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How to Start Allotment Gardening

Allotment gardening is an extremely fulfilling activity for a lot of people. Many thrive on the feeling of freedom they get from growing their own vegetables in their own space.

Before you start growing your fruits and vegetables however, you need to do a little bit of allotment planning. Start thinking about what you want from your allotment, ie. What kind of vegetables you want to grow, how many, and how you want them laid out in your plot. Planning ahead will make a huge difference in the long run.

Allotment Planning

Before you accept to take on any plot, you first need to check the following things:-

  • Facilities: You will want to see whether your site has facilities such as water sources, storage sheds, composts and toilets
  • Size of Plot: Consider how much you are prepared to manage. According to the RHS website, a full allotment plot measures approximately 250sq m/300 sq yd. If you don’t think you would have the time to look after a large plot, you can usually find half plots available too
  • The Lease: To prevent issues from happening further down the line, you should also check for any limitations in the lease. For example, the lease could prevent fruit tree planting or erection of greenhouses and sheds
  • Clearing your Plot

    Once you have your plot, the first thing that needs to be done is clearing away the debris and unwanted materials. This should ideally be done by spring, just in time for early planting and sowing.

    An allotment management team may be able to help you with the clearing if there is a lot to manage. In some cases where there has been extreme neglect, you may want to start by clearing one half of the plot to start growing and work on the other half later on.

    When clearing your plot, it is best to dig out trees and shrubs or cut to ground level, treat with weed killer and remove regrowth to get rid of them. You can also eliminate weeds with systemic weed killers, applied from mid-spring until mid-autumn.

    Making your Mark

    Once your plot is clear and ready to be worked on, the soil can be broken up and tested to find out the soil pH. This will show you if it is lacking any nutrients and whether you need lime out fertiliser application.

    Next, think about how you are going to put your own stamp on your plot by thinking about adding compost bins, a shed and any other tools or equipment you need.

    You might also want to consider getting fruit cages to protect your plants from the birds, and trellis panels to train fruit trees against. A comfy chair is always a good idea too, especially when you are visiting your allotment for some relaxing me-time!

    Once you have an idea of what is going in your plot, it is time to get the measuring tape out. Measure the boundaries and the positions of items like trees, and sketch it on a piece of paper. This will help you decide the layout of your plot before you start growing.

    Also consider little details like how far you want your seating area away from the filled up compost bins and where to place sheds to get as little shadow as possible on vegetable beds. You’ll be glad you planned it in the long run!

    Growing your Crops

    Rotation schemes are popular amongst allotment growers. This involves implementing a four-course rotation, allowing each bed to grow in order the following:-

  • Year 1: Tomatoes and Potatoes
  • Year 2: Root Vegetables and Onions
  • Year 3: Peas and Broad Beans
  • Year 4: Brassicas/Cabbages
  • As for other vegetables such as courgettes, squash and sweet potatoes, you can decide where they can be slotted in as convenient. This is because they have few pests or diseases. You can also confuse insects by mixing your plants together. This is known as companion planting.

    What about you?

    Whether you have been allotment gardening for many years or are just thinking about giving it a go, let us know! Share your pictures with us via social media or post your tips and tricks in the comment box below.

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