The Beginner’s Guide to Allotment GardeningColin Campbell-Preston
If you’re one of those lucky folks who have managed to get to the very front of an allotment waiting list, you now have a world of horticultural possibilities ahead of you. Whether you’re planning on planting fruit, veggies and herbs to serve to your family, or just wish to create something beautiful – the real work starts here.
So here we run through some of the important jobs you’ll have to undertake during your first few months of being an allotment owner, helping increase the chance that your plot will be a huge success.
The Clear-Up Job
For those who have inherited their plot from an outgoing allotment owner; there may be a lot of unwanted materials and debris to clear from the site. The allotment management team may be able to help you with this, sometimes, labour-intensive and time-consuming task. Alternatively, it may be good to enlist the help of friends and family to lighten the load and assist with the clearing jobs.
The remnants of existing plant life should be removed, giving you the chance to start afresh. Dig up trees and shrubs, completely removing their roots, and use systematic weedkiller to rid the plot of troublesome weeds.
Testing and Planning
Whilst you may have a picture-perfect image of your allotment in your head or scribbled down on a piece of notepaper, you can’t really finalise any plans until you’ve had a good root around your plot. Contributing factors such as soil type and sun coverage can significantly affect what you can grow, and when.
Using a soil pH meter, such as this one we stock from Botanico, it is vital you check the pH level of the soil. This will help you identify the plants which will best thrive in your plot, and plan any application of lime or fertiliser.
Stock the Essentials
There are a number of essential allotment additions required by all plots – so it is important these are taken into consideration from day one. A compost heap or compost bins should be planned as well as a sizeable shed which can be used to store all the important tools and equipment.
If the last owner of the plot already erected a shed, it is always worthwhile to check the structure and the strength of the wood. A poorly maintained shed may not survive for the life of the allotment plot, potentially compromising everything stored within. If the shed demonstrates signs of rot and wear, it would be advisable to rip it down and build anew.
Plan Crop Rotation
The help you get the maximum from your plot, it is highly recommended you develop a crop rotation plan – ensuring your allotted area is always blooming with annual crops. Whilst perennials will not be included in this plan, due to their capability to bloom throughout the year, this plan will help you keep the soil balanced and grow a more varied crop selection.
Firstly divide your plot into four sections: three for annual crops and the final for perennials. Then group your desired crops by family – brassicas, legumes, onions, potatoes and roots. Decide upon the two most important families and give them their own sections – grouping the remaining three families together. Then plan a rotation of each group of crops – moving from section three to section two and then section one – over a three year period.
Section One: Brassicas
Section Two: Onions, Potatoes, Roots
Section Three: Legumes
Section One: Onions, Potatoes, Roots
Section Two: Legumes
Section Three: Brassicas
Section One: Legumes
Section Two: Brassicas
Section Three: Onions, Potatoes, Roots
Not only will this give you a wider variety of crops over the years, it will test your skills as a gardener and keep allotment life interesting and exciting.
Talk to the Neighbours
Whilst guides and your own instincts can take you quite far, a little local knowledge is something that should never be sniffed at. The other plot owners, especially those who have been there years, will have learned a few tricks of the trade which are perfectly suited to the exact location and natural features of the allotment.
Without being overly intrusive, it’s a good idea to politely chase a few tips from the neighbours and discuss any plans you have. The time-tested locals may be able to give you a bit of an indication of whether your plans are achievable or a little over ambitious.
And Talk to the Experts
If you have any outstanding queries or concerns about developing your own allotment plot, the Capital Gardens team is full of passionate green-fingered experts. For helpful advice, a great selection of seeds and bulbs, give the Capital Gardens team a call on 0208 874 2037 or pay us a visit at one of our three locations.