The allotment has friends near and far

The corn is green and taller than ever before. It’s even towering over Howard. This year we are growing a new source of Painted Mountain seed from Ukrainian Plus, a couple of heritage Cónico kernels from chef Santiago Lastra at Kol in central London – a Mexican maize more usually ground for masa. So far it has acclimatised well in the top corner. We have hopes of multicoloured cobs.

The allotment foxes have finished off the tagetes, rolling through the flower bank, digging holes in search of treasure. This sowing had taken all our saved seed, but a miraculous gardener tagged me into an Instagram post of his Ildkongen flower. And now he’s kindly sending us a fresh supply from his stash.

There’s more. This year, we have our first Mexican cosmos, tall, cheery, with bright faces of an astonishing orange. They are taking over now from the fast-fading calendula. The cosmos, too, are courtesy of another Instagram companion, from Vancouver in Canada.

Saving seed and swapping it is at the core of how we have always grown – from the start, in late September 2006. These, the first days of the Observer organic allotment on the plot next door to No 29.

Inspiration from neighbours, whether virtual or nearby, is everything to us. Spotting another plot’s scarlet Empress of India nasturtiums, then finding a forgotten packet of seed at the bottom of the bag that the shed mice have left alone.

The Basque pea pods are being left to dry (another gift from a chef friend in Bilbao); some of the Bacau beans, too. Branches of amaranth and orache will be gathered, calendula dried and picked through. Next year’s plot will wait patiently in paper bags.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from

Follow Allan on Instagram @allanjenkins21

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