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Should we get an allotment?

(27 Posts)
nearlyreadytopop Sun 27-Dec-15 09:14:14

I've just seen an advert for local allotments (£75) per year and I'm seriously tempted.
I have a little greenhouse in our garden and DS and I have grown tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and then spuds and a couple of pea plants in large pots. Due to size and trees in the garden we don't have scope for anything else. So we are beginners- how hard is it to have an allotment? In my head the weather will be great, I can grown seeds in the greenhouse and then plant out. But how much work does it actually take?
Also when choosing an allotment is there anything I should look out for?

dreamingofsun Sun 27-Dec-15 10:39:52

i love mine. like you, i grew a few things before but was no expert. once its up and running it takes maybe an hour a week in the winter and 3 to 4 in the summer - though you could do more/less. it depends what you grow and how you lay it out. i have a half plot which is about the right size if you work and have kids.

choosing - you want as much sun as possible, as few weeds. i chose mine in the middle of the site so that if there were vandals or rabbits they would pick the other plots first. where is the water supply? what are the neighbours like (if they are overgrown you will get their weeds). what good things are there already - fruit bushes/cage/shed/paths?

BubsandMoo Sun 27-Dec-15 10:41:59

Have a look at some allotment video diaries on YouTube- i like one called lavender and leeks, she has a cute small allotment- gives a good idea of work involved, and nice inspiration smile

bookbook Thu 31-Dec-15 10:14:51

Go for it- its worth a go smile
I have had mine for over 5 years now , and I love it.

So re choosing
Have you access to water
Can you have a shed
Do you have easy access ( if you want to lug , or have delivered compost/manure etc)
Not too shaded by trees/bushes
Try and see if its got a lot of perennial weeds
Is it safe , lots of people around etc

We have an allotment thread , lots of help, advice and hand holding - we are a nice bunch! smile

DoreenLethal Thu 31-Dec-15 10:47:02

Allotments - especially in the first two years - are pretty hard work. Until you have decided on a permanent layout and got rid of the perennial weeds.

I got mine 7 years ago, it is only me and my lottie neighbour that are still there on our allotment site, every single other person that got one since then has packed it in. There are a few old chaps who have had one for decades that keep them, but they spray everything in sight and are there all day every day.

My top tip if you are going to go for it [and the worst that can happen is that they kick you off if it is too much] are:

Clear a bit, cover it with a mulch or plant it straight up. If you leave it, weeds will germinate and you will be back to square 1. By clearing, I mean dig as thoroughly as you can a square meter at a time, remove ALL weed roots and any debris [you would be surprised how much rubbish is in allotment soil - glass, plastic, metal etc]. Then cover with a mulch such as cardboard, straw, grass clippings, newspaper, shredded paper - anything that stops the light but lets water through and will rot down eventually to make better soil.

If you have no water, collect some from the start using anything you can.

If the allotment is in a bad way, mow or strim the whole lot down, and cover with cardboard, weed fabric, a tarp - anything to kill the light and stop the weeds from growing, as you get around to clearing section by section [see first point].

Decide at the start whether you are going for a bed style or row style. I always get grief for having beds not rows as people say that the paths are wasted space. However that is not true. the benefits of paths are that you never have to weed that section, or dig it, as it gets firmer over time and you don't walk on the beds, whereas if you do the traditional rows, you are creating mini paths every year that all need redigging each time you put a new crop in. Also - look at the attachment and you will see that you can get 3 times as many plants in a block pattern in a bed than you can in a traditional row. It is better for the soil, as you only need to dig out/hoe off weeds that grow on the beds, and because you haven't been walking on them it is much easier to get those out. And people don't inadvertently walk all over your newly planted or sown beds.

Compost everything organic, except the roots of perennial weeds and any weed seed heads. You can have a traditional compost bin separate from the growing space, or what I do is to have a few Dalek compost bins around the site, sat on beds, so that the compost sits on the soil and just needs to be raked over when you turn the compost, rather than barrowed back and forth to a separate compost area. It saves hours of backbreaking shovelling and barrowing.

If for the first year you cannot possibly deep dig and clear the whole allotment - start at one end and work down after strimming and covering the rest then, around the end of June time, pop around 10-15 pot grown pumpkin/squash plants into the non deep dug areas, spaced out equally [uncover the mulch, dig a hole, put the plant in, firm up with soil, water in and put the mulch back around the sides leaving the stem and leaves sticking up]. These will grow over the mulch, and make it look as if the whole plot is being used in the first year, even though you have not dug it over. You can also do this with runner beans, just pop some plants in through the mulch, stick some bean sticks or canes in, and let them grow up. Also, you can do this with sweetcorn, but grow these in a block with about 12 inches between each one. This will give you another winter to carry on digging out all the perennial weeds and avoid the 'letter from the council/allotment people' telling you to use the space fully.

OrangeSquashTallGlass Thu 31-Dec-15 10:49:05

Do it! I went on a waiting list for a quarter plot 5 years ago and I'm still waiting. (Big City girl).

TheSpottedZebra Thu 31-Dec-15 11:59:07

Yes. You should most definitely get one!

I've had mine (a half plot), nearly a year now, and I love it. I really really love it. How much time it takes probably depends on what state it's in, and what you want to grow, and how - ie I am a fairly 'natural' gardener, I avoid weedkillers but I do hand weed. But I don't really care about things being tidy or in neat rows, so I save time in some ways, and take it back in others.

booky gave you an ace list of what to look out for, but don't be a pillock like me and not twig that the sunny plot you look at in winter will become less so as the trees leaf up again blush
Yes, I'm an utter beginner, but it sounds like you're not?

And def come and join us on the thread linked to above. All are welcome, even if you only have a pot of growing herbs. It's a bit quiet at the moment due to UK winter, but always v friendly and helpful.

TheSpottedZebra Thu 31-Dec-15 12:00:25

Oh no, Orange - hope 2016 brings you some allotment luck.
I was super-fortunate and sent an email off late Friday night and was told there were plots free early the next week grin

nearlyreadytopop Thu 31-Dec-15 17:05:58

Thank you for all the advice. We are going to go for it. Will give the guy a call tomorrow and let you all know how it goes.

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Thu 31-Dec-15 17:18:00

Yes! If I can do it anyone can. Mine is just over 5 mins walk from home, that makes a big difference as I am a little and often gardener.

bookbook Fri 01-Jan-16 17:19:11

Exciting! - its much cheaper than a gym membership as well as producing lovely vegetables and fruit smile

nearlyreadytopop Sat 02-Jan-16 16:15:52

So to update
Called the allotment owner and it turns out I've been his first call in 4 months about it!
He's had some interest from people that are too far away but no one local.
It's a greenfield site, flat, that's a little overgrown. He has a rotavator (?) that can be used. There's no water supply at the moment but he will provide water in IBC's until a supply is connected.
I very much like his vision of a local allotment plot and a strong community focus. However also feeling more than a little nervous of being the one and only plot on the land.
Our next closest site is 15 miles away and has a three year waiting list.

dreamingofsun Sat 02-Jan-16 17:56:19

some things to consider - is there a contract? i'd want something in writing as you dont' want to invest in long term plants, and put effort into the plot and then find he's gone off the idea. is there rabbit proof fencing - not a show stopper if there isn't but you will need to think about putting something around your plot instead.

rotivating - lots of people say it just chops the weed roots up and causes more problems. on our site - which is new - weedkiller was put down and then a few weeks later once the weeds has died it was ploughed - so guess you could rotivate instead. i'm glad this was done as i think digging would have taken ages and lots of effort.

has he thought about things like drawing a plan? numbering the plots? how the site will be run? security? i guess i'm asking how organised he is?

if i was a bit unsure it wouldnt' be a show stopper for me. i just wouldn't invest in anything expensive at first till i felt more confident.

its such a great hobby

DoreenLethal Sat 02-Jan-16 18:01:09

Look up the landshare agreements - this is the sort of thing that you need otherwise you could get kicked off at any point...

nearlyreadytopop Sat 02-Jan-16 19:48:49

Thank you, great info. Meeting up with him next weekend to take a look and have a chat.

dreamingofsun Sat 02-Jan-16 20:16:41

it might be worth seeing how much the site 15 miles away charges - ie what the norm is in your area.

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Sat 02-Jan-16 20:19:48

Mine (town council run) is £25 a year.

bookbook Sat 02-Jan-16 22:03:12

mmmm... it may be that no one really wants to commit in autumn /winter, but if he doesn't get enough take up will the water come on ever?
For example , someone on the allotment thread has had a council allotment, new site ,and still hasn't got water after over a year - she gets a discount at the moment because of that.
It will be a lot of work to get something up and running from a greenfield site, though if it is near, that does help, and it does allow you to plan from scratch, Though to be honest I am not a fan of rotavators , but thats easy for me to say!
On my allotment site it is £20 for a half plot, but is a big, old, and established site.
Agree with pp up thread, make sure that you know how big, are they already marked out and that you can sign a contract

shovetheholly Wed 06-Jan-16 11:48:38

Where are you (just roughly) in the country?

I've had my allotment for a year and a half, and I'm the one on the allotment thread that doesn't have water! (It's supposed to be turned on soon! But my rent goes up astronomically when it does to well over £100 a year, so this is a mixed blessing). It has been a bit of a pain carting water up there in the hottest weather to plant on seedlings - but things are much better now I have put in a water butt, which supplies everything I need. I've generally found that my plants don't actually need as much water as I thought they did - they manage perfectly well on their own, provided they are well watered in when they are first planted out. However - and this is a big 'however' - I am in a wet part of the country. My father has an allotment in a much dryer area and he has found drought to be a significant problem.

The attrition rate for new allotment holders is very, very high. My site is new, having started 18 months ago. Around a third of the original people are still growing - two thirds have dropped out. Judging by the work that they did before they decided to pack it in, these were people who had never grown anything before and really didn't have the first idea what they were doing. Since you have already started growing in pots already, you clearly have a head start in terms of knowledge! smile

As Doreen says, it's hard work at the start. But you do get there. The main thing is regularity - in the first couple of years in particular, it really is necessary to get down there for a few hours every week and stay on top of it. The biggest lesson I've learned is that it's vegetable plants - not flowers- that are the divas of the gardening world. They need to be cosseted, they need to be fussed, and they need to be listened to! If you're there on a regular basis, you will see immediately where there are problems and you'll be able to remedy them before they become huge issues. It's been when I haven't been up to the plot that pigeons have eaten my brassicas, or slugs have decimated my seedlings!

In practical terms, I think one issue that isn't discussed enough for woman gardeners is safety. My site is quite remote from everything - it's next to the grounds of a converted stately home on one side and a golf course/woodland on the other, but on a route frequented by a lot of male dogwalkers. Because of the high drop out rate, it's often been deserted. There have been times when I haven't felt completely safe, not just in terms of being a woman up there on my own, but in terms of accidents etc (I am clumsy!). Fortunately, this is improving now for two reasons - firstly, gates have been installed so I can lock myself in, and secondly, a new load of allotmenteers are getting started which means the site is busier. I would have half an eye to security (for your stuff and your plot) and your own safety when you go to assess the plot. If it's close to housing etc this is much less on an issue!

dreamingofsun Mon 11-Jan-16 10:02:04 whats the news, did you take the allotment?

BiddyPop Mon 11-Jan-16 10:25:54

If you are already growing, and have a greenhouse to start things off in - yes, sounds good.

BUT - a lottie as opposed to a small back garden is a HUGE change in workload. And a lot less accessible too than back garden.

So a quick wander out to pull a few weeds with a G&T in your hand after work, is instead a trip and needs planning. Regularly.

The notion of covering over unused ground is really good. Dig a section, plant it up. Dig the next section, plant that. Keep those 2 going (weeding, watering etc) while spending longer to dig the next section, (cos you are doing a few jobs now not just digging on each visit - so it will take more visits to dig).

If you can at ALL, have tools on site. We weren't allowed sheds so had to haul the tools in every time.

When you get it first, have a look at the whole site - your own plot for direction, access, things overshadowing etc. And the access to water, how far in you are, etc in relation to the whole site. Do a plan for yourself, using any parts already kept reasonably well initially, before you put a spade in the earth. Try and put a rotation plan in your head, so in the first year, you might only have 1/4 of the plot dug and growing, but those bits might be spread across your patch to take account of rotating beds next year.

Expect to lose a lot through non-germination and/or pests and diseases. More than at home as protection is harder. But you can cover with nets, put on cardboard collars for brassicas, put down slug pellets and/or coffee grounds for slugs, etc.

Try to grow what you love to eat, and things that cost more to buy, taste much better fresh, and take up a lot of space. So maybe keep a tomato plant or 2 at home, but grow a lot of peas and beans on the plot. Think about fun things like pumpkins, and things needing space like sweetcorn (cos you need a decent number of plants). Onions and garlic are great for filling ground initially too. And spuds. And brassicas (except for needing protection).


nearlyreadytopop Mon 11-Jan-16 17:49:53

I didn't sad I went and had a look and it's basically a field on an isolated country road. There are just too many uncertainties. The owner was lovely with lots of ideas and maybe if he gets it off the ground I will take one in the future.
I'm quite disappointed really and so is my 5 year old. Back to the drawing board.

dreamingofsun Mon 11-Jan-16 19:22:29

thats a shamenearlyready. setting up a site does take a lot of work. sounds like security would have been an issue. you could probably have got by with no water and also lack of LT plans but sounds as if it all added up. we set up a committee to get ours off the ground - would there be enough people interested to do that?

shovetheholly Tue 12-Jan-16 07:57:35

Hmmmm... that sounds less than ideal. Apart from the water, security and isolation, a field that hasn't been worked for ages is not going to be the easiest place to start growing veg.

What's the waiting list like in your area? It may be worth contacting the council to ask about their plans. Sometimes you get a situation where one site is very over-subscribed, while another not too far away has vacant plots. A friend of mine started on a vacant site a few miles from her house, while her partner stayed on the waiting list for a plot at the one nearer their home.

dreamingofsun Tue 12-Jan-16 10:11:28

if more than a certain number of people ask the council for an allotment they have a legal obligation to look for a site. its a surprisingly low number as well - suggest googliing - think its about 10 or 20. so this might be another option. its not impossible to set one up - we did and that was on a field that hadn't been used for years and years except for horses. but it does require effort and a group of determined people

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