Now that we are coming up to the new year, lots of people will be thinking about getting an allotment. Unfortunately their idea of an allotment is beautifully dug, friable soil and a little shed in the corner. If you are extremely lucky, then you will get one like this but most allotments are full of perennial weeds and junk. Although old lags like me would like to help as much as we can, we have our own allotments to cultivate. You will have to do almost all the work yourself. You will probably need to get a shed and transport it to the allotment. If you want a greenhouse then you will definitely have to find one yourself.
Make a plan for the allotment - and keep to it.
|This was one of the allotments I took over in 2010. I gave it up when I moved to a new site.|
I would not use carpets to cover the soil because they attract rats. There was a big colony under the carpet in the photograph above.
|Mostly bindweed and couch grass rhizomes. There are a lot of nutrients locked up in these rhizomes so don't throw them|
away or burn them.
So you will have to dig. START DIGGING AT AN EDGE.
If you are going to adopt a no dig method then you still need to dig the allotment to clear off the perennial weeds. No dig does not mean an untidy allotment.
The best digging technique is to double dig removing rhizomes as you go. If the rhizomes are left out in the open, they will dry after about three to four weeks. Then they can be composted.
|The amount of weeds will indicate how fertile your allotment is.|
As you can see, this allotment was not very fertile and was very waterlogged for about three months of the year. It had a large colony of rats at the back and there was a lot of junk left scattered about. The soil was mostly a sandy clay with very little organic matter mixed in. As I had my other allotment on the go and it was highly productive, this one was given up and the bottom was turned into an environmental area by the allotment committee. As I said you can't rent out a pond to cultivate.
|My first allotment in February 1982. Eventually this allotment came third in the Wolverhampton allotment|
If you can find a gardening course that will introduce you to what to expect when taking on a new plot, then I would encourage you to take it. The RHS level 2 diploma is quite good but does not really give you a realistic impression of how much work is involved.
The reason why most people give up is because they don't realise what allotmenteering involves.
DO NOT COME TO ALLOTMENTEERING WITH ROSY SPECTACLES.
It is hard work.
If I have put you off then probably you shouldn't have considered taking on a allotment in the first place. However, if you still want to give it a go then I think you will enjoy the experience.
Don't take too much land on especially if you have a full time job and a family. I think that gardening is a lovely activity to do with the whole family, but it is not everyone's ideal pass time.
I took on my new allotment in 2013.
|I did cover part of the new allotment in carpet, although carpets attract rats and mice. However, they do clear the tops off quite quickly. I did not clear the cage away until 2014. It is where my peach greenhouse is now.|
None of the weeds were burnt. All of them were either composted or buried deeply in trenches. In this way I kept all the nutrients, trapped in the weeds, on the allotment and recycled into the allotment soil.
|Covering the soil does not mean that you don't have to dig. Once you get all the perennials out then you can adopt the no dig method. This is the allotment in 2014.|
|Allotment in 2015 from a similar angle.|
It has taken me three seasons to get the whole of my new allotment to a standard I think is acceptable. Now I just have to improve the soil.