How to get your allotment growing
Having an allotment bursting with life can be extremely satisfying. But it can also be a daunting task for a beginner. Here are a few things to consider before you get your hands dirty.
Why an allotment?
It seems obvious, but asking yourself why you want an allotment can really focus you and determine how your allotment develops. Consider the type of allotment you have your eye on. Ask the following questions:
- How big is it?
- What do you want to use it for?
- Will it be a source of fresh food, or flowers, or a peaceful space in which to sit and reflect?
- How long will you stay at the allotment and how much time can you give to it?
An allotment can provide you with fabulous organic food, fresh air, exercise and a sense of community spirit.
What do you want to grow?
For those new to allotments - and even new to growing - start simple. Once your confidence has increased you can move on to more needy plants. Consider how long it will take your chosen plants to become ripe (and ready to eat if you are growing fruit and veg). A good tip is to take a tour of other plots in the area to see what is thriving in the space around yours.
Keep an allotment diary
It's easy to have lots of grand plans and then forget about them; a diary will help you remember and keep track of your decisions, from one season to the next. You can also note down information and advice that you gather, whether it's from the internet (you can browse a lot of tips in our gardening section), gardening books or just chatting with your fellow growers. You can use this information for developing your design ideas and to generally plan future sowing and rotation.
Planning the plot
So you have your plot and its time to really turn it into your own personal space. Layout and plans are very personal, and it should suit your needs.
Do you want only plants?
You might want to make your allotment into more of a social place, with a seating area and perhaps even a barbecue. Sketch out your designs before you start digging and building, just to make sure the end result is what you want. Will you have fruit and vegetables? Will you grow herbs too? What about some flowers to attract beneficial pollinators? Other essentials could be a compost bin or water butt.
Rows, beds or squares?
The physical layout of your plot has many options, all with their own merits.
Rows are simple, but make sure that you put down walk boards so you don't compact the soil.
Raised beds are great if you have trouble bending down, and also good for controlling weeds and pests.
The squares method is to have many individual square feet of plants, making them easy to access and maintain. Do make sure you have enough for crop rotation, to keep the soil full of nutrients and to ward away diseases.
Whatever you choose, you are sure to enjoy the good life of being a proud allotment gardener.
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