Tips for newcomers
Taking on an allotment can initially seem very daunting. That's why we've provided a few hints and tips to try and make it easier to convert that patch of weeds into rows of fresh vegetables.
First of all, cover any land that you can’t clear quickly with a weed suppressant membrane (e.g. Mypex) or carpets. Please don't use rubber backed carpet as it disintegrates and won't compost, making it tiresome to remove later. Some councils have started banning carpets entirely as they contain chemicals and are often difficult to clear away. I can't recommend polythene either as it does not allow the soil to breathe and it hardens and disintegrates.
If the plot is covered in tall weeds, it may be better to cut them down first. Use a strimmer if you have or can borrow one, or even better - a scythe.
DO NOT ROTOVATE YOUR PLOT!!! As tempting as it may seem, the couch grass and other perennial weeds will be repopulated by every particle ploughed back into the soil and you plot will soon become unworkable again.
Plan your plot carefully and divide it into manageable areas that you can swiftly and easily weed and have ready for cultivation.
Look at other plots on the allotments to see what others do and don’t be afraid to ask your neighbours for advice.
Plant crops which are easy to grow and expensive to buy in the shops – see below. Don't plant the whole packet. Just plant what you think you can eat. Don't forget that some crops are successional - for instance, sow lettuce every four to six weeks.
What are the best veg that you can sow this spring for success in your first summer ?
The following veg are all easy to grow, crop well on our allotments, should give you your first taste of horticultural success and are either expensive to buy in the shops or much tastier when grown yourself.
Courgette, leek, lettuce, kale, onion, perpetual beet, potato, radish, runner bean, squash and tomato
If you don't have any on your plot already, think about adding some plants for next year (and the years to come) like asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and fruit bushes. Raspberries and blackcurrants grow really well here.
Hopefully, you can't resist getting some of it dug over. Digging is hard work so work within your capabilities. Once you've made a start, concentrate on keeping what you've done in good order. It is better to visit the allotment a few times a week for short periods rather than a long session every few weeks. It can be disheartening to see how much quicker the weeds grow than your seedlings.Then tackle some of the plot that is under cover. You'll find that after a few months, the weeds will have died back and the soil is much easier to dig. Don’t expect to have your whole plot under control this year.
A well tended allotment will take at least one day a week to break and maintain and in the summer you’ll probably need to visit your plot on at least two additional evenings for harvesting and watering.
Sow some lettuce or radish just so that you can get an early crop. Not much beats the feeling of taking your own produce home! Try potatoes as well as they act as a weed suppressant and help break up the soil.
TAKE IT STEADY
Little and often is the key, go overboard and you won't want to come back.
Play psychological tricks on yourself. Reward yourself with a drink or a rest after digging over a row.
Pigeons are a major pest (net young plants) as are slugs – be aware.
Make or buy a compost bin and start using it. This will add valuable nutrients to your soil and is free! There is a great composting guide in our members area.
ASK FOR HELP
If you find that you are struggling to get you allotment under control, talk to your plot officer or a member of the committee to see what can be done.
We have lots more tips including seasonal jobs, and other great advice in our MEMBERS AREA, as a member you can access seasonal tips and recipes and much more to help you get the best out of your allotment.
Our aim is to support full cultivation of the allotment plots.