate (with complemetary Key ring) and we were able to get started. Many plot holders decided to take advantage of the free ploughing that the council had arranged for us. Have to say it was done very well, however, Andrew and I decided to do a raised bed system instead. So with trusty spades and forks (and some sexy new wellies) we got started on some back breaking work - of course there was moral support from Maggie our dog. During this stage everyone, apart from being knackered all the time, lost a good wee bit of extra weight and with some lovely weather, we got allotment tans, ie: our arms were tanned from t-shirt sleeve to glove. It took a good long time before the beds were dug out, framed with wood and bulked up with soil and compost but it was worth the effort I think.
May was mainly all about digging and more digging and more digging. We also met some really nice fellow allotmenteers and started to plant fruit bushes and sow seeds. We encountered problems with water availability, especially as it was a gorgeous month - rain free. Though water taps were installed we had to resort to other methods, as there was a problem with the mains, a valve or something (I'm a girl, I didn't pay enough attention). We were lucky in that there was/is a stream beside the plot which was a life saver for a long time, then towards the end of the month, the council delivered water regularly by bowser (is that the right word?). It was a constant source of grumbling yarns with other people and friendships were made over quiet moaning sessions (so not a bad time really when we look back).
Apart from that the only interesting thing was the arrival of our lovely shed. Sheds were slowly popping up all over the 2 fields at this stage, which was good as that glorious weather was beginning to become temperamental. We got ours from Castle Sheds, only a little one but bought for us by Mamma G and big thanks go out to her. An allotment plot just has no soul without a shed - I think. I even made curtains for it.
June and July
Should be enough to say that from here we were basically just growing a lot of veg - potatoes, broad beans, runner beans, spinach, lettuces, radishes, peas, scallions, chillis, sweetcorn, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, squashes, pumpkins and broccoli. We did try a few herbs but not much luck, apart from the mint which as everyone knows- is harder to kill than grow. I did think ahead and it's in a pot.
One or two things we did accomplish- was the guttering system and water butt round the shed and Andrew made a soild oak cold frame, with thanks to Paul whose misfortune with a nice wooden floor was our gain.
By the way the water issue is fixed now - hoorah! Though most of us have invested in a water butt, from various places (though the council sold some for £10 at the Open day which was great, we have one, in the photo up there).
Well that's you up-to-date enough, the blog will start properly from now...