In passing conversation, whenever I mention that I have an allotment, responses nearly always come back in the form of a cosy smile with a soft tilting of the head and a drawn out mewing of "Awwwwwww, really?" It's quite a strange phenomenon actually. Strange because usually after uttering the phrase, the face of the person in question will often melt into this bizarre, beatific repose and dewy-eyed, they will then go on, mumbling incoherently, something along the lines of "Oh, I would love to have a plot on an allotment." And then, they go absolutely dumb on me. Mute, stupefied, carried off to this wistfully bucolic parallel universe, where the sun always shines, where carrots dance, cabbages hug and whole swathes of vegetables sway in unison, singing in glorious chorus as they imagine themselves skipping through the patch with a watering can. This is the point when I usually take the opportunity to deliver a short hard slap, to shake the person out of their stupor and to deliver the harsh, damning verdict that running a plot and growing your own vegetables is "FARKING HARD WORK! NOW WAKE UP YOU FANNY!!"
And it really is hard work, let's not make any illusions. If you work, have a young family, a steady and varied social life, various commitments elsewhere, a nagging and groaning list of things to do at home and in the garden, then finding opportunities to tend to a plot is very difficult indeed. And it's something that we struggle with all the time. Our visits to Norfolk Road are generally punctuated by running footsteps and a clattering of forks and spades, peppered with grunts and whispered swearing. Pops and crackles fill the air as seedlings get ripped from eroding, black plastic trays, wheelbarrows trundle back and forth, weeds fly up in a frenzy and old, gnarly potatoes get stuffed into orange carrier bags. In the background, there is a soundtrack of much splashing and laughter and then screams as a little girl gets admonished for trying to drown her brother in the water butt. No sooner than we've got there, we're back home. The kids get tossed out into the garden to play gladiatorial scooters on the patio and Dad lies flat on the floor in the front room, grabbing a quick moments peace before looking up and groaning inwardly at a crack in the ceiling.
If you are retired, it's a different kettle of fish for then, you have all the time in the world. Well, seemingly so, after all, no-one knows when Joe Black will come tapping on your shoulder and the odds do get shorter after 65. But I do get envious of the older guys on the allotment and their pristine, well managed, abundant plots. And whenever I go down there, I am sure that the grumpy git across from me hums Louie Armstrong's classic on purpose. Equally, I am sure that he is bemused by our smash and grab antics. He wasn't around on Saturday to frown when I arrived to plant our spuds for the year. With my sister's boyfriend I should add, we get on like a house on fire now. Before us lay five boxes of five varieties of tato and we resolved to get it done as quickly as possible. But how? Well here is the thrust of the post, if you own an allotment or grow vegetables at home and are very, very busy people like myself, rather breaking your back, digging drills and the like, simply dib your potatoes into the ground *badoom-tish*.
OK, using the word 'dib', as in employ the use of a dibber, is a bit of a misnomer. You actually need to us a bulb planter but as both are tools that used to make make holes in the ground, I am quite happy to go with dib. So the method is simple, rake your earth over, dib a series of deep holes in a line, at least 13cms deep and approximately 30cms apart and drop your chitting seed spuds in. Cover with soil and when the green shoots start to appear, earth up some more. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Russ and I planted half the potatoes in about an hour using this technique, roughly 150 all told, which was pretty good going. So our lunch break in the pub down the road was well deserved and we definitely deserved that pint. We might not have deserved the sixth one and we'll probably finish planting the rest this weekend. But let me assure you, allotmenteering is bloody hard work.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.