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Starting out on an allotment: what to do next
19 Oct

Starting out on an allotment: what to do next

Posted By: rocket veg Category: Plant Care, Seasonal Tips

Assuming you’re someone who’s just taken on an allotment plot and already made a start to get your precious piece of land into shape, here are a few more suggestions to help you on your way and save a bit of head scratching. Time put in now while the weather is not too bad will pay dividends when spring arrives and your plot is ready for sowing and planting - so make the most of any dry autumn days. If my plot is anything to go by, the recent rainfall has helped to put the soil into great shape for digging and weeding.

Protect the soil

If you ask an experienced gardener why their crops are so bountiful, you are likely to receive a reply along the lines of ‘Ah well… the secret is in the soil.’ Good preparation really does pay off, so as you dig the soil - using a fork to remove every trace of weeds and picking out stones as you go - cover the area you have cleared to protect the soil structure from the effects of severe weather and also to prevent weeds from re-growing over the coming months. (Stubborn things, weeds: will continue to grow in all weathers.) Closely woven black mesh which allows rain to penetrate is a perfect covering which can be folded up and stored when not in use. Heavy clay soils can be left exposed to be broken down by frost action, so you may prefer to leave lumps of soil, rather than expending a lot of energy with spade and fork. If you have access to a good quantity of organic matter, such as leaves, put a thick layer straight onto the newly-dug earth before covering it and let the worms do the work of drawing it down into the ground and thereby improving your soil for you.

Planning your allotment

If you want your plot to be productive, planning ahead is a ‘must’, but first work out where the sunniest spots and shady corners are so that you can plant accordingly. At the start of each year, I draw a simple plan of where I intend different crops growing during the coming season. As well as referring to the plan when I’m ready to sow, I like to look back at previous years’ plans and see what grew where in order to rotate crops and keep the soil in good state. Keep a diary of what and when you sow, when you harvest and the yield, and you will find that this will soon become an invaluable reference resource.

Keep your shed in good state

Sheds are an integral part of allotmenting, a place to keep your gardening tools and other bits and bobs in good order, as well as providing shelter during a shower and the excuse for a break and a hot drink on cold days (don’t forget your Thermos!). What with all the busyness of growing lovely fruit and veg, sheds are easily neglected and will quickly deteriorate if problems, such as damaged roofing felt, are ignored. Many sheds which are still standing on allotment sites across Bristol have given years of good service, so treat your shed to an annual coat of timber preservative and repair any damage when it occurs. Be sure to check the requirements for looking after your shed which should be set out in the tenancy agreement which you signed when you took the plot on.

Ask for advice

It may seem obvious, but don’t be afraid to ask other allotmenteers for advice and help. Most people are only too pleased to be asked to share their knowledge and lend a hand if need be. Take a wander around your allotment site, see what is going on and you’ll be amazed at how many ideas you pick up.

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