I knew that managing the allotment with a newborn this year would be a bit of a struggle. The plan was to mulch all the annual beds with cardboard, plant potatoes (fairly low-maintenance crop) through it, and hope for more time next year. Unfortunately, the dreadful weather was better suited to weeds than to potatoes, and we didn't mulch quite thoroughly enough*. What with that, and the fact that I had even less time than I'd anticipated, when I finally made it back there a month ago it was a jungle.
That left me two options (given that my co-proprietor has no more time available than I do):
1. Put in a really big effort to get it under control again.
2. Give up, hand the keys over, and let it pass on to someone else.
On the way home, stressed and guilty, I began to plan for option one. Rip all the brambles out yet again, put a thicker layer of cardboard down over everything, paths and all. It seemed like the 'correct' thing to do. We've put a lot of effort into the allotment over the seven years that we've had it, and I didn't want to let all of that down by failing to keep on trying.
And yet, and yet. The reality is that much though I have loved the allotment, in my current circumstances it has become more of a dread chore than a joy. Nor could I work out where the time would come from even to rescue it, still less to manage it properly for the next couple of years. And I do now have a garden (easier to find time for due to being right outside the back door rather than a 5 min bike ride away). When I asked myself which option would leave me feeling happier in a global sense, it wasn't the one that involved a herculean effort just to stand still.
So last month, I harvested the last box of raspberries, left a map of the permanent crops for the new proprietor, and handed the keys back. I'm sad, of course. But it's also a weight off my conscience and a relief to my already overloaded schedule to accept that at this time in my life, the allotment just doesn't fit. I'm proud of myself for managing to make that decision without too much guilt.
I'll miss it.
* What I learnt: mulch works best if you minimise the gaps (we had gaps around the edges of the beds) and mulch deeply. If I were doing it again, I'd mulch over the whole thing, paths and all, and with more layers of cardboard.