1. You can grow fresh organic fruit, vegetables and flowers of your choice, and harvest, fresh, straight from the plant. You’ll taste the difference.
2. Save yourself hundreds of pounds every year on your shopping bill. Many plot holders are virtually self sufficient in veg especially during the summer and autumn.
3. It’s green:
– Recycling organic waste into compost.
– Reducing food miles (walk to your allotment to gather your own produce rather than drive to the supermarket to buy food that has travelled 1000′s of miles).
– Allotments are often very good for wildlife.
– Allotments are a very good way of raising awareness about the environment and are a great place for children to learn about ‘green’ issues.
4. Are a valuable source of recreation and entertainment for people of all ages from all walks of life.
5. Are good for your physical health and mental well-being. Gardening is very therapeutic and is available to able bodied and disabled people.
6. Are important as ‘green-lungs’, providing open space for people and wildlife within the urban environment.
7. Help to maintain the urban environment as an attractive and vibrant place to live and work.
8. Are great places to meet people. It is not uncommon to spend more time gossiping to someone on the plot next door than digging your plot. Plot holders include individuals and whole families.
9. Allotment gardening is FUN!
Basic allotment gardening requirements
Clothing: Stout boots or Wellington’s for digging, pair of gloves to protect your hands when needed and a wide brimmed hat in sunny weather or a woolly hat when its cold.
Spade: used for digging and turning soil, will also be required to remove turf prior to digging.
Fork: for digging over soil and digging in manure and the like. Will be required to dig out root crops and weeds. Hold the tool vertical, tread to the top of the blade with the ball of the foot, lever the shaft backwards and lift and turn the soil.
Rake: for levelling soil and preparing seed beds.
Dutch hoe: used to cut down annual weeds and prevent compaction of he soil surface and water evaporation. The method is to hoe the area in front of you, moving the tool towards you, step back a pace or two, then hoe the next area in front of you. Continue in this manner.
Draw hoe: Used primarily to earth up plants, dig seed drills and for weeding. To weed or cultivate soil the method is similar to the Dutch hoe, except the cutting action is move the tool forward over the soil to be worked. You do not walk over the hoed soil, but step back a pace and continue as before.
Secateurs : For pruning bushes, trees and cutting flowers.
Knife: A sharp one for cutting twine or plants.
Hand trowel: needed when transplanting. Hand fork: used to dig out or loosen weeds prior to hand pulling.
String line: Needed to mark out rows.
Large watering can and a bucket: The bucket can be used to refill the can or collect up weeds. A watering rose for the can is advisable for watering seedlings.
Pressure sprayer: For the application of insecticide and fungicide.
Suitable second hand tools can be gotten from boot fairs. Expensive shiny tools are not advisable, shed robbers look for these, in fact leave nothing of consequence or value in the allotment shed, take it home with you.
Compost all your green waste (excluding perennial weeds such as Bind weed, Mares tail and brambles) from your allotment using bin, heap or a pit. The bin can be a plastic “Dalek” that can be bought at a reasonable price from the council or made of wood using old pallets for example. A heap needs to be covered over to keep it moist using for plastic sheeting or carpet. The compost pit is a large hole the waste is thrown into and covered at intervals with earth. An accelerant such as Garrotta, 6 X or sulphate of ammonia can be added to encourage the decomposition of the waste. The core of the heap can get hot and is said to destroy weed seeds and pests. The materials need turning over occasionally to obtain a uniformly rotted compost.The compost is ideal as a mulch for fruit bushes, lining a bean trench or a mound to grow marrows and pumpkins on.
Watering the allotment
(abridged version of an anonymous article)
Water is a constant requirement for living plants. It is used to carry mineral nutrients to leaf and stem, to distribute foodstuffs to all parts of the plant and to maintain what might be termed the pressure of growth forces. Excess water is constantly being lost through the plant by transpiration and elsewhere by evaporation. Insufficient water leads to wilting, a loss of growth and eventually the plant’s death, so it is important to supply sufficient water to your crops.With these points in mind what is there that you can do as a plotholder to help conserve water.
Below are ten points that may help you to maintain your allotment to a high standard with the minimum amount of water.
1. Use a water butt to collect any rainwater, position it close to your shed so with the use of a length of gutter and a piece of drainpipe water can be collected from the shed roof. It is important to cover the butt to avoid algae growth. When available! soft rainwater is undoubtedly best for plants.
2. Mulch fruit and other long term crops; a good thick layer of mulch helps to conserve water but it also helps prevent weed growth. Well rotted manure or garden compost, even straw or grass clippings, can be used. From some crops, such as strawberries, it may be appropriate to plant through a layer of black polythene pegged down to the soil. Make sure that the soil is well watered before mulching.
3. When cultivating your allotment incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil as this will help retain moisture in the ground.
4. When growing ‘hungry’ crops, such as beans, sweet peas, etc., dig a good deep trench and fill the bottom with any type of organic matter, even old damp newspaper will do before backfilling. This will help to act as a reservoir for these plants.
5. Grow crops that do not require excess watering, for instance many herbs such as Sage and Rosemary come from Mediterranean climates and can survive fairly dry conditions.
6. If you grow plants in tubs or containers incorporate a water retentive gell into the planting compost. Stand pots, containers and grow bags on trays to catch any water that drains through, this water can then be recycled.
7. When choosing a watering can pick one that is well balanced and not too heavy to carry when full, 7 to 9 litres (1½ to 2 gallons) should be all right. Polythene cans are shorter lived than metal ones but are inexpensive and with reasonable care should last for several years. Buy two roses (perforated heads), a fine one for watering seedlings and a course one for general purpose watering.
8. When you do water, it is better to pick one section of the allotment and water thoroughly to some depth. A thorough soaking at weekly intervals is much better for the plant than a daily sprinkling of water as this will encourage plants to grow deeper and search for their own water. It is best to water early in the morning, particularly in greenhouses, so plants are surface dry at night. This helps to keep diseases down.
9. If watering has to be curtailed because of a water shortage, the addition of a dilute liquid feed to the water used makes it more of an immediate benefit to the struggling plant and less water will go further.
10. Regular hoeing of cultivated areas not only reduces competition for water from weeds but breaks the soil capillaries and therefore reduces water evaporation from the surface of the soil.If you take note of these points and are careful with the use of water it will still be possible to grow a wide range of crops through the driest of summers. It is these battles with nature that are amongst the things that makes gardening so enjoyable.