Thinking of having your own allotment?
We find that people from many different backgrounds approach us for an allotment, the majority of these people have never owned an allotment and do not know what to expect or know what to do.
This guide is to give people wishing to engage with an allotment some insider knowledge to what is involved.
Firstly allotments are supposed to be fun, however they are also hard work. How hard they are depends upon the allotment holder and their thinking. All allotment holders tend to find with time what works for them, each has very much their own style and thoughts on how things should be done, their really is no wrong way as long as you are enjoying what you are doing and at the ending of the day enjoying good crops.
It is also worth while to point out that the reward of having an allotment is never going to be the saving you will make on growing your own crops. With supermarkets selling crops so cheaply you will never manage to see a return on your investment where you save money. However the return for growers is to be able to be a part of the crops cycle from planting the seed to nurturing the crop and to the best part enjoying the crop. Nothing tastes as good as something you have grown yourself!
We also see with new allotment holders a massive amount of enthusiasm and they start to work feverishly on their plot, this usually takes place over a weekend and they usually work all the hours it is light. The problem we find with this is when the new allotment holder finishes after a punishing day they tend to look at all the work left to do and their enthusiasm diminishes rapidly, many do not even return! The key to success is little and often, a few hours a day can make a huge difference over time and also keeps it enjoyable and gives you that worthwhile feeling.
What i find makes the difference is the way you think about your allotment, many new plot holders look at an allotment as an extension to their garden. For me this way of thinking is wrong, allotment holders need to think more like farmers which can eliminate the amount of unnecessary work a gardener would do. An example of this is turning over plots at the end of the season, a gardener would hand dig each plot removing weeds as they went along. Where as thinking like a farmer weeds would firstly be removed and then a mechanical rotorvator would be used to turn over the soil. The difference in time and amount of back breaking energy involved in the two is substantial – why make life difficult!
With crops time can be saved too by not thinking like a gardener and like a farmer. We see too often Broadbeans planted with stakes and as they grow the plot holder ties the plant to the stake. This takes a serious amount of time when you could be doing so many other effective jobs. Look at the way a farmer grows Broadbeans, he feeds the soil, rotorvates it, plants the seed and simply lets the plant grow, as you travel you will see field after field full of Broadband standing up on their own! Thinking like a farmer saves time!
We also see plot holders with root crops like Beetroot firstly planting in to a seed tray, then planting in to a pot and when the time comes planting in to the ground. For me there are two problems with this, firstly the amount of time it takes. Secondly the majority of crops tend to have a timer on how long they grow for before they flower or bolt which makes the crop unsuitable for eating. Planting beetroot into a seed tray and then in to a pot then in to a bed affects the plant and a certain amount of the growing time is taken on the plants recovery as disrupting a plant tends to shock them. We also see people planting seeds too early when their is a low amount of hours of daily light, again once the seed is in the clock is ticking towards flowering or bolting day. I like many new to allotments have found this out the hard way. Again think like a farmer – wait till the soil is warm usually around may, plant the seeds directly in to the soil, if too many seeds germinate thin them out, it does not take long. With Beetroot the more space you give them the bigger they get! Keeping things simple and letting nature do its job is always the best way.
It is also good to bare in mind that buying seeds, sets and seed potatoes need not be expensive. Like everything sellers will try to convince you to pay top money for these items as the more you pay is a sign that the quality of goods is better. This in many ways is a nonsense, many allotment holders buy their seed potatoes and onion sets from Wilkinsons who tend to be the cheapest around. You only have to look at the pictures below to be assured that even though they are cheap they still produce great crops.
Lastly remember your not on your own, Allotment holders tend to be a friendly bunch and are always willing to give advice or even lend a helping hand. You will find that soil varies from site to site, some crops will grow well and some wont do so well at all. Do not be afraid to ask and take advantage of their knowledge.