A Beginner’s Guide to Allotments
You’ve had your name on the waiting list for months, you get the phone call and – yes! - you are, at last, an allotment holder. Now you need to plan.
The Small Print
The first thing is to check over your assigned allotment to ensure all is good. Ask the council (if council owned) or site representative if any extra services are available. Some will rotavate plots free of charge - but only do this if the plot is weed free. Otherwise you will be propagating mare’s tail, bindweed and couch grass.
Check the local rules and regs. There won't be anything too daunting but they should answer questions regarding bonfires, water use, upkeep and any discounts at local shops.
Pay your rent! It isn't usually much for the year but still needs paying.
Time to Get to Work
Once everything is signed, it’s all yours to get cracking. Here’s a quick checklist:
Ideally you will have a shed, a secure one, to store your tools in. It saves taking them home after every visit, or them rattling around in your boot constantly. If you make the plot easy to work, you will be there more.
Opt for a small, strong shed. Metal sheds are renowned for their security while others prefer the aesthetics of a wooden shed. If you choose wooden, make sure the door is double braced.
A window will make it much more hospitable for long days pottering and hiding out from those occasional showers. However, this can be a security issue. Pop a blind or curtains up to hide your contents when you are not there, opt for a shed with a skylight rather than a window, or go windowless all together.
Your shed or storage has to be secure. Always have a padlock. An alarm is an added bonus. Even if your plot is out of the way a screeching alarm will put thieves off. Most thefts from plots are opportunist and any amount of security will put off chancers.
In the shed, lock up spades and forks. If you get broken into, ‘offer up’ trowels and hand forks as easy to lift items - but keep the more valuable items under chain, lock and key.
Never leave inflammable items in the shed. I’d suggest bringing your camping stove to the plot every time you visit.
The plot itself will look like a field of soil. Put pathways in to divide the plot into useable areas and to allow you to get around in wet conditions. Local landscapers/ tree surgeons may give you free chippings for use as pathways. They look great and suppress weeds for a bit. Or opt for a few decking tiles – very stylish!
Raised beds create structure to your plot and are better for growing veg in. Get your hands on any scaffolding planks or boarding to fashion into raised beds. They create structure to your plot and are better for growing veg in. Or make it easy on yourself and buy raised beds.
Create a nice place to sit, usually outside the shed (where your camping gas stove can make a fresh brew). An allotment isn't just for working on - it should be your leisure and pleasure garden too.
Don’t get overawed by the sheer scale of the project. Full sized plots are big. If completely overgrown consider working half of it, even a quarter, so that you achieve results in your first year. Build up to the whole plot.
Plan to get the best from your space. Create beds and areas where crops can be grown. A haphazard ‘oh just bung it in anywhere’ type of attitude will result in hard to cultivate crops. Even go as far as jotting down the measurements of your plot and put in crops. If it looks good on paper, it might just look good in real life!
Grow flowers, fruit and veg. And herbs. You have a lot of space and can grow plenty of crops. Fruit in particular can create structure and will permanently use up some of your space. Long term crops - asparagus and rhubarb spring to mind - need to be planned in. Once planted they don’t move for years.
Talk to fellow plot-holders. They may have been gardening on your site for years, sometimes decades, and will know the nuances of the soil, the sun, the seasons and how to get hold of manure, compost and all the other bits and bobs you need to manage a plot correctly. They may also have spare seedlings and seeds.
Above all enjoy the exercise, the fresh air and any crops you grow. Nothing tastes better than your own grown food. That's a guarantee.
Remember, for all your allotment equipment requirements, Buy Sheds Direct – the UK’s leading supplier of all things gardening and allotments – is your one-stop shop and first port of call.
Main image courtesy of Pinterest.