More and more of us have allotments now, and you can see why, it’s good to grow your own fresh, organic vegetables, especially stuff that’s rare to find in shops. But if you’re not careful, it can swallow up loads of time and energy.
These are a few things I wish I’d known when I started out three years ago.
Choose your plot carefully:
it’s obvious that one full of weeds takes time to clear before you start growing, but some weeds are easier to clear than others. Perennial weeds like bindweed, nettles and ground-elder take much more time and effort to get rid of than annual weeds like chick-weed or groundsel, which grow each year from seed and have smaller roots.
Most vegetables love sun, so nearby trees create a lot of shade restricting what you can grow.
The trees on my allotment have been there for years and I love having the fruit, but pruning and mowing under them takes a lot of time and they only produce for a few weeks of the year. Given a choice I’d plant a selection of cordon fruit trees against the boundary.
Be sustainable, don’t waste any precious resources:
1. grow soft fruit:
My patch of gooseberries, rhubarb and josta berries has supplied us with fruit for jam and crumbles with plenty left over to freeze. After planting the shrubs just need a thick mulch of compost around their base twice a year, and light pruning to keep them happy.
2. plan the lay-out:
I was a bit cavalier about spacing plants and seeds, this meant that some were over-crowded and didn’t grow as big as they could have. Then I gave others too much space, which meant ground that was unused and weeds quickly invaded. I’ve learned that it’s worth being geeky about measuring and sowing and planting in straight lines.
3. timing is everything:
sow too early and seeds sit in cold, wet ground and eventually rot off, leave it too late and you won’t get as much to harvest as you could have. It’s all about the weather where you are and what it’s like in that particular year.
Start seeds off in a cold-frame if you haven’t got a greenhouse, you get a longer growing season and seedlings have some protection against slugs and snails.
4. use a compost bin:
soil quality is everything, especially at an allotment where demands are much higher and nutrients are reduced more quickly than in a garden.
5. collect rain water, rig up a water-butt to your shed or greenhouse, even a small shed collects a surprising amount of rain-fall.
Happy gardening, Jill
all photos: Jill Anderson