Updated/Fact-Chacked on March 17, 2022 by John
If you have landed here, you are likely pondering the idea of starting an allotment and living off the land!
Owning an allotment is interesting for people who love gardening. It’s also ideal for anyone who wants to make sure that the food they are eating is 100% natural and healthy with no artificial elements.
You can use your allotment to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, and even ornamental flowers to decorate your home and give to your loved ones.
In this article, I will walk you step by step through the details you need to know to prepare healthy soil for your crops.
Best time to start an allotment
The best time to get an allotment is now (autumn) in my opinion, this gives you plenty of time to get it cleared for spring and create your planting master plan over winter.
How to get an allotment
To acquire an allotment you need to contact your local council and be added to the waiting list; it’s highly unlikely you will get one immediately, especially since covid.
If you know someone with one and it’s not being used, they may be able to pass it over to you.
How to Start an Allotment 101
Clean the Area
If you buy an allotment that was previously owned by someone, chances are it’s going to be full of its previous owner’s junk. So, put your gloves and shoes on and start by cleaning the rubbish from your plot. Get rid of any piece of glass, metals, and any junk before bringing your gardening equipment.
Cut the Plants
What if the allotment plot has a lot of overgrown plants? Don’t hesitate to cut them. For this process, you’ll need to be equipped with a good pair of secateurs, loppers, a strimmer, and a garden shredder to tackle the plants.
I advise you to do all of this in winter because only then can you lay cardboard or polythene over weedy areas to deprive the weeds of water. This way, cutting them won’t be as challenging as it would otherwise be.
Don’t let your excitement blind you and make you forget that some animals are living among the grass, including frogs, toads, grass snakes, and hedgehogs. So, you must move slowly among the grass and make some noise in order to give them a chance to escape.
If you’re lucky, you might find some fruit bushes as you cut. If you want to plant them, dig them out, put them in a pot with compost until you’re ready to plant them again.
Remove the Turf
The above two steps would be necessary if you bought an old allotment that someone owned before you. Yet, if you buy a brand new one, you will only need to remove the turf.
There are two ways by which you can take up the turf: Either buy or rent a turf cutter to facilitate the task or do it yourself by slicing up turf squares with a sharp spade.
Pick up Stones
Whether you’re the plot’s first owner or not, this is a step you must go through. Try to pick up all the stones and weeds. As much as it is tedious and tiring, I guarantee that this will make your future in gardening a lot easier and of high quality.
Once you remove the stones and cut off the weeds, it’s time to do some digging to remove the weeds’ roots. It’s always better to dig the soil twice to ensure you remove all the roots. If the plot is very unkempt, you must double dig it, which means digging to two spades’ depth. This serves to release compacted soil and aid drainage. If you don’t want to do this manually, you can buy or hire a rotavator for this purpose.
Fertilize and Water
Fertilizers break up the soil and improve it, and the kind of fertilizers you use play a huge role in determining the quality of your produce. Soils benefit the most from organic matter, such as chicken or horse manure, soil conditioning compost, and commercial pellets.
Now let’s discuss how you’re going to water your plot. If your allotment does not supply water, you can try installing a water butt. This will be especially necessary if you’ll plant crops with shallow roots like tomatoes because they require to be watered regularly. Plus, this prevents you from having to carry gallons of water in your car. Also, adding mulch is an excellent way to keep your plants moisturized and hydrated.
Plan How You’ll Move Around the Plot
This is the last step before planting. Whether your allotment plot is small or big, you need to plan its layout before working in it because you must decide how you’ll walk inside it without damaging your plants’ roots.
If you are going to plant raised beds, which you can easily do using old scaffold boards or pallets, you can safely walk between them. But if you don’t love this way of planting, you must make paths, or you’ll destroy the roots.
You can go for the easiest option and plant grass in the pathways; however, if you do this, be ready to trim the grass as it usually grows and spreads to the side.
If you don’t want to keep trimming the grass, you can go for concrete slabs. Just lay them where you want to move and forget about them. In case you don’t want to use concrete, substitute it with a cheap weed-resistant membrane. You can also add the stones you dug up earlier.
Benefits of Having an Allotment
There are various benefits of owning an allotment, and they are as follows:
- Making sure that the food you’re eating is healthy with zero artificial elements
- Having a consistent source for your vegetables and fruits
- Growing the kind of food you love and want to always have around
- Staying fit as a result of the tremendous work you’ll gladly put into gardening
- Socializing with people with similar interests and making new friends
Tips for Success
Here are some of the crucial tips you should consider to enjoy a successful allotmenteering:
- Buy a good set of the essential equipment you’re going to need, such as a hand fork, a spade, a trowel, a rake, and gardening gloves.
- Start with growing vegetables that are easy to grow, such as potatoes, which grow easily and also help break up the soil. You can also try growing garlic, broad beans, and courgettes as they require minimum effort and are not very demanding.
- Grow some flowers too to brighten the area up. Sunflowers are great for lifting your mood.
- Try managing half of the allotment plot first so as not to busy yourself with focusing on a wide area of land.
- Get to know your neighbours as they can help you and give you advice. You can also trade seeds and produce with them if you want.
Starting an Allotment FAQs
Are allotments public?
Modern allotments are either public or private
How long can I keep an allotment?
Most allotments can be leased indefinitely, which is why they are hard to come by.
Can I keep chickens on my allotment?
Under the 1950 Allotment Act, the keeping of hens and rabbits is allowed on allotments
How much do allotments cost?
They are generally minimal as you are paying for the up keep
Can you keep bees on an allotment?
You would need to check with your local council and allotment rules
Can I run a business from an allotment?
No allotments are not for commercial use, though selling some veg will not get you jail time.
Hopefully, you now believe that buying and preparing an allotment plot is not impossible. All you need to do is clean the plot and prepare it properly according to the above steps and tips, and you’ll be ready to enjoy the healthiest food you’ll ever eat.
Mary shares a passion for gardening with her husband John, though she is more focused on growing veg on their allotment at St. Margaret’s Allotments, Durham. Mary also works in the lawn care industry and manages the lawns for the Durham University campus.