Image credit: Karen Jackson, The Garden Smallholder
This week is National Allotments Week so we wanted to mark the occasion by sharing a bit of useful advice to fellow newbie allotmenteers.
Sketch out your plot on a sheet of paper. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and you don’t need a degree in draughtsmanship. Work out where the sunny and shady spots are. Get a compass out if need be – you can download free compass apps for your smart-phone.
Plant seeds into pots first
Consider planting seeds into small pots of sterilised compost before planting out into the allotment beds. They’ll get a head start and we’ve found that the small seedlings are more easily identifiable too. You can then weed around them without damaging those precious crops.
Wait for the soil to warm up before planting your seedlings out
“Never cast a clout ’til May is out”. This means don’t stop wearing your coat until the Hawthorn tree has flowered. This also pertains to delicate seedlings. The hawthorn, also know as the May tree, flowers in late April-early May. Don’t impatiently transplant your seedlings outside too soon. Keep them protected under a cloche if necessary. One night’s frost will ruin all your weeks of hard work and tending.
Grow things that are hard to come by in the market /supermarket or are expensive to buy
Don’t grow things just because they’re easy if you don’t actually like the way they taste. Grow fruit & veg that are renowned for tasting great straight out of the ground our off the bush. For example – ripe, sun-warmed tomatoes, sweet & juicy strawberries or peas snapped & eaten straight from the pod. Nothing’s as good as home grown fruit & veg!
Image credit: Permaculture
Be mindful of pests
There’s another old farmers’/gardeners’ saying, “One for the rook, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow”. In our case it was one for the wood pigeon, one for the snail, one for the squirrel, one for the neighbourhood cat… You’ll almost always need to plant more than you think you’ll actually need or can consume. If you have a glut, you can always trade with fellow allotmenteers or give away any surplus to friends, family and neighbours. Also, invest in a bit of garden netting or covers as a hungry caterpillar or slug can do a lot of damage very quickly. There are lots of home-made options too – old plastic bottles cut in half is a common solution – and this up-cycled, clear plastic umbrella being used as a cloche is a great example.
Image credit: Shed Chic
Make your allotment look attractive
It might sound a bit superfluous, but it’s wonderful to have an attractive-looking plot – a place where you really want to spend time. Hopefully there’ll be some beautiful vegetables & flowers to look at – but how about a nice place to sit out with table & chairs, bunting, strings of lights, a barbecue maybe? A potting shed or greenhouse to while away a few hours on a rainy day. Well maintained paths & beds. Recycled metal containers or old ceramic sinks can look amazing planted up. Nothing beats a bit of allotment chic!!