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Help - Total Beginner

Hi Everyone, I am new to gardening and new to these forums! So hello to everyone! I was wondering what advice you could give to someone who is a total beginner in gardening... I found gardening last year to help me battle through a period of illness and dabbled on the balcony we have at our flat. I found it such a rewarding experience I thought I would put my name down for an allotment (with the expectation of waiting for a long time to get one). A few weeks later I got offered one which I took with both hands! Wen I viewed it I underestimated the amount of work involved! It had clearly been neglected for some time and the weeds were winning. I spent hours clearing it, digging up weeds by hand and then covered the whole allotment with tarpaulin. This seems to be dong the trick so far (it's been covered since August 2012). My question: does anyone have any tips about what I could grow, where to start and what to do? I love gardening (that I've experienced so far) and really want to get something looking good this year from the allotment. I have no problem with hard work (blisters, sunburn and all!!) - in fact I love a good day of work outside. Ideally I would like to grow some veg and some flowers I can cut and give to my wife regularly. If anyone can help I would be so grateful!! Thank you!! Tim


  • Hello Tim  ,First get yourself a good allotment book such as the allotment gardeners hand book by Allen Titchmarsh or something similar and a note book on what you did this year and put into it what worked and what did not .Start with some thing simple like raddish , letuce ,beetroot and so on .


  • Matty2Matty2 Posts: 4,817

    And for flowers still time to sow and plant sweet peas, veryscented, lovely. An allotment book sounds good



    PS welcome to the forumimage

  • Bunny ...Bunny ... Posts: 3,471

    Sure you will get plenty help here. I don't have an allotment but good luck, plenty time for flowers the bees with love them too. image
  • A good book to start veg growing is 'Growing veg month-by-month' by John Harrison, it's very reasonably priced.  I'm not related, or on commission, but I found it invaluable when I started out.  Another tip is buy a cheap diary and make a note of things like the weather (late frosts etc), any areas of the allotment that are particularly wet/dry, what varieties of fruit and veg you planted, and how well they did (if they all germinated, if they grew to the size stated on the packet, how much you harvested etc), as it will stop you making the same mistake twice.  And of course, there are folks on here that have YEARS of gardening advice, who'll tell you if they think you've made a mistake, and how to correct it.  We've all made mistakes, and don't mind sharing our mistakes if it stops someone else doing the same thing.  A top tip from me is to wait until march before sowing anything, as seedlings need light as well as warmth, patience is sometimes learnt the hard way, sowing lots now and being devastated when a hard frost undoes all of your hard work in a single night - think that was my biggest mistake.  If you're further south,  then you may be able to start a couple of weeks earlier, further north, it might be a few weeks later, I'm in Sheffield, so pretty much slap bang in the middle of our island.

  • Welcome Tim image  I see you're a Tractorboy image  I'm from Suffolk and have family in Ipswich (although I live near Norwich now image so I have to be careful what I say). You've had some fantastic advice above - my best suggestion, to add to what others have said is 'become a regular on this Board', share your triumphs and your disasters and ask questions all the time - before long you'll find you're able to share what you've learned and help others too image  And really, don't be too shy to ask .... even if you think it might be obvious .... we were all beginners once and no one on here knows everything (although some know almost everything image).  

    I love the fact that you want to be able to take your wife some veg and flowers every week - that's allotment tradition that is - and we'll do our best to helpimage

    As Rosa says - if you didn't sow your sweet peas in the autumn (and I didn't - too much  stuff going on) now's the time to do it - I'll do mine this weekend (I'll start them off in pots or root-trainers if I can find where I put them  image)  There's a thread all about growing sweetpeas somewhere - David K is the expert.

    And Good Luck!!!

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 23,068

    I was born in Ipswich, my grandparents came from Suffolk.

    There's been some good advice above. Don't start too soon (cold weather coming!), sit indoors with a good gardening book. I draw a plan of my veg garden and what I'm going to plant where. When I sow I write the date on the plan and on the back of the page I put how good the harvest was or if something failed.

    You can think about what veg you like and "Google" them individually to learn more.

    Same for flowers, start the sweet peas early, buy some dahlia tubers, but don't plant them yet. If you have a greenhouse you can start dahlias in pots earlier than you would outside. When the weather is warmer March/April you can sow flower seeds, hardy annuals can go directly in the ground, calendula, love in a mist (nigella), nasturtiums (they can be planted next to broad beans, the flowers can be eaten in salads too) etc.

    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • It is a really good idea to get to know the other allotment holders. I have always found most allotmenteers to be very generous with their advice to newcomers. Good Luck.

  • Hi Tim - good luck with your new allotment.  My experience as a new allotmenteer is that fellow gardeners will share surplus plants and seedlings (we always grow too many) so take whatever is offered and fill your plot and you will soon find out what does well, and what you like to eat. image

  • happymarionhappymarion Posts: 4,591

    If you set them in egg boxes to chit now you can start by planting Swift potatoes and may be eating your own new potatoes end of May.  Grow lots of salad stuff - some to feed the slugs to keep them off your ther crops.  Sow broad beans now in pots on your balcony and when they are past being palatable to slugs and snails (four or six true leaves) plant them out in your allotment.  Sow dwarf beans later and then sugar peas and runner beans. All should give you good results and get you eager to try tomatoes,greens of all kinds and beetroot, carrots, etc.  Ask your neighbours which crops suit the soil.  Grow White Lisbon onios for your salad donions and sow the whole packet so you can leave some in to grow into big cooking onions.  Ask your wife which flowers she likes.  Daisies are always welcome and easy and cosmos will last a long time in a vase or in allotment.  Most of all keep enthusiastic whatever the weather throws at you and get a shed and furnish it with a couple of chairs and a shelf for your biscuit tin and thermos flask.  Allotments need time.  Good luck and we are all here to help.

  • Alan4711Alan4711 Posts: 1,657

    Hi Tim,Kate and i got our first allotment last year,it was 2 feet high in grass and weeds and we knew nothing about gardening or allotmenteering but Rainwater Fanatic is dead right because we got so much help and advise from the other allotment holders it helped stop us making many mistakes ,allotmenteering is as we found a sort of cluby type of thing help just seems to come from everywhere, if we were to start afresh we would still deturf the weeds and grass and stack it grass to grass in a corner and cover for 6/8 monthes it makes great loamy soil, iv just put ours back into the beds ready for this years planting, i see youv already got yours ready,then we would still do raised beds as once you have done them all the hard graft is done our beds are now just so easy to keep weed free and easy to plant into. Into  the beds again good manure, and try to have a spare pile of manure for the coming years as it rots down beautifully if covered up and left in a corner your not useing, we had to have11 ton of top soil but you might not need it as our allotment was a year before just a field hence the raised beds to protect from weeds and it does work, The sheds a godsend, waterbuts \(dairy farmers will give you ex disinfectant 40 gallon big tubs they use) just connect them up  and a hose and there you go all the rest just ask on here its great and free id better stop ther 

    good luck Alan4711image


    good luck Alan4711

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