‘Unacceptably weedy’

allotment letterI’m sad tonight. I got this letter today.

I’ve been on this allotment site seven years. I’m not one of the oldest people there, but I’m one of the longest serving. I produce crops every year and often they’re ‘best in class’. In short, folks know I’m serious.

Then I get this.

It’s true that the plot IS weedy and I’ve not been there much in the last month. Readers of this blog will know some of the reasons: in-laws visiting, heavy workload, two weeks of bronchial problems and rain coinciding with my free moments. I certainly don’t deny the plot isn’t looking its best as a result.

But here’s the thing: Anybody who knows anything about my record on this site (and lots do) should have assumed that it was a temporary glitch and not got in touch until much later. Certainly I’m stunned that I’ve got this letter after just a month of inactivity.

I was angry at first. Now I’m just sad – sad that my fellow allotmenteers are so quick to ‘grass me up’ despite my record on site.

I often say that the worst thing about getting older is the growing sense of disappointment with oneself and other people. Today was a big disappointment spike. Disappointed with myself for putting myself in this position. Disappointed by my colleagues’ intolerance.

Of course rules are rules – and you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. So I’ll use this as a wake-up call, and tidy it pronto. If it must be pristine to keep ’em off my backs, it will be. I’ll sleep even less… but I value my plot and am grateful for it.

I’ll not see my neighbours in the same light again, though. They wouldn’t give an inch, and now I daren’t. Neighbours are apparently to be distrusted. So I’m withdrawing from the smiles and the chats.

Which I guess makes us all the losers.

29 Responses to “‘Unacceptably weedy’”

  1. Emma Says:

    I just read your post out loud to my gentleman friend in outrage and he is currently ad libbing a song on your behalf. As struggling first-year allotmenteers we are weedy in extremis. But we are nonetheless proud of what small achievements we have made. I would be devastated to think of my fellow green-fingerers grumbling behind my back. That would never happen because frankly, you should have seen the plot a year ago. Anyway, solidarity Soilman, we are shocked and saddened that you are feeling persecuted and we hope that your health is improved and you don’t let the bastards grind you down, as my Grandma used to say.

  2. Soilman Says:

    You’re very, very kind Emma and I appreciate the support. Thanks so much.

    I’m not one to let anybody grind me down. Rather the opposite. My neighbours are likely to discover, soon, how it feels to be reported for ‘unacceptable weeds’… because of course nobody on an allotment site is ever whiter than white in this regard.

    If they want a no-weeds arms race, they’ve got it.

    As a result, all our lives will be that little bit more miserable. But I prefer to socialise misery when folks try to thrust it on me.

  3. Gwenfar's Lottie Says:

    Good grief – are they serious? One month and some weeds and you get a letter?! I can understand you being upset, apart from anything, couldn’t someone have had the decency to speak to you first? Sorry to hear you have such crappy allotment neighbours. I’ll leave some weeds on my plot this weekend in solidarity.

  4. Soilman Says:

    Thanks Gwen. One of the things that’s made this so hard to take was that seven years ago, when I got my plot, I was one of only about a dozen people on the site. It was half overgrown with brambles and they couldn’t give plots away – no waiting list, no interest. Back then, they were grateful to the few allotmenteers there for keeping at least SOME of it free of brambles and weeds. Nobody ever complained if we let our plots get a bit weedy in high summer.

    Now that plots are popular, of course, the hands-off policy has gone. The newbies don’t know any different, but I’m feeling a bit alienated all of a sudden…

  5. Rachel Says:

    Trying to look on the bright less negative side, is it possible that no-one grasssed you up? The letter says it was a routine inspection – could it just be that? Maybe someone on the committee is a stickler for rules and perhaps the kind of person who’d prefer a letter to a face-to-face confrontation. Committees do tend to attract that kind of person…

    Of course, I don’t know your allotment neighbours or the people who sent the letter. I’m just wondering if maybe it’s not quite as bad as it looks.

  6. Kath Says:

    Oh, bother! Why are people so petty? Life happens, people get sick, take vacation, have unexpected problems with cars, work, relatives…and on and on. If they were so concerned about the weeds they could have picked up a trowel and started digging them up….but then that would have been constructive and apparently that is unacceptable. Next year you should grow so really great vegetable that looks very weedy 🙂

  7. Mal Says:

    Hi SM, You’ve touched on so many points that chime with me that I don’t know where to begin. First of all respond to the letter. State your special circumstances and your intention to meet the “required” standard in as short a time as possible. Invite “the Committee” to reinspect on a specific date of your choosing. Ask them to give you written confirmation that your plot is up to scratch so as to clear your record (Some committees operate a third strike and your out practice – but local authorities are much less likely to actually turf you off)

    As to the background I could go on and on but suffice to say your observations about the higher demand for allotments is seen by some as a justification for throwing their weight around.

    As for neighbours – they cut both ways. People point out the wealth of information shared by the old handsbut I detect a big split between the retired/unemployed “weekday” allotmenteers and their “weekend” neighbours. The latter arrive in a clatter, tear up weeds madly for a couple of hours stolen from their other weekend responsibilities and don’t have time to stop and chat. The former no doubt spend their extra time tut tutting about the latter and deciding when to stick the knife in. Ironically its the weekend only worker who pays the full rent – the others get a 50% concession here in Edinburgh.

    Suffice to say I’m with you on this one SM

  8. Amy Says:

    So sorry to hear about this – the weedy plot letter is always awful but to get one after just a month of life getting in the way is ridiculous.

    Sometimes ‘dropping’ a little bit of bindweed root on a neighbouring plot makes me feel a little better about things – harsh? Maybe.

    A timely reminder for me to get down and clear a few of my own weeds.

  9. Rampant_Weasel Says:

    i agree with kevin and rachel, personally i cant see your neighbours complaining after a few weeks of weedyness, they are more likely to comment to each other ‘not like soilman to be not down much, wonder whats happened’
    most likely to be a parish council jobsworth gone mad with the scrapings of power….
    you could turn this into an experimental archeaology, in medeival times when all other crops have failed we used to survive on weeds such as fat hen.if you dont want to eat fat hen you can just use this as an excuse 😉

  10. Soilman Says:

    Maybe you guys are right and nobody did specifically complain. Which would make me feel a lot better….

  11. Sleepy Sarah Says:

    I’m with the other commenters-I can’t believe that if your neighbours are anything like mine, they’ll have dobbed you in over a bit of extra greenery. I had a baby boy last Sept and therefore haven’t been to the plot more than four times since then but my lovely neighbours dug up my beetroots & squashes and brought them
    round, have weeded and generally been very supportive about the neglect of my site since last year. I only hope you get some clear proof that your fellow allotmenteers are just as supportive which will help to restore your faith in humanity (or gardeners at least). Keep us updated on any progress please-I need to know too that people are still generally “good”!

  12. mediaOrganic Says:

    I think this is a simple issue of framing. The letter is poorly crafted, it’s so formal as to be completely impersonal, and to top it off is signed by the “Allotment Officer”. Huh? Where is the sense of community and common purpose?

    This was not a personal insult. It is merely poor communication.

  13. marmitetoasty Says:

    oh my goodness….. I got a similiar letter this week about my little allotment plot… its only half planted and the rest has got a bit weedy, I tried to explain that Im growing the weeds as an experiment into nature and bugs and wildlife but they were NOT buying it LOL… I have one week to make it weed free or Im off……

    OFF WITH THE ALLOTMENT SOCIETIES HEADS… they know that life has caught up with me this year yet still they moan about a few weeds…. tossers lol


  14. Magic Cochin Says:

    Oh no!!!! That’s the trouble with allotments… you can’t have an off month.

    Brings back the memory of my allotment… we were busy – changing jobs, finding a new place to live, etc – and someone strimmed my onions!!!! yes strimmed to the gound! I didn’t even get a letter 🙁 It still hurts.


  15. Carrie Says:

    darling – SMILE, it irrates the fuck out of those who wish to destroy you 😉

  16. Tom Says:

    I didn’t realise you were quite so sensitive mate. If they are wrong, ignore them; if they are right, sort it out and move on.
    There is a reason that most allotment holders used to be retired old gits. They had a) time b) no life.

  17. Soilman Says:

    Beneath this sneery, sweary persona beats a frighteningly sensitive heart, Tom. You are, of course, right… And I’m trying to shrug it off and just weed the bloody thing.

  18. Mark Says:

    I’ve recently started to follow your blog having just started one myself and find yours very entertaining if thats the right word to use. I understand how your feeling. The thing is what’s frustrating is the letter itself, Its dumbfounding that some one can be so simple minded. If your allotment officer is anything like mine then they probably don’t know the difference between an carrot and a cabbage, Think a Brassica is a type of polish, and that potatoes grow on trees.

    Chin up, look on the bright side its given you a kick up the arse and the motivation to show them once more what your capable of producing.

  19. Compostwoman Says:

    It is a really good job I don’t have an allotment, is all I can say…

    because of weeds and because of the reaction a letter like that would generate!

    Someone with time to write a letter like that CANNOT possible be a gardener….!

  20. Jaette Says:

    If it makes you feel better Soilman, I’d have been booted from your site with the attention I’ve given my plot this year. It was simply drowning in weeds. Well one kind of weed; of the likes I’ve never seen before. Simply terrible.

    I spoke with one of the “weekday gardeners” (I love the dichotomy Mal), and they told me to keep this species at bay all he has to do is “weed for a little each day, about 1/2 to 1 hour or so is it”. Unless you are retired who has time for that!

    So, my advice is do what I did, use landscape fabric and mulch over it. I know… I hate having a sterile feeling plot with just the few veg plants poking through cloth. But if that’s what your little generals want well… I say anything worth doing is worth over-doing!

  21. Tanya Walton Says:

    I know things like this have been happening on our plot of late and it makes me sad….If someones plot is looking a little worse for wear i feel it would be far more beneficial for them to be approached with an…is everything ok…or did you need a hand…as opposed to a ..clean up or get out approach. An allotment is supposed to create a community is it not???

    This is why I keep to myself and just get on with it!!

  22. Beth Says:

    How’s operation clean up going, Soilman?

    I’ve just got back from a week away and the weeds have gone bananas… it’s surprising how quickly everything goes feral isn’t it, especially for those of us trying to do it without noxious chemicals (and perhaps they need this pointing out to TPTB, most of the old boys on my site seem to spray everything to within an inch of its life AND spend all day on the plot, so OF COURSE their plots are going to look better. Duh!)

  23. Jelliebabe Says:

    HA! They’d shit their pants if they saw my allotment! Chin up Im sure its lovely really (well compared to mine!) LOL

  24. Soilman Says:

    Celia: Somebody strimmed your onions?? WTF? What is wrong with these people???

    Beth: Gradually getting on top of it. Will post pix at the weekend.

    Jaette: I’m going with the weed-suppressing fabric. You’re so right. It works and it will stop them moaning. So fuck how awful it looks.

  25. the good soup Says:

    Maybe you could make a sad looking scarecrow and stick it into your newly weeded plot. It would send the message of your disappointment. Make the neighbour who dobbed you in feel guilty. Nothing like a little guilty provocation to make one feel smiley again!

  26. altadenahiker Says:

    Oh god, don’t let them inspect my backyard, not for another month, at least.

  27. Christina Says:

    Oh, man. I shake my fist at your garden neighbors.

    One great benefit of living and gardening in an unincorporated area: absolute, reckless freedom. My dead lawn, weedy veg-bed edges, and shaggy, unmaintained oak are evidence of the lack of rules. I consider myself lucky. Your garden has to look 100x better than mine does right now.

    On another note–my parents use a double-layer of burlap rather than regular landscape cloth, and it looks a lot better and works just as well to keep weeds at bay as well as retain moisture. It has a more rustic, natural look than the landscape cloth.

    Someday, I’ll actually get my rear in gear enough to do something more effective at keeping the weeds at bay.

    I hope you’re feeling better.

  28. Mrs. Media-Organic Says:

    A more neighborly and less adversarial solution would have been for the writer to round up some folks and offer to weed along with you.

  29. Soilman Says:

    Good soup: Great idea! If I had the time, I’d do it. I could perhaps make a less polite scarecrow giving everyone the finger…

    Christina: I’m guessing burlap is what we in the UK call hessian? That might be a plan. As it happens, though, I have a good supply of fabric weed suppressor, so can wheel that out for next year. Looks awful, but hey. Needs must when the Stasi’s in charge.

    Mrs Media-Organic: What a nice thought. Wish YOU were one of my allotment neighbours!