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First Year on the Allotment

Hello, all!

We took on an allotment in October last year, and spent a good few weeks digging over and removing as much couch grass for the plot as we could - it had been left untouched for a couple of years!

Very excited to be approaching growing time, and have set up our utility room as our seedling space, for the time being. First early potatoes are currently chitting, second earlies will be joining them in a week or two!

We've got a usable space of 20m x 3m at the moment, it goes down quite a steep hill, with a little shed at the bottom. There's a big walnut tree across the path at the top, which casts a fair bit of shade, though we've only seen it later in the year, so it may not be so much during summer. The top 10m or so we haven't cleared, so we are going to cover it for the season and clear it late-autumn to early winter. 

A couple of progress photos attached, though not one of the full 20m dug over - forgot all about that! Also a plan - does this look ok? Only selected things to grow that we will actually eat! There is a small pong in the middle of the plot, a 50cm path running the length of it, with 50cm paths across (the central horizontal path is 1m). Any advice or ideas welcome!

Paths will just be weed blanket, nothing fancy!


  • FireFire Posts: 18,974
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,831
    I agree, you have made a great start, and I like your plan. You have very sensibly not made your beds too wide, so  you should be able to easily weed all parts of each bed, without having to kneel or walk on the bed (which compacts the soil). 

    A suggestion about the width of your paths. Bear in mind that if you make them quite narrow, you won't have enough space to kneel down to weed your beds. We made this mistake with our plot, so our knees are wedged right up against the raised beds when we are weeding. It's a pain in the a**e. 

    Although you have labelled which vegetables you are putting in each bed, do you know that it's best to rotate plants each year, to prevent disease, and make sure you have a good balance of nitrogen and other minerals? 

    Over time, you will realise what you do and don't like growing (some things are too much of a pfaff, and require netting and lots of fuss), and also how much you need to feed yourselves, without producing a glut. It's a great thing to have, so I hope you really enjoy it 
  • AllotPlotAllotPlot Posts: 13
    Thank you @Fire!

    Thank you @KeenOnGreen! We won't have raised beds, so hoping it won't be too awkward. The paths either side of the plot are around 80cm, so a little roomier. I may extend the central path, perhaps, to 1m, and the beds to 2x1m instead? 

    Yes, I had thought that I could budge the beds up a couple each season, though perhaps keeping the flower bed where it is (the sunflowers were to fill an empty space, so we may replace them with something else next year..).

    We're also going to put marigolds in most of the beds, as recommended by our local garden centre - is that a good idea?

    Haha yes I think there might be some I don't repeat next year - I can see the fruit being a nightmare! the allotments are on a nature reserve, and deer are quite prolific! Been told never to grow sweetcorn, either - last year, in one night, almost everyone lost theirs to badgers (just as they were ripe enough to harvest, too!)!
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy Posts: 6,744
    Welcome,  looks like a good start. Just a point about the walnut tree,  you might find nothing much will grow under or even close to it. Appart from the usual issues with soil under  trees, lack of water, nutrients  and light.,  apparently Walnut roots specifically produce toxins to prevent competition from other plants.  Something to bear in mind.
    AB Still learning

  • AllotPlotAllotPlot Posts: 13
    Thank you, @Allotment Boy, I didn't know that.. It's across the path at the top, and I was going to mulch to top and have a few slabs and some pots, so hopefully it won't be too problematic - good to know, though! Perhaps that is why our neighbours have struggled up the top, particularly with root veg?
  • WhiterotWhiterot Posts: 51
    The area that you have cleared is that half the width of the allotment in the 3rd and 4th pictures? You have certainly made a good start the first year is always the worse. It is never easy but the more you do the first year the easier the second one is. I am not a fan of covering up to do later because on my 23 plot site I find that many of  those who cover up never get round to cultivating the covered bits. Where are you going to put your compost bins? We have a communal allotment on our site for weeds and non compostable products but it invariably gets abused. 
    As KeenOnGreen says says covering produce with netting is a pfaff but on my site without netting carrots, brassicas and onions we would not have any crops to eat, I have 5 or 6 nets on the go at peak times. Badgers don't talk to us about badgers however collectively we have mostly overcome them with a variety of cages, tunnels ex greenhouse etc that we really ought to patient but it keeps Broc and his mates out. 
    To conclude you have done well up to press don't let up you will be glad you took it on.
    I am 75 and I still love it to bits and I so does my wife. I grow more than we can use but I have no problem helping relatives and friends out with a bit of fresh produce.
  • AllotPlotAllotPlot Posts: 13
    Thanks @Whiterot. It's the full width - it's actually a half plot, we're 9B, our lovely neighbour (on the right looking up to the tree) has the other half, he took it over I think early last year, and is growing at the top, working his way down. So it's a long, thin plot!

    We have various dump sites for green waste, but to the side of our shed we plan to build some pallet bins for compost, until then we are 'barrowing everything over to the 'tip' area! I think what will likely end up happening is I will plant where we have dug so far, and then start digging over the top area in readiness for next year, or perhaps for planting some garlic sets to over-winter, and I'm sure I've see Charles Dowding talk about over-wintering broccoli, too!

    Most people have built cages over their plots, so I guess we will do something similar, otherwise we might end up the go-to plot for the local wildlife!

    Really looking forward to being up there, it's such a peaceful location with a great view, too! I put my name on the waiting list 3 years ago! My other half said it was all mine, but he has so far really enjoyed it up there, too - our little piece of paradise!
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,831
    Personally we don't both with Marigolds, or any other flowers which are supposed to attract pests away from your fruit/veg. We find that various nets/cages are needed if you want any fruit, and brassicas.

    We have an English Walnut (Juglans Regia) in our garden, these don't pose any problem for other plants, it's only the Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra) which produces toxins around it's roots. It's tricky to know which one you have, you may need to do some research.
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy Posts: 6,744

    We have an English Walnut (Juglans Regia) in our garden, these don't pose any problem for other plants, it's only the Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra) which produces toxins around it's roots. It's tricky to know which one you have, you may need to do some research.
    Ahh good to know,  that's why I  said Apprently because I had heard different accounts,  so that explains it.
    In any case it seems if they are only having slabs and pots underneath it won't be an issue. 
    AB Still learning

  • AllotPlotAllotPlot Posts: 13
    Thanks @KeenOnGreen - have read so many positive things about marigolds I thought it was an absolute must! Perhaps they can go in the flower bed, instead!

    Worth noting about the walnut, too - I will do some investigating. Can I assume they are edible? Apparently noone ever takes them to eat, which I find weird! I lived in Greece a while an walnut season everyone was out gathering them up!

    @Allotment Boy thanks for the heads up re the tree, never would have considered it might pose a problem! Hopefully it won't but yep, will probably keep the top 10m to hardstanding anyway, so should mitigate any issues :smiley:
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