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Have you ever fancied having an allotment? It's definitely become a growing trend. There's no time better than NOW to get involved in your local community growing area, should you be lucky enough to have one. It seems that grow your own has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past decade or so as people appreciate the value of organically-grown, top quality produce together with the enormous satisfaction that can be gained from the entire growing process.
Our thanks to Hook Gardening club and Allotment Association for several photos that accompany this blog.
Follow the rules at the allotment
Tending an allotment isn't quite like having your own private garden. There are generally a certain number of rules and regulations to be adhered to. For example, allotment plots should not be allowed to interfere with neighbouring plots or nearby dwellings. This means that the tenancy agreements typically include obligations to keep weeds out! The paths are expected to be well-maintained and the entire plot should look as if it is being cultivated. Nobody likes to see a neglected plot, particularly when there is sometimes a waiting list for people eager to grow food.
Working the soil
The National Allotment Society expects allotment holders to show that their plot is constantly in process. In other words, during winter it would ideally have been dug over and perhaps the ground would be sown with green manure to protect it from erosion. It should show that it is in readiness for growing. For example during March the soil might be covered with carpet, fleece or plastic in order to warm it. Alternatively, the soil could already be worked so that it is ready for seed sowing or planting.
A great place for beginners!
An allotment is the perfect place for beginner gardeners and growers. Why? Because it is full of seasoned, experienced gardeners who will be only too pleased to offer advice and assistance. You don't get that in your own back garden. Don't be afraid to dip a toe into the allotment world, you are unlikely to regret it. Grow your own and your entire life will be enhanced!
Key points to think about, then you can get growing!
Firstly, ask your local council to tell you where your nearest allotment sites are situated. The nearer to your home, the better.
You can also ask neighbours and local people, they are a great source of valuable information.
A full-sized allotment measures 10 rods which is approximately 250-300 sq. yds. Half plots are often available.
Check to see what vacant plots are available. Neglected plots can take many months of preparation before they are fully functional.
There is often water on site, but not always. If not, you might need to bring some sort of water storage facility. You can't grow much without it!
Check to see if there is any storage available. You might need to bring your own store for tools and equipment. Check to see if you are permitted to erect a shed or store.
You will need to find out what you are allowed to grow. For example, some allotments don't allow fruit tree planting.
The secret to a good plot is preparation. Raised beds or trench digging is useful so that the soil does not become compacted. Try not to walk on your soil but use pathways between beds.
Check to see if there are communal compost areas. If not, you might need to make your own.
Larger allotments might have a shop for growers. They can often sell seed and some even share produce between growers.
What to grow?
If you are new to vegetable growing, make it as easy as possible for yourself. Potatoes are simple.
Runner beans and French beans are uncomplicated.
Courgettes are highly productive, and onions are relatively easy too. Avoid cabbages and brassicas until you have got the hang of protecting them from leaf-munching pests.
Pot marigolds, French marigolds and Californian poppies are all beneficial and they look lovely too!