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New Allotment (first time) - all advice and thoughts appreciated ♥️

tlchimeratlchimera South WalesPosts: 51

Hi guys! We took over an allotment plot yesterday. It's in fairly good condition because the previous owner has swapped to a different plot (I didn't ask why because I'm an anxious fool, but it may be because the new plot is flat and this one is fairly steep.) It needs digging over (they have a rotavator we can borrow, I think, I need to ask on Monday) and conditioning, and weeding around the edges but the beds are laid out and it's not too heavy on junk or nasty weeds of doom. 

It has a compost heap, a tired shed and a large water butt (currently empty, the drain pipe from the shed roof had disconnected but I popped it back in when we were there, but I believe there's other water on site) - there's a paved area that currently has a greenhouse on it but that is moving to the lady's new plot at some point. It's currently divided into five sections - a couple already raised, with other raised beds lying on the ground (again I didn't ask whether they were being taken, horrible anxiety and or plain stupidity at this point. We're going back Monday so I'll ask then, or send an email if nobody is around.)

So we've been cautiously planning potential layouts etc. We'll prioritise our five year old's section (called K's bed below, he has two smaller square sections at the top of the plot), then the potatoes then the canes. Some stuff I have already sown in seed trays at home so can be transferred when they're bigger and hardened off (peas, sweet peas, sugar snap peas, runner beans (only just sown, not germinated yet)) When planning the layout I tried to put taller beds near the bottom and the lower beds near the top so a general view across the plot isn't obscured excessively - is this a reasonable idea or would you do things differently? We've picked stuff we like eating and growing for the most part, but have only ever grown veg in containers prior to this. Is there anything in particular you would avoid, or anything you think is missing? (I'm having a year off tomatoes. Maybe next year I can erect something to keep them covered and hold off blight. I really like sun gold but am not generally a tomato person, so if I can't grow them it's not worth the energy for me.) 

Information about the plot:
It's on clay soil, some top soil in a few areas, others more compacted. 
I'm not sure about light levels yet, it's nicely open so no additional shade from other sheds etc.
I'm really bad at working out the way it faces etc, I struggle with visual tasks. I've added a map with the direction of the slope marked. 
It's 50x20 feet.
There's free wood chip and sources for free (possibly not rotted) manure and you can buy compost on site. Once I've been added to the what's app group I'll be able to ask more questions.
It's about a seven minute walk from my house, we have a car so can transport heavy stuff. 

I think my current plan is: weed, ask about the rotavator, hopefully rotavate or if not dig over with well rotted manure and some fish, blood, bone and then get some plants/seeds in the ground. Is that reasonable or am I missing important steps?

We're directly in front of the community shed where everybody goes for a cuppa so I'm conscious we're very much going to be kept an eye on. There's one allotter I'm fairly pally with (my child and his grandchild are in the same class and we chat during pick up) so I will mine him for information, and everybody seems friendly. 

I'd love to know your initial thoughts! Thank you.




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  • debs64debs64 West Midlands, on the edge of the Black Country Posts: 4,225
    Hi, I recently gave up my allotment as I didn’t have time for it but things that did well for me were soft fruit, expensive in the shop and the taste of home grown is much better and I also loved my cut flower beds. 
    I put in a tiny water feature with a solar fountain which was always covered with bees having a drink and I would definitely recommend a poly tunnel, less expensive than a greenhouse and just the place to go to sow seeds etc. 
    Have you considered herbs? The allotment is the place to grow lots so you can cut and come again. 
    Good luck, I loved my allotment and I am sure you will love yours. 
  • B3B3 Posts: 21,532
    I would ask the previous occupant for a bit of advice. There's no point repeating her mistakes, if any.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • tlchimeratlchimera South WalesPosts: 51
    debs64 said:
    Hi, I recently gave up my allotment as I didn’t have time for it but things that did well for me were soft fruit, expensive in the shop and the taste of home grown is much better and I also loved my cut flower beds. 
    I put in a tiny water feature with a solar fountain which was always covered with bees having a drink and I would definitely recommend a poly tunnel, less expensive than a greenhouse and just the place to go to sow seeds etc. 
    Have you considered herbs? The allotment is the place to grow lots so you can cut and come again. 
    Good luck, I loved my allotment and I am sure you will love yours. 
    That sounds great. I didn't consider herbs because I've got a planter dedicated to them, a nice hulking rosemary would be lovely though 😍

    I'd love to put a pond in but only the preexisting ones are permitted. I'll definitely find some kind of option to add a little bit of water though. A water feature sounds lovely - was it solar powered?

    Thank you!
  • tlchimeratlchimera South WalesPosts: 51
    B3 said:
    I would ask the previous occupant for a bit of advice. There's no point repeating her mistakes, if any.
    That's very sensible, thank you!
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 14,174
    Yes, I would quiz the previous holder and the plot owners either side. Find what pernicious weeds might be there - horsetail? What upsides to the plot and what downsides - before you start any work. Get clued up. The slope doesn't look too acute.
  • debs64debs64 West Midlands, on the edge of the Black Country Posts: 4,225
    I just used a half barrel with a solar fountain. There was a beekeeper on our allotment site and his bees always made a beeline for our water. I loved to see them. 
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 5,573
    Exciting new project  :)

    I suggest you think a bit about crop rotation and soil conditioning. You have a few things together that like different conditions. I wouldn't interplant the onions with the potatoes for example, as the onions will make earthing up the spuds more awkward. You could have them in the same bed, but I'd have potatoes at one end and onions at the other. You then shouldn't grow either in the same bed next year, so you have to plan to use your beds 1 to 3 in rotation (I know I'm jumping ahead a bit, but it's worth thinking about ahead of time). And if you put enough food in the ground to grow nice beans, your nasturtiums will run riot  - the nasturtiums might be better in the gravel by your patio.

    The left hand side of your plan will be sunnier than the right, so in bed 2, you should probably put the cut flowers on the left (south) and the salads on the right (north) because the salads like cooler conditions so will appreciate the shade from the flowers.

    Have fun!
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 14,174
    A great project. Do keep us posted and share pics. 🌱
  • tlchimeratlchimera South WalesPosts: 51
    Thank you so much everyone!

    @raisingirl thank you so much! I'd vaguely thought about crop rotation but it definitely felt like some future distant thing. And I'll definitely leave the nasturtiums to bounce around my front garden. They got a bit lively for me a few years ago and I swore never to grow them again amongst plants I liked (my mother handed me a packet of seeds and just told me to plant them, and I did. They took over the border and grew over the pond etc.) They brighten up the boring front garden concrete container garden, though. 

    Every aspect of your post was so well considered and helpful, thank you so much!
  • tlchimeratlchimera South WalesPosts: 51
    So today was our first proper few hours there. I've since learnt there's no additional water source on site, so going to be fairly conservative with any planting etc until I've sourced a couple more water butts and stores have built up a little. The lady who had the plot before us has only moved because she really wanted a polytunnel and a plot with one came available. We do have the shed key now though!

    We worked on our little boy's beds today (they're the smallest, and were covered over with weed membrane.) 

    We weeded (dock, dandelions, willowherb, couch grass, nothing too obnoxious, couch grass is one of the main problems on the site) then dug over the compacted clay (which I rate only about a 4/10 on the annoying clay scale to be honest, it's nowhere near the nightmare I have digging holes for my mother.) - added fish blood and bone, manure and some chicken pellets and dug it over a second time, then refixed the raised bed sectioning. Will add some compost tomorrow and plant some carrots, beetroots and a white currant bush (once I've driven to a garden center to grab one)

    We removed the random detritus and tarp covering the next bed, and I removed the pale sad looking docks and dandelions from about half of it before I had to head off to do stuff far less interesting than playing in the new allotment. Will finish removing them (they've clearly enjoyed life, about 75% have roots well over a foot long) and dig over tomorrow. I've still got some manure in the car (and a sack of some weird volcanic dust that my mother swears by. She also swears by nasturtiums though...I figured anything is worthwhile is helping to stop the clay compacting again.)

    (Do excuse the screen grab from my husband's tiktok, I forget to take photos.)

    I'm going to use this post as a little allotment diary, if that's okay?




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