I can hardly believe it’s the end of the growing season for us already! We took on a 64 square metre, overgrown plot in April and decided to just get stuck in and see what happens. Partly because we thought getting a plot was a few years away yet so we didn’t have a plan. Anyway I wanted to write a post about our experiences; with a few tips in to help others decide if they’d enjoy having their own plot or not. So beyond all the lovely photos of homegrown food and sunny plots, what is it really like to own an allotment? In short, it’s great. Hard work at times but totally worth the effort.
I was really excited to get a plot. Although when we started digging the ground over I had a fleeting moment of panic. Can we really manage this much land? The initial dig is the hardest hurdle to overcome because at that point, so much work lay ahead and you have to keep sight of why you’re doing it. But once you get there it’s fantastic. Your allotment becomes a supermarket that’s always open and full of fresh delicious food with zero food miles. And the best bit of all? You haven’t had to rely on anyone else for that food; the things you’re eating started life as a tiny seed grown in your humble soil.
Weeds, weeds and more weeds
Weeds are the worst thing about owning an allotment plot, they’re relentless. As soon as we accepted that we would never get rid of them all, we were a lot happier. Top lessons learnt:
- Cover soil you aren’t using, don’t leave the ground bare
- Weed little and often
- Get a hoe. It saves your back and your time. Hoe on a dry, sunny day most weeds will be pulled up from the roots and then shrivel up on the surface of the soil in the sun.
Don’t compare yourself too much
Naturally when you first get your space you have a nose at what other people are doing. It’s very easy to feel like you aren’t doing as well as everyone else, you’re behind or don’t know enough. One of our allotment neighbours told us to remember that most of the other plots are owned by people who are retired and have time to come every day – so of course their plots are going to look perfect!
We mulched our beans with a thick layer of well rotted manure (compost) to slow weeds and preserve soil moisture. The plants that weren’t mulched definitely needed more watering. Mulching is definitely worth doing if you are worried about having enough time to water.
Bottle top watering
To help more water reach the roots of your plants, water into a plastic bottle. Cut it in half, remove the lid, poke it upside down in the soil, pour the water in and let it soak into the soil. It will reduce the amount of water evaporating/running off the surface of the soil.
Watch your eyes
With canes all over the place propping up this and that, it’s very easy to bend down and come face to face with the top of a cane; I’ve done it. Think of your eyes and put an old tin can or milk bottle on the end. Sounds silly but it could save an eye! Works for bums too – boy does that hurt!
If you want a high yielding crop which requires little effort, grow runner beans. We picked a whopping 16.5kg of beans over the Summer and ate them with nearly every meal for weeks! Keep them watered in hot weather (mulch helps) and you’ll be rewarded with plump tender beans. Keep your fingers crossed for a glut so you can make runner bean chutney.
Onions and garlic
Poke onions sets/garlic cloves into the ground, let them do their thing for a few months and hand weed around the bulbs. Easy peasy! We harvested 7.7kg of onions and 27 bulbs of garlic back in July – the onions are gone and we only have a few bulbs of garlic left.
These really brighten up the space, make great cut flowers and attract beneficial insects like bees and ladybirds.
You will change
Let me show you this ‘x’ I grew
Think of someone you know who has cute a cute baby; this is how you will become about your vegetables. See my Instagram feed for evidence. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
While everyone else is moaning about another rainy day over the Summer, you’ll be rubbing your hands together with glee at the thought of not having to go and water the allotment after work. And when people say, “not more rain” don’t cheerfully reply with “at least the allotment will get a water” because they will look at you like you just ripped the head off a puppy and ate it.
The value of our allotment
I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of out allotment produce and finding its equivalent value in supermarket prices. We’ve grown £256.46 worth of food since April!! Not all of it is profit because we had to buy a few things (like a hoe and a fruit net) but we are definitely in the green. Good times!
Are you thinking about taking on an allotment? If so, what are you most excited or concerned about?