Beginners Guide to Allotment Gardening

My New Alotment PhotoThese are tips I am learning as I go.  I have researched from a variety of sources including books, my mum, my sister, online  and the more experiences allotmenteers.

The tips though are mostly things that you gain from people and my own learning as I go.  I am a real allotment owner on a real allotment  not, a trained horticulturist telling a newbie what to do but someone who is going through exactly where most new people will be going, though.

Learn from Others

One of the first things I did was chat to lots of different people on the allotment.  Many books recommend you do this however you may think it isn’t necessary – you’d be wrong.  The knowledge of the other allotment owners is invaluable.  They not only know more than you do about gardening but also about gardening in an allotment which has it’s own advantages and difficulties.  They also know more about that particular allotment and what will or will not grow.

Many people are brilliant and are willing to share their knowledge and advice to help you.  I try not to infringe too much on their time but we usually do end up chatting!  Only go to those who are willing to help, some people just want to be on their own which is fine, respect that.

Little and Often – Consistency Pays

One of the things I learned from the others and from books was consistency pays.  I could not understand why some allotments were thriving while some had been abandoned   This was the year of hell for allotment owners so I could understand why a new person would give up.  But some of the others had difficulty as well.  After many conversations with various people, it was clear that people handled things in very different ways and that to an extent this was gender related.

  • Men would come in all guns blazing and spend days digging over their plots until they were in order – then leave them.
  • Women would do what I had planned on doing because I suffer from a bad back and know that too much and it will collapse.  So I do as the other women, small amounts but often.
  • Men would chat, women would chat but as one woman said women chat and continue to work.  Though I admit I do both!
  • Both men and women had started this year 2012 and had abandoned plots.  In fact, out of 122 plots, there were two flooded and unusable and 39 neglected and overgrown plots.

The allotments that look great regardless of whether they are men, women or more than one person tending them all had one thing in common.  All the owners consistently worked on their plots and did not leave them even during the awful weather of this year.  I asked outright how one man’s plot had survived this summer when so many had given up both new and experienced gardeners he said regardless of the weather he does Fridays and Saturdays all the time.  (Note though that there may be other reasons like his gardening methods that helped.)

Oddly one of my favourite books advised the same course, so by necessity I was drawn to what would help me succeed (Hopefully!).

Allotment Cleared PhotoIt is now the 21st October only about six weeks after starting and I have my plot starting to come together and I have plants in and fruit and have started to clear away the remains of summer growth.  Several people have commented and it is clear that the constant action is bearing results.  (Note:  if your plot is really overgrown or much larger it would be unrealistic to expect to be at this stage so soon, but you would still be seeing great results if you worked towards a goal).

 Research Methods Using Books

Apart from learning from others get books on the subject.  Either buy or get them from your library, there are many kitchen garden books and allotment growing books that you can read to help you understand what you need to be doing and when.

Amazon has lots of  allotment books for beginners on the best ways to create an allotment or you can read my own favourite books I used a lot when starting out. 

I make my Life easier – You Can Too

Where possible when starting out and learning plant small plants and not seeds.  While this may not always be possible many places sell plugs of plants.  This makes your life easier as you just have to plant them rather than bring them on.  This increases your chance of success.  It decreases the amount of time you need to put to them and the time they are in the ground.

The will be lots to do and it is very rewarding to see at least some plants in growing.  Yes, this may be a more expensive way of doing it but you will probably only grow way too many plants anyway and not need them.

Plan your Plot

Plan your plot.  It will probably change quite a lot if my experience is anything to go by, but you need to know where things are growing so that you can rotate your crops next year and how much space they will take up and what will overshadow what casting it in the shade.  Some plants are fairly permanent  some will last 3, 4 or 5 years and some 20 others will be in and out in a matter of months.  There is a lot to consider and we will go into that over time.