With the interest in healthy, outdoor living – not to mention the desire to grow organic food – at an all-time high, more and more people are taking to allotments to tend their own crop.
But how do you go about it? And what do you do once you land one? We’ve got it all covered…
How to apply for an allotment
Applying for an allotment is a fairly straightforward process – or at least it should be. Simply contact your local council (search www.gov.uk/apply-allotment for your nearest site) to put in a request. From there, you will either be allocated a space or, in many cases, be added to a waiting list.
It’s worth noting, there can often only be one application made per household.
What to consider when applying for an allotment
When submitting your application, it’s worth doing your research – for example, which allotments have the facilities that best cater to your needs? Think along the lines of water, storage sheds, compost and toilets; and even scope out limitations such as the erection of greenhouses.
The challenge of managing a productive plot should not be overlooked either. An adequate level of physical fitness is required, as is time. Realistically weigh up how many hours you can give to the project year-round and through the busier seasons. A full allotment plot is 10 rods (approximately 250sqm / 300sq yd), but many allotments offer half size too if it suits.
Cost-wise, you’re looking at anything up to £45, or thereabouts, a year.
While timing largely relies on a spot being free, the RHS advises, where possible, to have your plot cleared by early spring for optimal planting and sowing. But what will flourish and what needs to go?
First up, do a sweep to ensure all debris is removed. If you inherit an overgrown, neglected plot, this may prove a tricky task – but preparation is the key to saving time in future.
If wild, unkempt grass is an issue, use a strimmer to tidy up the surface growth and make it your mission to dig out trees and shrubs that have outstayed their welcome. If this isn’t possible, cut the plants right down and eliminate them over time with a quality weedkiller.
Similarly, rid the plot of persistent weeds using a systematic herbicide (glyphosate) or smother them using impenetrable opaque mulches. Regular weeding will still remain a necessity, however.
Top of the crops
Once you’re weed-free, it’s time to ready the soil for planting. Using a fork or spade, dig over the plot to add air and moisture and to achieve a fine tilth. A soil pH test may be a good idea if you’re concerned your land may be lacking in nutrients. If this is the case, look into applying lime material or a specialised fertiliser.
To dispose of green waste in an ethical way, set up compost bins and ideally, keep all tools in a setup on-site shed, where possible.
Ticked off all of the above? Now it’s time to start building your harvest. If your plot doesn’t benefit from a sunny position, choose fruit and vegetables that thrive in shady conditions – but most importantly, plan out a crop rotation that suits you and your allotment.
Do you have some failsafe allotment tips? Tell us in the Comments section below.