How to prepare for the year on your allotment

Aerial view of allotments

Spring, whether it’s meteorological (the 1st) or astronomical (the 20th), begins in March. It’s the time of year to begin thinking about getting back down to the allotment again. Before diving straight in, there are a few tasks that need to be taken into consideration.

Ensure you have suitable outdoor clothing & protective footwear

Safety shoe on the allotment

Before you begin any work on your allotment, make sure you’ve got the right kind of gear to wear. Don’t ruin your best pairs of trousers or training shoes – buy some hard wearing clothing that’s built for the jobs in hand and that you don’t mind getting dirty… and of course heavy duty, protective footwear. We’ve all heard those horror stories of people standing on rusty nails or impaling themselves through the foot with a garden fork!

Have a spring clean

Upturned terra cotta plant pots

You probably did a lot of the chores at the end of autumn as the gardening year wound down. However, if you haven’t, this is your last call for completing all these jobs. Tidy the shed and greenhouse if you have one. Sweep paths, remove slippery moss, clean pots, make sure water butts are full, bring the garden table & chairs out of the shed and paint or oil as required… and scrub that barbecue clean in readiness for some al fresco dining!

Prepare the soil

Garden soil

Flower beds and fruit & vegetable plots have probably lain dormant for almost 6 months. Now that the final frosts are almost over, it’s the perfect time to dig over beds, tackle weeds, mulch, rotate compost bins and sow green compost.

Clean & repair your tools

Collection of garden shovels

Why make gardening jobs any tougher than they need to be? Make sure your secateurs and shears are sharpened, shovel and rake handles are secure and free from splinters. Consider a service & deeper clean for electrical items such as lawnmowers and chainsaws.

Organise your planting calendar

Fenced off allotment plot

Organise your planting diary for the year ahead. Look back at what you did last year and rotate beds to avoid disease and pests and maximise yields. Do some research as to what might grow well in your situation and soil conditions… and of course enjoy browsing all those lovely seed catalogues, gardening magazines & books for inspiration and ideas.

Care for wildlife

Hegehog on grass

Not only are they lovely to look at and listen to, wildlife helps to pollinate flowers and they eat pests such as slugs and aphids. You can do lots of things to attract creatures to your allotment. Build insect boxes, provide food for birds, plant insect-attracting flowers, create paths for hedgehogs and find space for a water feature of some kind if possible – even if it’s just an upturned bin lid! It’s one of the single most effective way of attracting wildlife to an outdoor space.

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Etsy List: Plant a tree

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'Plant a tree' Etsy List curated by H is for Home

It’s the 30th annual National Tree Week between 28th November and 6th December 2015. The Tree Council (yes, there is such an organisation) launched a campaign in the response to the Dutch Elm Disease crisis of the 60s which destroyed millions of trees. Tree Week grew out of this – and here we are in the 21st century rising to the challenge of Ash Dieback.

Get involved in a community event near you, or simply by gifting a tree or planting one of your own!

Plant a tree
Curated by H is for Home

Etsy List: Autumn planting

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'Autumn planting' Etsy List curated by H is for Home

The successes of the summer crops on our allotment have been inconsistent. It started well with bountiful berries & currants. From there it went gradually downhill with indifferent potato yields and then absolutely abysmal with just a handful of tomatoes saved from a blanket of blight.

We’re now planning our autumn planting scheme and want to grow some garlic, onions and shallots. Perhaps even try our hand at some container-grown asparagus.

Hopefully our next harvest will be better than the last!

Autumn planting
Curated by H is for Home

10 Perfect plans for the smaller garden

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Having a smaller garden may seem like a huge drawback with limited options but there are ways to spruce up your garden so that you can enjoy it no matter what size it is. Knowing how to decorate and plan for a small garden will ensure that no space goes to waste – these ten tips will help you to bring your garden to life regardless of its shape and size.

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  1. Growing Herbs

No matter how small your garden is, there will always be enough room to grow your own herbs. People grow them in their apartments, balconies, windowsills and patios. There are lots of different herbs you can easily grow, such as basil, parsley, coriander and thyme; all perfect for picking and adding to your cooking.

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  1. Make a Pond

You can attract wildlife and nature into your garden by building a small pond. Choose an area that gets a lot of sunshine and try to keep the pond as clean as possible so that your creature friends can enjoy their new home.

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  1. Layered Steps

With limited space, there may not be enough room for steps that go outwards, which is why layered steps that go up instead are the perfect feature for a small garden. It will add a touch of sophistication to your garden and kids will love using the steps as stepping stones while they are outside playing.

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  1. Climbing Plants

If you can’t grow flowers and plants on the ground, then why not grow them up your walls and fences instead? Birds adore climbing plants such as ivy and may even choose to make a nest in yours.

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  1. Composting

According to nationalgardeningweek.org if you want your garden to be alive with wildlife, building a compost heap is a sure way to attract them whilst also enriching your soil.

Fairy lights in a small gardencredit

  1. Lighting

Add some light into your garden at night with outdoor lanterns and fairy lights. If you ever feel like having a party, turning the lights on outside will add a nice romantic ambience.

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  1. Flowers

Flowers instantly brighten up our homes and gardens, which is why they are something of a garden necessity. Having a small garden doesn’t mean that you can’t have flowers. Use small pots and position them in a way that saves the most space. Flowering plants such as this great example are great at attracting wildlife such as butterflies and bees to your garden.

White modernist chairs in a small gardencredit

  1. Garden Furniture

Adding a small garden bench to your garden will provide you with a place to sit and enjoy the view. If you have enough space, you could also add a small table and a few extra garden chairs.

Moss-covered stone bird bathcredit

  1. Garden Ornaments

Adding a few ornaments can make your garden appear more welcoming and complete. There are thousands to choose from, including sculptures, stone bird baths, saddlestones etc.

White-painted walls in a small patiocredit

  1. Lighter Walls

According to UKTV, you can create the illusion of a larger garden by painting brick walls white. It is thought that by choosing lighter paving slabs and lighter exterior paint, you can make a small space seem bigger and more spacious.

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Cactus cups

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Vintage cups planted up with mini cacti | H is for Home

We’ve got a box full of random pieces of vintage crockery – kept in store just in case we need them to make up sets. To be honest, this doesn’t happen that often so we decided to give them a new life in a different way.

Stack of vintage cups

Amongst the selection are a whole host of lovely cups – the perfect home for small plants. We did something similar with colourful tins some time ago.

Vintage cups and supplies to plant up with mini cacti

So it was off to our local garden centre where we bought small cacti, succulent compost and fine gravel.

Vintage floral cup with base layer of fine gravel

As there are no drainage holes, start with a good layer of gravel to prevent water-logging. You’ll still need to avoid over-watering though – especially in the winter.

Vintage floral cup with middle layer of special cactus compost

Certain cacti seem to suit certain cups – whether it’s the size, shape, form or colour.

Vintage floral cup with middle layer of special cactus compost

Surround with the succulent compost and firm in.

Vintage floral cup planted up with a mini cactus and top dressing of crushed shell

Finish with an attractive top layer – we chose this crushed shell mix that they had in the aquarium section of the garden centre.

Vintage floral cup planted with a mini cactus

And voilà – cactus in a cup!

Vintage cups planted up with mini cacti | H is for Home

We think they look gorgeous – especially in a small grouping. We kept a few for ourselves and took some to our antiques centre space, where they’ve found a nice home on a window sill.