What Katy Did: Down and dirty

This week, columnist KATY EVANS gets down and dirty on her allotment and uncovers a green-eyed monster while about it.

SPRING has to be my favourite season. It's a time of optimism, of new beginnings, of clearing out your cupboards and revamping your life.

It's also the time when green-fingered gardeners set about planting new things for summer and allotment holders put in seeds ready for summer and autumn.

And now I can count myself among this latter group, having taken over an empty allotment last October.

I don't know what possessed me really. I've never been particularly attracted to anything horticultural. Plants that come into my flat inevitably curl up their leaves and die, unless they are cacti and even those start to look limp after a while.

So I think it must have been partly wanting to try something new, and partly wanting to cut down on my grocery bills.

The main job over the winter was digging, digging and more digging. I also planted some onions, garlic, strawberry plants and a few rows of daffs.

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But the thing is, I didn't actually didn't expect them to grow, so it was hugely exciting a few weeks ago to see that the daffodils had actually sprung up from the ground and were waving their jolly yellow heads in the breeze, and also to see huge tufts of leaves protruding from the earth where the garlic and onion bulbs went in, despite the fact the pesky rabbits had had their fill by nibbling off the tops.

Buoyed by this small success I set to work, with mum, planting potatoes, sweet corn, more flowers, lettuces spinach and grass seed (to make an area for sunbathing behind the shed).

You'd think all this hard, physical work would be soothing for the soul - all that 'getting back to nature' malarkey and feeling in tune with the earth etc - but while this is true, my new hobby has also uncovered a certain undesirable character trait - envy.

You see, at the same time I took on my allotment, the two either side, which were in the same weed-covered state, were also taken up. The one on the left is now commandeered by a woman who runs a youth community project. She and her helpers have divided the plot into around 20 neat beds for each child to work on. All sticks have empty bottles over the top to prevent youngsters stabbing their eyes out by accident when bending over to dig, and all looks very neat and tidy.

To my right, a trio of allotment experts have taken hold of not one but now two patches, and already both are looking considerably more professional than mine. A few months ago I was feeling smug from seeing the weeds sprawled across their un-dug earth but now it's been transformed into rows of broad beans, rhubarb, and some other small plants protected by wire cages.

So, not only is my new endeavour turning my fingers green it's also colouring my eyes an unpleasant shade of emerald as I peer over and ogle the immaculate plot with not a weed in sight - grrrrr.

And although there are three of them working hard to make their plot pretty - whereas I, at present, do the occasional hour every fortnight or so - this is of no consolation for a lazy perfectionist such as myself.

Being a lazy perfectionist, I have decided, is worse than being a true perfectionist. True perfectionists may annoy the hell out of everyone but at least they end up with near perfect results, for whatever it was they set out to achieve. I, on the other hand, want and expect perfect results but don't put in the necessary effort and so annoy myself (and anyone else within ear shot) when the result don't match up to my expectations.

I have a habit of sometimes rushing things to get to the end result whereas better planning and preparation would have paid off. Although mum and I dug the whole plot last year, this has not prevented a mass of weeds springing up. I keep regretting not having dug it more thoroughly but this is what I am to expect, so I am told, and that weeding will a never-ending process. I also planted some the onions and garlic somewhat randomly as I was getting bored at the time and so stuck them in the ground without much care just to get it done - meaning the rows are far from spirit level-straight.

But on a more positive note, on my last visit I was amazed and enthralled to see tiny green leaves growing on the barren twigs I planted in November, given to me with the assurance they would develop into gooseberry bushes. I felt like a fool putting the pathetic, dead-looking sticks into the ground, sure they would come to nothing, but even without any assistance fertilizer-wise they have sprouted!

This weekend I'm dedicating a whole day to digging out the rest of the weeds, which are suffocating my strawberries and overwhelming my onions. And hopefully I'll up-root a few undesired mental 'weeds' at the same time too - starting with envy.

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