1. PLOTTING & PLANNING
A guide on how to get an allotment up and running
Allotments mean completely different things to different people. Some people love having a flower and grass oasis as they live in apartments but for others it's the ritual of eating what you grow so it is important that you make a list of everything you want to include on your allotment:
Do you want a shed? A compost area? A water butt?
Make a list of all the crops you want to grow.
Vegetables, Fruit bushes or Flowers?
Do you want a seating area for picnics? A greenhouse?
Bear in mind that allotments develop and evolve over time, but it is good to have an idea of what you’re aiming at. Visit an existing allotment for ideas, borrow some books from the library and start to develop a picture in your head of how you want your allotment to work.
Your plot will be 10m x 10m or 10m x 5m.
Draw out a rough outline, and sketch in where you want to put your beds, a shed, paths and so on. What kind of fence will you put up to edge your plot? And a gate? Mark that in.
Think about path surfacing; you could leave it as trampled earth, or consider bark paths, or grass paths. Consider maintenance: weeds will grow in exposed earth, grass has to be cut. Whatever the path surface, you will probably need to be able to get a wheelbarrow down it easily.
Will you build raised beds, or just dig beds into the ground? Mark in the water source too, and consider the orientation: do you want evening sun in the seating area?
2. LAYOUT & NOW IT'S DOWN TO BUSINESS
This is very important to prevent the build-up of pests and diseases in the soil. For instance, if you grow cabbages in the same bed every year you will quickly start to have problems with pests like cabbage root fly and diseases like Clubroot. This is easily avoided by rotating different families of vegetables between beds each year.
Look again at your layout, and your list of crops. Some beds will be ‘static’ – like fruit bushes, or asparagus – and will grow in the same place every year. Others will rotate in sequence, with beans in a bed one year and cabbage the next.
A simple crop rotation is based on the phrase ‘People like Bunches of Roses’: Potatoes, Legumes (peas and beans), Brassicas (cabbages and turnips) and then Onions and Roots.
I include onions and garlic in the Roots bed as they deter root fly and lettuce can be squeezed in wherever there is room, or in a separate bed of its own.
3. Crop Rotation
The planning phase is over, you have signed your lease, and it’s finally time to get your hands dirty!
First, install a fence to define your plot, and hang a gate (This can be done by the Allotments)
Mark out your beds with pegs and string, and define the edges with a sharp spade. Then dig over the ground well, breaking up any lumps and finally raking the ground. Remove any big stones.
If you’re installing raised beds, these will need to be constructed and put in place. Fill them
with a mix of soil and compost or manure.
Now it's time to plant and watch it grow. Happy planting!