Allotment Tales: Gardening with Jenny Mollison
WHILE it’s true that allotments in their present form have only existed for a little over 100 years, people have been growing their own fruit and vegetables for thousands of years.
I love looking at the remains of monastic gardens in the Borders and there is a rich legacy of walled gardens attached to grand mansions. As the Industrial Revolution gathered pace with the migration of workers from farms to expanding towns and cities, the way people grew their own food took on a different shape.
Lang Riggs is a place-name which crops up throughout Scotland and the north of England, indicating the existence of an earlier type of gardening. I’ve trawled the National Library of Scotland’s town plans for examples of lang riggs. John Wood’s 1819 map of Haddington shows houses in the High Street with strips of land called lang riggs stretching out to the town walls.
Close-knit houses were clustered along high streets and behind them were long thin strips of garden ground. In modern parlance, they were divided into “garden rooms” with different uses. They included an orchard, place for a pig and hens, a vegetable patch and very often a doocot. The ground was cultivated in long beds or rigs enriched with the regular addition of manure from the animals. These days doocots are often all that remain as evidence of lang riggs.
Gradually, the lang riggs were built over. To satisfy the continuing need for families to grow their own food, allotments became popular. The first legal recognition of local authorities’ obligation to provide land to satisfy this demand came in 1892 with the Allotments (Scotland) Act.
Tomorrow I am taking a trip back in time. As part of St Andrews Preservation Trust’s annual Hidden Gardens Open Day I will be ensconced in a delightful doocot in one of the gardens which is a classic example of an original lang rigg. I am looking forward to discussing gardening problems with anyone who wants to drop in there.
It’s been a challenging year on my plot, with wildly fluctuating temperatures and rainfall. I won’t be surprised if some questions arise about early failures with crops. My plum tree was hit by frost at blossom time – but the peas and beans are coming on well. Keeping an eye on night time temperatures is crucial to success when deciding when to plant out tomatoes and courgettes.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west