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Newbie allotment advice!

Hi all,

First post here and I don't know many green fingered people so am after some advice if possible. I've taken over a quarter allotment plot locally to me which I'm very excited about. It's not in awful condition - the guy that had it before me started out with good intentions and made 3 raised beds and left 2 to mulch over the year but didn't do anything else (I believe he only had the plot a year). 

My intention is to grow the fruit and veg that we enjoy eating and I don't want to take on too much at once. I am however conscious that it is already almost April and I don't want to miss out on harvesting crops this year. 

I have the following questions (sorry in advance - there are a lot of them and some are probably silly!)

Thanks for reading!

1. Two of the raised beds are in reasonable condition, would it be sensible to re-weed these and plant them up so that I at least have something in the ground before attempting to tackle other areas or weed/sort the whole allotment first?

2. I am considering putting one of these raised beds to 2 x rows of potatoes (planting area is about 9ft x 3.5ft). Reasonable or stupid idea?

3. I would like to plant strawberries and raspberries. The allotment secretary suggested that I simply clear down the grass at the back of my plot, cover with black plastic and plant raspberry canes and strawberries through that. Again, reasonable or stupid idea? Instead I could use one of the raised beds for the berries

4. I would like to have a flower bed / garden, any advice on whether this should be at one end of the plot or is it ok in the middle?

5. Suggestions for sown from seed veg that can be planted in April for a harvest this year?

6. I plan to use one bed for tomatoes / runner beans. Reasonable or stupid idea? Also, do San Marzano tomatoes grow well in the UK or do they need the Mediterranean climate of Italy?

7. What else should I do / know? 


  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,537
    It makes sense to grow things that you enjoy eating and which are either expensive to buy or hard to come by.

    You can't grow the same veg in the same bed every year or you get a build up of pests or diseases, you have to follow a rotation.

    Following on from this potatoes are cheap, but peas, beans and lots of other veg are not. Personally I would leave the potatoes until I had some more ground cleared.

    It is a good idea to plant up the two decent beds first and not too late to sow the more tender veg. You could also buy a few plants from the local GC just to get you started this year - growing anything is good for the morale.

    As for the flowers, do you want them for cutting or is it just for colour? You could grow shorter plants round the edges, choose ones that are good for pollinators to attract the insects to your plot.

    Nothing wrong with growing a row of Cosmos or whatever between your beans, and some plants work well together (Companion planting) Plus you can get all sorts of pretty veg these days, all different colours and with attractive flowers too - have a look at someone like Marshalls or D T Brown, you'll be amazed!

    Raspberries will be better in the ground, they can be invasive when their new stems emerge, but they are shallow rooted, so are best in ground free of perennial weeds. If the grass is the annual stuff, in lots of separate small clumps, the plastic idea might work, but not if it is couch, it doesn' give up that easily and you won't be able to get it out without damaging the raspberry roots. The strawbs will be fine in a raised bed, you have to replace them every three years anyway and they don't have to be rotated.

    If you can spare a windowsill or two it will give you a headstart on growing things like courgettes or French beans or other things. For next year you may find you want a heated propagator and a cold frame! I've been reclaiming my old veg garden and last year I was in yourr situation. I grew summer broccoli, broad beans and peas and lots of courgettes, parsley, chives and marjoram. The beast from the east blew down part of the fence and let the sheep get in or I would have had early purple broc as well!
    I can't help on the San Marzano - Toms don't do well here, even in the greenhouse, too many cool, cloudy 'summers'.
    Happy gardening!
  • Thank you - that's very helpful! Good to know about the couch grass, that is what is at the back of the plot so I'll be sure to treat that properly first
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy Posts: 6,743
    edited March 2018
    Very good advice above from Buttercup days, I agree completely about starting with the two beds that are already clear. Its been a long winter so you are not too late at all we are all way behind where we were this time last year.  San Marzano will grow here in UK they mature quite late in the season & we do need a good warm summer for them to do well. The biggest risk is late blight, you can spray with Dithane if you can get hold of any, but officially it's been withdrawn. The alternative is look for blight resistant cultivars such as Crimson crush but these are just standard ones, not plum (which I know are best for cooking & sauces).
    AB Still learning

  • Just some thoughts on point 6. You should be able to grow tomatoes in this country... however on an allotment you'd be doing very well to avoid getting blight, there are so many other plots that it only takes one plot and the whole site likely gets it.  Given the damp weather in this country, blight is all-but inevitable on outdoor tomatoes. 
    If you can avoid early blight, then late blight doesn't usually affect the entire crop.  You can improve your chances by growing not too many tomato plants with lots of space between them for air to circulate, pinch out side shoots and remove lower leaves once the fruit has swollen (basically, try and keep the plant dry).
    You can get some more resistant varieties, Mountain magic I find has good resistance and still produces very flavoursome tomatoes.  Of course, F1 hybrids, like Mountain magic are also more expensive.  I try to buy everything I have to only from to be more self sufficient year-on-year, but resistant varieties are harder to come by (non-existent).

  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 23,836
    I too would start with the 2 beds then see how you go. If you are especially fond of potatoes then I would go for early new potatoes. Freshly dug they are usually better than any you can buy and maybe the ground can be used for a later crop, like leeks for winter.
    It's not too late to sow anything yet. I haven't started my veg garden yet, thanks to constant rain in SW France where I live. It all depends what veg you like best. Look at the instructions on the seed packets. But if they tell you to sow parsnips in March then don't! It's too soon, ground needs to have warmed up.

    Tender plants, like runner beans, courgettes, cucumbers, shouldn't be sown yet anyway unless you can keep them somewhere indoors until all frosts are over. Broad beans are hardy, so are peas and can be sown outside now. So can lettuces, carrots and spinach.
    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
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