Plotholder focus: Mary

Mary (right) with Angela (left)

Mary, or ‘Mary Muck’ as she’s affectionately known, has had a plot on Craven Vale since March 2019, after a long, five years on the waiting list. Living in a flat without a garden, she couldn’t wait to get her own outdoor space and get stuck in to growing organic, fresh and flavoursome food, as well as cutting down on wasteful ‘food miles’.

Since getting her plot, Mary has been mainly growing the things that she and Angela (her ‘Mrs’), like to eat, including beans, tomatoes, courgettes and potatoes, but has gradually become more adventurous as her growing space and confidence has grown. This year, for instance, she’s looking forward to giving melons, crystal apple cucumbers and kohl rabi a go. Let’s see how the experiment goes!

What Mary is most proud about though are her chilli plants that have thrived in the plot’s polytunnel and, in her words, “make a stonkingly hot chilli sauce!” These are something she’ll definitely be planting again this year.

Some things she hasn’t had much luck with over the last year though are her alliums:

Arghhh! The blummin’ Leaf Miner got into all of my leeks, garlic and onions. They were ruined, but you live and learn!”

Despite this setback, Mary clearly enjoys the process of cultivating, and also appreciates the sociable benefits that having a plot can bring:

It gives you the chance to meet all sorts of people from different parts of the city, it’s sociable and co-operative, with the opportunity to share ideas and cuttings, seedlings, etcetera. I’ve met a group of new friends who I’d never have socialised with in my usual stomping grounds. It’s broadened my friendship group, even if all we talk about is growing and the odd bit of gossip!”

Although generally positive about ‘allotment life’, Mary does have one thing that really annoys her:

“The unlet or untended plots make me unhappy. There are so many people who are in the same situation as I was, having no garden and sitting on a waiting list for years, while the untended plots get more out of control. I was fortunate that my plot wasn’t too overgrown, but for any new plotholder that would be very daunting. We must work to keep allotments alive and part of society – if we don’t use them, we’ll lose them.”

Mary’s plot may not have been overgrown, but her ongoing challenge is to remove a lot of the rubbish that was left on the plot before she took it on:

“I am uncovering a lot of junk: The remains of a glasshouse, countless big sacks of glass, bits and pieces of metal and… a mystery mound, impossible to penetrate through sheets of shattered glass, thick plastic matting and thick bed covers. I dread to think what lies beneath – maybe the local coppers might come and dig over that patch for me?!”

Having had her plot for two years now, Mary has five tips she’d give anyone making a start on their own plot:

1. Set up your sitting place and your tea station early on – you need to be able sit down and admire what you’ve done and where you are from time to time.

2. Don’t rush to develop your plot, focus on working on one area at a time.

3. Say ‘hello’ to everyone! The Sunday Hub meet ups (in normal times) are a great way to meet other plotholders too.

4. Enjoy yourself! It’s not a competition.

5. Appreciate the wildlife on the site, both animal and human!

Thanks to Mary for answering our questions and sharing information about her plot.

If you’re a plotholder on Craven Vale or Whitehawk Hill Allotments and would be happy to share your experience of gardening, then get in touch!

Published by Nick

A plotholder on Craven Vale Allotment since 2010. I'm particularly proud of my expanding vineyard, which in a good year creates litres and litres of red and white wine! I love our site for the fabulous views over the sea and Downs, as well as the wealth of wildlife that can be found here. It really is a bit of countryside in the heart of the city. I feel very lucky to have my plot.

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