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  • Susan Low

Best in show…

Just about this time last year Agent Dimond and I took possession of a small, slightly scrubby patch of land at the Earlsfield Allotment Society. We’d had our names down on The List for an allotment for a mere 13 years so when we finally took possession of Plot 46B we were overjoyed. A bit like proud new parents, we had all sorts of plans for the future: what to plant, where to grow it. Would we be any good, or would our plants wither and die?

A whole year later, we’ve had a few ups and downs: seedlings being nibbled by ravenous rodents, hungry slugs devouring tender young plants, rapacious pigeons raiding the cavolo nero and leaving us with mere stalks.

Baby plants seem to come with a strange combination of inborn death wish and an overwhelming survival instinct.

Gardening is a skill that you need to learn by doing – and you never know what weird new curveball the weather, pests, weeds or other as-yet-unknown disaster will throw at you.

All that said, we haven’t done half-badly. We even felt proud enough of some of our produce to enter it into the Earlsfield Allotment Society Annual Vegetable & Flower Show, held Saturday 3 September.

Our first attempt at beetroot was all leaves and no root but we had better luck with our second crop. Guy cleaned and primped it to its most gorgeous and we nervously entered it into the competition. We were admittedly thrilled when it was given a Highly Commended by the judges.

I entered my tomatoes in what turned out to be one of the most hotly contested categories, aptly named ‘6 red tomatoes’. The competition was pretty stiff. I also made the stupid mistake of, er, eating the best-looking examples the day before the competition. That’ll teach me.

They may not have won a prize from the judges, but these tomatoes taste incredible, and we were lucky to have such a brilliant first year weather-wise.

One thing that being an allotment-holder has taught me is just how brilliant farmers and horticulturalists are at their jobs. How they manage to grow produce that’s so uniformly perfect, and at the prices they get for what they grow, is beyond me. I’ve learned to embrace – and eat – all of nature’s vegetable imperfections.

We’re already planning what we will plant next year, fantasising about varieties we’ll grow and scheming about how we will outsmart the pigeons.

In the meantime, we’ve got a lot of tomatoes and beetroot to get through…

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