My love of growing vegetables started at a young age. My grandparents had a plot of about half an acre, most of it was dedicated to the pigs, chickens and occasional sheep that they kept, but there was a small orchard and large vegetable garden, as well as my Granny's pride and joy - her neatly tended summer bedding beds. The vegetable garden was hidden away behind the large laurel hedge that gave their house its name.
I spent school holidays and long weekends with them and after feeding the chickens and the pigs my favourite pastime was to help Grandad in the garden. I spent hours going to and from the massive zinc water butt with a galvanised steel watering can and was often put to work planting potatoes in deep trenches (always following the line) or earthing up the celery that he loved growing and that always did really well in his sandy Suffolk soil.
Summer tea times always included home grown tomatoes, celery and cucumbers with the thick skin cut off and I always remember the musty smell in the large disused garage that was the apple store. There were wooden benches all the way round on which the apples were laid out. Another of my tasks was to remove any that had started showing signs of rot.
My other Grandfather was also a keen gardener, he had a small but productive vegetable garden at the back of his council house and again I was always a willing helper in the many hours that I spent there.
My Dad still tends his vegetable garden in the same way that his father did, but Mum enjoys her ornamental plants and will pull out the occasional weed but does not realy have a passion for it. I suppose for her being brought up in the countryside with a large plot was something that she wanted to escape from. She enjoys town life much more.
My early 'grower' role models were all male with one notable exception, my Godmother. She still lives in her little cottage just down the road from where my Grandparents lived, she sold off some of the land to a neighbour a few years ago, but still manages a medium size garden and also provides gardening services in the village despite having failing eyesight due to a degenerative condition. She has, I think, the greenest fingers of anyone that I have ever met.
Over the past few years I have helped to move the back garden of my house from being a flat lawn to a thriving growing area attractive to wildlife. We have a great small pond created by my partner who has a love of making ponds. Almost as soon as it was filled newts moved in as though some public announcement was made of its presence. I have five raised beds where I grow a range of veg, a green roofed shed and the heart of my industry, my 8 x 4 greenhouse.
I've now run out of space and had been on the waiting list for the allotments about five minutes walk away for the last 3-4 years until last weekend when I was offered my prized 3.5 rod plot!
It has at least a year's worth of weed growth, the ground is uneven, there seems to be a mass of detritus under the weeds, I have had four discs removed from my spine, have osteo arthritis in my neck, a neurological condition and keloid scarring between my shoulder blades that pulls like fury every time I stretch - but what the hell, I am really excited! Nervous yes, but excited. I am trying to keep calm and realistic, and instead of picturing a thriving green plot, I am trying to keep the vision of a mass of black plastic in my mind. Better people than me have given up by trying to do to much too soon and become frustrated by their lack of progress and losing battle against the weeds.
Onwards though, the campaign starts at the weekend.