Pandemic diary 75: Allotment and art practices

Behold my tomato structure – they are protected on nearly all sides from the wind but will grow up to 2m tall so hoping for a mild summer.

People make allotments look so easy and I'm equally guilty of posting pretty pictures of my plot to the Instagrams. Today it took my almost four hours of back-breaking preparation to get 16 tomatoes plants in the ground.

This is because the soil needed a dig over and de-weed. Then a rake. Then figuring out some kind of structure that creates a little mesh-wrapped micro climate for the toms since I don't have a greenhouse or polytunnel. Then bashing the stakes in the ground with a mallet. Then filling the wheelbarrow with compost. Then planting the delicate little things and tying them to the stake. Then watering. Then wrapping in mesh and tying that on. Putting tools away, bringing stuff home. And no guarantee of blight-free tomatoes at the end of it. We'll see what this summer brings.

I've got another 20-30 plants to go in the ground all with different needs and planting structures (at which I'm rubbish – see tomato structure in top photo.) Here's this year's plan, currently on a three-year crop rotation. (Anna is my occasional plot partner.)

Allotment 2020.

Meanwhile at home I've been sorting out my collage cuts and resource library. I've been resistant to sorting them out as there are cuts everywhere from various sessions last year and many works in progress that haven't been stuck down yet. But it was actually quite enjoyable and I now have a cube of (clockwise from left):

  1. Cuts and tear sheets in organised folders and random boxes
  2. Magazines going back years
  3. Picture books for cutting up
  4. Collage books/inspiration and coffee table books for cutting up.

Here's a close up of the folders. The 'folder of folders' contains sleeves of stuff such as weird backgrounds, limbs, other body parts, vehicles, maps, etc. The boxes contains odd cuts for that lovely random element of collage plus other materials (Quality St wrappers, foil, sofa samples, autumn leaves).

I have a sneaking suspicion that I like the foraging for images and the sorting out more than the actual collaging. A bit like at the allotment I like the digging over and preparation in Feb-March more than the planting, weeding and cropping.

More on my collage project and finished works here for the interested.

I have to go back to the allotment tomorrow to get the peas and beans and courgettes in so I'm now chilling with a glass of white and waiting for dinner.

I'm on one sofa tippity-tapping away, Pete is on the other doing the same. It's like some kind of digital marital ballet. Soon we'll stop and eat and watch a ridiculous TV series.


Today I'm thankful for having an allotment half-plot. This is my fourth year and I nearly gave it up. But it's taught me a lot about how to grow food from scratch. Which is potentially a very useful skill to have during a pandemic.

And there is a lovely community around it – I have been given lots of plants from other's leftovers/excess. Some of the plants, I don't even know what they are. Tomatillos, for example.

I'm feeling very George Orwell – he used to write about his allotment and World War 2, mixing political newss/views among crop growing updates.

Big world events make the headlines of history but there is a world of small mundane or marvellous happenings – such as seeing my great nephew for the first time since he was born yesterday – in between the tragedy.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]