My First Allotment – A beginners guide to starting out.
Very often someone new to gardening may wonder how to begin cultivation of an allotment. Sometimes the best route is to look around at other allotments and simply ask plenty of questions. Most, if not all, plot-holders will be more than happy to offer advice. We all have our own way of doing things of course, so speaking to more than one allotmenteer is also recommended. Find a plot you like the look of and speak to the plot-holder.
There are two basic methods of cultivation. One, is to dig your plot every Autumn and incorporate some well rotted organic material using a rotation method. The other, and possibly controversial method, is to not dig at all.
Both methods will produce crops but one method is so much easier than the other. There are no prizes for guessing which is which!
For both methods however you will need a good supply of compost. So one of the key things to do is to incorporate a good sized compost bin on your plot.
On this page I have included advice on both methods, so you can choose the best route for you to follow. You can always change your mind later anyway, so what ever method you choose it won’t matter. There are numerous videos and websites to view and get some ideas.
You will also need some basic tools. As a minimum a spade, a fork, a rake, a dutch hoe, a trowel and hand fork and a string line for getting straight lines for your crops. A watering can or two will probably prove useful in the spring and summer months. There are normally plenty of used tools available to buy at very reasonable prices. If you are lucky the outgoing tenant may have have left you some.
The soil at Humber Avenue is extremely stony and with a fair amount of clay. If you are lucky enough to have been awarded a plot which has been regularly worked with plenty of organic material added and kept weed free, digging should be straightforward. If your soil is still very stony it wont stop crops growing but it will make digging more difficult and sowing seeds more of a challenge. Growing nice straight root crops like carrots or parsnips also becomes more difficult.
There are, of course, endless websites and videos offering advice. What is important is that you get control of your plot and always consider the soil fertility and health. That way your plants will be stronger and more abundant. Weeds will be less evident (or virtually none existent with no-dig) and the pleasure from growing your own vegetables will be so much greater.
The New Member Liaison member of the committee will explain what the expectations for your plot are in the first 3 months. Depending upon the state of the plot when you took it on and the time of year you start. We expect a new plotholder to have at least 25% of their plot cultivated in the first 3 months on site. We would then expect up to 50% of their plot to be cultivated after 6 months. By 12 months we would expect 75% to be under cultivation. In year 2 and beyond a minimum of 75% should be under cultivation. Ground covered with weed suppression materials doesn’t constitute cultivation, unless plants are growing through holes in the material, for example strawberries. Other acceptable areas of activity will typically include shed maintenance or repair, compost bin erection, greenhouse or poly tunnel installation. ( Please see your tenancy agreement for the rules on sheds, greenhouses and poly tunnels). If you cannot commit the time necessary and you are struggling to keep your plot cultivated, talk to the New Member Liaison member of the committee in the first instance or write to the Committee at the earliest opportunity. We do understand that individual circumstances are different and any aspect of one’s life can change very quickly.