Greg Becker's 2013 illustrated allotment diary. A personal visual record of the triumphs and trials of a vegetable gardener. Detailing the ongoing struggles with pests, the weather, low flying golf balls, and a fear of deep digging.
This is the preview of part of my latest allotment book, which is a collection of many of the gardening related drawings I've done over the last 10 years. Most of the work however was done specifically for this blog which started in january 2011, so its really a bit of a plot52 archive. Thanks again to everyone who contributed with their comments and apologies to anyone who would like to buy the book but is put off by the price, self publishing is unfortunately an expense business! If it helps here is £15 discount link for new blurb customers: plot52 book discount
special announcement: I will be signing copies of my allotment books at the edible garden show at Stoneleigh, 1.30 on friday 15th March, it looks like an interesting show which includes bbc gardeners question time and a wide range of allotment related events, please come along if you can.
When many people think about allotments they probably think
gardening programmes, BBC GW, Geoff Hamilton, Alan Titchmarsh, Monty Don, Carol
Klein, Chris Beardshaw etc. Then they think cloches, spades, trugs full of
compost, maybe John Innes number2, dig it in well and don’t forget to water it
in, the proto fruit bush or seedling that is.
And yes, you do have to think practical in order to grow
stuff. But that is only part of the story of allotments.
To be fair to the gardening media world, attention is often
drawn to the satisfaction and sense of peace and well being one can derive from
growing your own but what about the allotment as a creative space?
Since I was converted to veg growing some 17 years ago I’ve
noticed that many fellow allotment holders treat their plots in a very creative
way. This could be due to the high proportion of artisans living in south
London or maybe its down to the fact that the practical, all rules followed
approach, is not what many people want from their gardening.
Judging by the condition of many plots I see, text book
standards are rarely achieved anyway, and neglect is definitely more the order
of the day.
However, this neglect is often only superficial
and nearly always offers some interesting surprises. Even a plot completely overgrown with
weeds is more interesting, in my view than a neatly manicured allotment where everything
is clipped and kept in place.
Some allotment plots I’ve seen are so cluttered, anarchic
and eccentric that they could be considered works of art in themselves. I am
convinced Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Beuys are not really dead but have quietly
retired to the Gunsite Allotments in Dulwich Woods to continue practicing their
art while disguised as gardening enthusiasts.
My first encounter with a real allotment holder did not,
however bring to mind a famous artist of any description. Wilfred, who
neighboured my plot was very old school and possibly one the most unfriendly
and uncommunicative people I’ve ever met. After about 3 years he moved on, no
doubt driven half mad by my persistent habit of saying hello and goodbye to
which he would occasionally reply with a low grunt.
Although Wilfred’s plot was not artistic or inspirational it
did have its own character, mainly defined by an abundance of oversized brussel
sprouts fed on large amounts of artificial fertilizer.
After he left I actually missed him, but his distinctive
style was soon more than matched by a new neighbour, Sam, who had no need of
fertilizer of any kind.
Sam’s gardening style was so heavily influenced by
minimalism that I’m still not sure if he was really Carl Andre incognito. Every
inch of his plot was covered with thick layers of cardboard, underneath which
were more layers of newspaper. This barrier was not just weed control but the
control of any organic growth what so ever, because all Sam wanted from his
plot was an opportunity for some serious digging therapy. His passion was for
rotavating not cultivating. He loved to dig and when he and his spade were
satiated the cardboard covers would fall back into position, restoring the
perfect Carl Andre look. It was all weirdly, wonderfully conceptual.
Allotments are much more than gardens to grow vegetables,
they are spaces to dream, create, escape and have time to nurture an awareness
of our environment and all its possibilities.