An allotment guide for beginners
Sitting on a council allotment list, waiting for a plot to become available, can be a long, drawn-out affair. It took us four years of thumb-twiddling before our local allotment committee foolishly allowed us to take charge of our own plot – but at this time of year you might find yourself moving up a little quicker on the list.
We are entering peak growing season, a time when many, once keen allotment holders, realise they can’t put in the hours required to maintain their patch and decide to jack it in, leaving behind nothing but muddy tears and waist-high weeds.
For an average sized plot, you are looking at around 4-5 working hours a week to keep it properly maintained. Taking on an allotment garden is no small task. For the aspiring vegetablist, a plot presented to them midsummer can be rather overwhelming.
Here’s our allotment guide for beginners to get you up and running.
A helping hand
You may well luck out and find yourself inheriting a fairly together, tidy-looking plot, but chances are you’ll be given an overgrown piece of land in need of urgent attention.
Before you hire a rotavator and fire up the strimmer, check with your local council. Some councils will offer a ‘free of charge’ service to clear any existing rubbish and will cut back overgrown areas in lieu of your tenancy. To hit the ground running (and to cut out a lot of back-breaking work) it might be prudent to take them up on the offer.
Dig for treasure in your new allotment garden
Before you (or the council) wreak havoc with a fork, look carefully and you may well discover some horticultural gems hidden amongst the undergrowth of an abandoned plot.
Plants to save from the spade are established raspberries and gooseberries; in fact, any berry-bearing bush is a keeper. Pray to the god of overpriced veg if you discover a patch of asparagus spearing skywards – this gives you a three-year head start on planting from scratch. And don’t be too hasty with plants that may be considered undesirable to entertain on a traditional allotment.
Our own plot backs on to a native hedge, which we’ve mostly cut back, but have left a dog rose to ramble and dangle its fruits over our side. We’ll be turning those into rosehip syrup come autumn. And although it’s a tricky one to explain to the council allotment inspector, leaving a patch of nettles untouched will provide a valuable feeding and breeding habitat for insects. Also: nettle beer is GREAT.
Draw up an allotment plan
One of the most important steps in our allotment guide for beginners is to plan before you plant.
Assign designated areas for composting – and if your local council allows – a place to make a bonfire on which to incinerate weeds and toast marshmallows. Don’t forget a seating area from which to survey your plot and to slurp refreshing beverages, but most important of all, don’t give yourself too much to do in your first year.
Allotment gardens are hard work, especially when starting from scratch. Dig out a small area and focus on a couple of crops for starters, covering over the rest of the plot with a weed proof membrane.
Ease yourself into allotment life, just as you would a hot bath.
Get a shed
Not only does a shed stake your claim on your new allotment garden plot, it announces to your fellow allotment chums that you mean business. It’ll also provide shelter should it start bucketing down with rain whilst you're on site, and provides a place to stash a few garden essentials, such as trowels, twine and the odd long handled tool. Just don’t keep anything in there that you wouldn’t want to lose – isolated allotment sheds can prove to be thief magnets.
When your shed is up and running, install a water butt and guttering. Many allotments will have their water supply (if provided) turned off during droughts, so a butt or two will ensure you won’t get caught high and dry.
Don’t fall foul of Allotment Envy
Wandering around the plots of a mature allotment can often be dispiriting, especially for the greenhorn gardener. It’s difficult not to become envious of other folks plump, bounteous vegetables, glistening in the sunlight. Just remember that the most pristine Gardens of Eden on which your eyes reside are most likely owned by retired folk who can devote most of their days to keeping them in tip-top condition.
Take inspiration and take note. Are fruit bushes netted up? This indicates that the local pigeon population is abundant. Is there low netting and chicken wire surrounding brassicas? This probably means that rabbits are rife, so protect your own crops accordingly. Are most people's crops housed in cages? This sounds like deer. Best of luck with that one…
Obviously, the best advice will come from a good old fashioned, face-to-face chat with your fellow allotmenteers. Don’t be shy – most gardeners are a friendly bunch and will be only too happy to share their wisdom with an allotment beginner!
The Two Thirsty Gardeners, Rich and Nick, are bloggers who love gardening, eating and drinking in equal measure! They love to share tales from their allotment including their experiments turning the spoils of their crops into alcohol, both the good and the bad!
To find out more about Rich and Nick, click here.
THANK YOU FOR VISITING THE STIHL GB BLOG
Here you’ll be able to find useful seasonal advice from experts and guest writers, along with the latest news from the world of STIHL and the great outdoors.
In addition, we’ll keep you informed about our latest products and how to make the most of your tools – all so that you can make the most of your outdoor space.
If you love Christmas, then you’re sure to love indulging in a good festive light display, or getting into the spirit with a visit to Santa. In recent years, many gardens around the country have upped their festive game and... Read more →
RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the place to be and be seen in May if you are a keen gardener. Even if you’re not very green-fingered, there is still plenty to inspire you with perfect plants and gorgeous gardens around... Read more →
For the 14 th year running, STIHL will be sponsoring the ARB Show, and we can’t wait for the annual celebration of the science of trees. It’s the 20 th anniversary of the event and it looks set to be... Read more →
We began working with expert chainsaw carver Simon O’Rourke in 2017 when he joined us at the Arb Show to do a wood carving demonstration. For us, he was an obvious choice for a partnership as he is the best... Read more →