New blooms to lift the gloom

Allan Jenkins
·2 min read

February can be melancholy, particularly when growing veg. Mornings and evenings are lighter. Snowdrops pop up, white heads bobbing. Narcissi are sprouting, while shy primroses and other woodland flowers won’t be long. On Mary’s part of the plot, her onions, garlic and shallots stand green and tall. But the wind bites cold and wet. The soil is sluggish and, in London, often sodden. I try to wait patiently, but it doesn’t always suit.

Snowdrops pop up, white heads bobbing

There is heart-lifting blossom on the path as I walk. Howard’s field beans have recovered from the snow. They will be worked in as a green manure to help revive the fatigued earth on his mother-in-law’s plot. Soon we will spread comfrey feed, wearing gloves and taking care not to splash any on our clothes and boots. The smell is almost alive.

The site is still largely empty. Like us, the occasional other sometimes feels the need to be here without much cause, except perhaps to keep the plot company, or pick a stick of rosemary, sage, thyme – the woodier winter-hardy herbs. The main task is to get reacquainted with the site, sort some late-winter brassicas for dinner, check on any tools in the shed.

We have been laying ‘insect habitat hedges’ out of cut branches and sticks at the back of the site – ever since we found stag beetle larvae. We are close to the time we would be planning communal work parties and barbecues, but that will have to wait for warmer weather and, perhaps, the vaccine. I miss the sense of community the allotment society has. Everyone bringing food or wine, their homemade chilli sauce. The gossip, the Irish singing, the camaraderie.

For now, we wave at each other from a distance, and make almost formal detours though the few paths. Politeness, as ever, is everything.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com