Allotment: Sharing the rain pain with my veggies

We spent last weekend camping in Earl Soham, writes Georgina Wroe.

So, in common with my vegetable crop, I now have some experience of what it is to live out one’s existence in a soaking wet, wind-battered field.

At no point did I feel either fecund or abundant, so I can’t blame my poor withered plants for their lacklustre performance. (I did however appreciate the need for liquid feed, in my case red wine and hot chocolate – although not together.)

Even hardy Scottish friends, used to precipitation, were prepared to throw in the towel – or they would have been had it not been soaking up water in their tent.

I was determined, therefore, on my return to the allotment, to treat my vegetables with an increased understanding and benevolence.

Hence Tuesday saw me singing to my last remaining four-inch runner bean. Then I spotted them: three strangers on the field, and by the look of them not normal allotment folk.

Their wellies were too expensive, their trousers not held up with bale string, and none of them was wearing anything that looked like it’d been retrieved from a skip.

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The clipboards were the final sign that we were in the presence of vegetable celebrity. Before me the Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Tulisa of home-grown crops. These were the Allotment Judges.

Derrick Holder, chairman of the Suffolk Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, headed the august trio.

“Entries are down,” he told me. “It’s not been much of a year for vegetable growers.”

No kidding, I thought.

“And there’s been blight reported in IP1,” he went on. Derrick is a member of Blight Watch UK, which issues warnings to potato growers on outbreaks of the disease. “And it’s coming this way.”

“Terrific,” I said. Spuds are about the only thing we’ve managed to grow.

“Next year will be better,” Derrick consoled.

Short of a plague of locusts, it couldn’t be much worse. But don’t quote me on that.

* I received a pre-7am text last week, which is usually the time my bank lets me know how advanced my overdraft is. This time the communication came from allotment supremo Dave Cole, who’d struggled, when I’d quizzed him on BBC Radio Suffolk’s afternoon show, to remember the name of a late-sow runner bean. “Equator bean,” the text read. I Google’d it. The bean is so named because it thrives in droughts. I’ll plant them next to the cactus, then.