It was back in 2008 when I first took on an allotment plot. It was overrun with weeds. Determined to garden organically, I politely rebuffed overtures from a neighbouring plot holder who wanted me to spray the plot with weedkiller. Instead I began the long and laborious task of digging out the weeds by hand. Eventually, when I had completed that task I began to erect raised beds, using old scaffolding planks.
My neighbouring plot holder became increasingly scornful the more my plot began to take shape, becoming openly dismissive of my organic techniques and plot layout. Whilst my organic approach involved enriching the soil naturally and dealing with pests through a combination of companion planting and encouraging natural predators, he used all manner of dubious chemicals to “improve” his soil and “protect” his crops.
After a while he began to refer to me dismissively as a “Circus Gardener”, the implication being that I didn’t know what I was doing.
Despite his disdain, my plot began to thrive as I grew range of rare heritage crops, including several quite unusual fruit and vegetables varieties. My plot even received a “silver” award one year in the annual Worcester Allotments Competition.
But pride of place on my allotment was given to this sign I erected on my shed.
I find that there is often scope to turn a negative into a positive, whether it is in gardening, in cooking or indeed in life itself, and my adoption of “The Circus Gardener” as my alias reflects that philosophy.
I gave up my allotment plot in July 2016, following an unfortunate accident in which I suffered multiple rib fractures, requiring a slow and painful recovery. My horticultural energies are now divided between my own garden, in which I grow a modest range of herbs, fruit and flowers, and the wonderful Old North Stables Teaching and Display Gardens, where I work as a volunteer most Saturday mornings.Follow @selmazebra