Allotment: Dreams of awards wilt amid the weeds

I was sitting in for Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk’s afternoon show last week when the conversation got round to allotments. The guests included Julia Dyball, the town clerk for Bury St Edmunds and organiser of the town’s allotment awards, alongside wildlife expert John Biglin, who is a one-time Ipswich in Bloom judge. What John doesn’t know about cockchafers isn’t worth knowing.

Here, I thought, was the ideal opportunity to get the inside track on what judges would be looking for at my own allotments’ upcoming awards.

Because there was a time, about 17 minutes in late May to be precise, when I really did think our plot could be in the running for “best newcomer”.

It was a hopeless moment of optimism brought on by too much hoeing and an over-strong mojito.

Conversation in the studio went thus:

“It’s a good idea to leave an old tree stump or pruned fruit tree branches, which won’t compost, to encourage stag beetles,” John informed listeners.

I wondered if the old door abandoned by the previous owner and still not shifted might fool judges.

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“And a patch of nettles is beneficial to all sorts of butterflies,” Julia reminded us.

Could we really pass three square metres of seven-foot thistles off as a wildlife garden?

On reflection we decided not to enter. With a sprig of mint as the only possible entry in the produce category, and the plot more jungle than growing space, the chances of us winning anything would be on a par with Tom Cruise being ordained as a female bishop.

On the allotment earlier this week, we did the thing that should come naturally to marrows but, apparently, doesn’t always.

In other words, we fertilized it by “gently swabbing the stigma (internal parts) of the female flower with the pollen-laden stamen”.

My Co-Allotmenteer took on the role of chief swabber, while I discretely looked away. Even giant marrows need their privacy.

My time was taken up in the polytunnel where Cheryl, our giant tomato plant, is turning into a right bruiser (no fruit but four flowers).

I spent half an hour “pinching out” the rest of the Gardener’s Delight, with one stem proving particularly difficult.

“I can’t seem to do this one,” I complained to the CA.

“You wouldn’t,” he said. “It’s a potato.”

Now, if there was a category for “worst newcomer”, I might stand a chance.