Header
  • Home
  • Tips and Advice
  • Site Map
  • Meetings
  • Papworth Weather
  • Membership
  • Land Acquisition
  • School Logo Competition
  • Allotment visits
  • FAQ
  • Useful Links
  • Committee Roles
  • Contact Us


  • Allotmenteering Advice


    Allotmenteering can be a great way for self sufficiency, by gardening in a way that sustains your produce saving you money and becoming less reliant on store bought produce

    Things to think about when taking on a plot & Tips for getting started on an allotment

    Time Commitment

    Cultivating an allotment can be a rewarding, enjoyable and healthy pursuit. However it requires considerable time and effort (on a regular basis) to prepare the soil, plant and tend crops, control weeds and harvest. During the spring, summer and autumn, you should set aside several hours each week, over at least two visits. Autumn and winter is the time to get the plot cleared and rough dug in preparation for the following year and you would need to visit at least once a week to harvest any winter crops such as leeks, sprouts, parsnips and broccoli (if growing). Remember, the time commitment is likely to be much greater at the beginning when you are first getting the plot up and running. You are also responsible for maintaining sheds and structures on your plot as well as the paths between plots. For grass paths, this means mowing throughout the summer.

    Costs

    As well as plot rent and shed purchase, there will also be the costs associated with tools for cultivation seeds and plants, manure and/or fertiliser. We do not advise buying a greenhouse, shed or other expensive item until you have had a year on the plot. Many people give up in the first year, so best not to splash out.

    Health & Safety

    Health and safety should always be considered before undertaking any such work. A risk assessment is advisable, as is wearing protective clothing, the appropriate gloves and masks when using chemicals and ensuring that no adults, children or animals are nearby when machinery is being operated or chemical applied. Health and Safety advice is available as part of the National Allotment Society membershipwww.nsalg.org.uk or see www.hse.gov.uk Get a small first aid kit for your shed, it only needs to be basic containing plasters, bandage, compression pads and sterile eye wash, etc

    Bonfires

    The rules governing bonfires vary a great deal from site to site, permitted burning months, times of day etc. are all covered, check with your Committee member for more information but NEVER leave a bonfire unattended. (N.B. Bonfires are not allowed on our plots, Cliff.)

    Fertiliser

    To ensure good quality crops, you will need to invest in some fertiliser. Compost, manure or plant food will be necessary to replenish the nutrients taken up by previous crops. Some people sow a “green manure” over the winter but it needs to be dug in promptly before seeding or you will have a new weed!

    Harvesting

    Factor in the time to harvest and prepare the fruits of your labour. This needs to be done regularly to get the best of the vegetables; Twice weekly for runner beans, once a week for peas and every 2 / 3 days for courgettes.

    Maintenance of the Plot

    There will be an on-going obligation to maintain the allotment. Weeds should be kept under control and not allowed to set seed or spread. If you are ill or unable to visit your plot for any period of time, you should make arrangements until you are able to return. You may have to find a friend or relative to help with your plot, at the very least let a Committee member know.

    Using herbicides with glyphosate

    Glyphosate is one of the few herbicides/weed killers available to the amateur gardener. If it is used on perennial weeds it will eradicate them over a period of a few months. Do not use glyphosate based herbicides on annual weeds, it is a wasteful and an inappropriate use of the chemical. The timing of the applications of any herbicide is critical to obtaining the best results and to prevent the unnecessary waste of an expensive product. You should delay spraying until the perennial weeds are in full growth. Don’t be tempted to start spraying the vigorous, young shoots early in the season because they will have the strength to grow back. Wait until just before flowering time before applying the knockout punch. The plant will be at its most vulnerable at this time; however this will mean some hand weeding before you get to spraying time. Please take every precaution to protect yourself and others when using chemicals on your plot. Please note: If you are using a spray licensed for use by home gardeners (amateur), then you must follow the instructions carefully on the label. Dealing with brambles can be a thankless task because wherever the tips of the arching shoots touch the soil they will take root. This is how they are able to leap frog over the ground producing impenetrable thickets of horticultural barbed wire as they go. It is best to cut or strim the top growth down and then dig out the roots by hand. Always wear thick gloves and goggles when working in the bramble patch because the thorns are lethal.

    Rewards

    The pleasure of eating fresh vegetables picked in their prime is a great reward for all the effort. You would need to grow quite a lot to see a benefit financially but, for many, the quality is sufficient reward. It is a healthy outdoor activity, offering some peace, fresh air, a sense of community and some great tasting fruit and vegetables.

    TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED

    Clearing the Plot

    Strim or cut the weeds down and rough dig the plot. Before digging, some people apply an appropriate weed-killer. If used, this should be applied using a watering can (not a spray, due to risk of drift)

    Plastic mulches are thick black polythene sheets, which can be bought from garden centers. They should be laid directly on to the soil surface covering an area well beyond the weedy patch and the edges sliced down into the soil to prevent them from being lifted by any weed growth. Do not use carpets as they tend to rot, and leech nasty chemicals into the soil. There is also the risk that they'll get entwined with the soil as the fibres begin to break down. Like the natural mulches; plastic mulches need to left in place for at least 12-24 months. One of the problems when using plastic mulches is where holes have to be cut in them to allow plants to grow through for example around potato haulms, fruit trees and bushes. These cut areas will allow the tips of weed shoots to grow through into the light so extra care must be taken to remove any weed shoot that appears before it has time to grow. Once the weeds are dead, you should be able to dig them out easily. Don't forget to remove any rhizomes (stored roots found in the ground) as they might still have life in them.

    Cardboard is sometimes recommended as a suitable material for mulching but it gets blown about and it doesn't break down consistently. Rotovating your earth can be a quick way of cutting up and killing off weeds, but the danger is that if there are any rhizomes or perennial roots left in the ground, then they will be chopped up and come back with a vengeance next year. Digging by hand is recommended as the only effective way of removing perennial weeds

    Starting on Clay Soil

    Impossible to dig when wet and when dry, can set like concrete. It is very important that the plot gets a rough dig in the autumn. Some people dig little trenches and holes that they fill with compost so that they can make good use of the plot in the first year. Lots of organic matter will be required. Some people find raised beds are a good option for lower-maintenance gardening but use of growing space should be maximized (large beds, tiny paths, not the other way round) and you will need a supply of soil.

    Best Crops for a New Plot

    Potatoes are a great crop to break up the soil. Some people cover a part of the plot (with a tarpaulin or ground covering fabric) and then dig a small trench or pit at one side and fill it with yummy compost or manure. You can then plant trailing squashes such as pumpkins and butternut squash in it. The weeds are being suppressed while you grow a fine crop of squashes across the plot. Courgettes and beans crop in abundance and salad leaves are rewarding to grow.

    Committee members

    Committee members are experienced plot-holders who have volunteered to show people around the vacant plots and offer advice. They are in a good position to advise as they have usually been on site for a while.

    NOT SURE ABOUT TAKING A PLOT?

    If you are struggling to maintain a small garden then a large allotment may be a step too far at this moment in time. Feel free to speak to a Committee member or other plot holders to find out more about the time commitment or start with a half plot. As a rule little and often is the best approach for managing a plot, just 20 minutes three times a week will keep on top of it. The Association want people to have a plot they can easily maintain and cultivate, without stress.

    GETTING UP AND RUNNING

    The Association expects to see good progress fairly quickly so don't take on a plot if you know you won't be able to get onto it for several weeks, especially if the growing season is fast approaching or in full swing. If at any time you are unable to attend, possibly as a result of illness / injury let the Association know, this will hopefully prevent you receiving warning letters from them.

    WHERE ELSE TO GO FOR ADVICE

    Find out who you're Association committee members are. The allotment officer is an experienced allotment gardener (not necessarily very good at growing vegetables but tries hard) and is normally happy to talk about life on the plot. Staff at your local garden centers are usually a fountain of information – get to know them

    EVEN MORE ADVICE

    www.ukherewegrow.com/ Visit out Facebook chat group, YouTube Channel, Twitter, Google+ and don’t forget to visit this website regularly for updates.

    The internet is a veritable treasure trove of information about allotments, how to get started, what to grow, how to deal with particular issues and problems etc. and we strive to cover as much as possible.



    © 2017 PEAA