Plot 70b - Tips for starting an allotment
In July I celebrated my allotment being 1 year old! I didn't have a party (this year, I have plans for next year...) but I did share with you guys a year in photos that made me super proud of all I've achieved and that a year on my love affair with my allotment is still going strong.
I've always been a bit of a project person, I'll obsess over something till I'm as close to perfection as I think is possible and then I'll drop it entirely. If you scroll far enough back on my insta you'll see my nail art phase and my bullet journal phase - I still journal I just don't share it as much. People that know me will also remember the cupcake phase, which was entertaining as I don't really eat cake... So to be still this into my allotment proves just how interesting growing your own is.
The year in photos post also gave me pause to consider how much I have learnt over the past year. And I have learnt a lot. This probably the main reason I still look forward to getting down there, perfection feels a long, long way off. So today I thought I'd share with you what I have learnt and any tips and tricks I've picked up.
1. Measure your plot
I didn't do this to start with, I sat and sketched out what I wanted where and became slightly confused when I started digging that it didn't all fit. In the end I paced it out and made do. It's only recently I took a tape measure down there and knowing the actual size of my beds is novel and hella informative. So take a tape measure down and use this when planning!
2. Plan, plan, plan
But then don't worry too much when things don't go to plan. The key here is flexibility. Do a detailed plan of where you want things to go, what you're planting when and where and then when the soil type isn't what you thought, or none of your seeds germinate don't panic and adapt your plans.
3. Pre-sort your seeds
Again something I didn't do but will be doing next year having seen @thegoodlifeainteasy do so on instagram. Yes, I knew what I planned on planting, but I then had to trawl through my seed drawers each month to find them. Next year they will be pre-bundled by month that I can pick up and crack on with.
4. Don't plant all your seeds at once
Any long term allotment holder or gardener is going to read this and be like 'well, duh' but take it from me, it does not say this anywhere. Those months coloured in on the back of seed packets as to when to sow aren't really a choice, more of a all of these. For example, if it says sow Mar-June it doesn't really mean pick a month between here, it means sow some seeds each month between March and June. This is how you get continuous crops during the harvest months. I promise you this took me a good 4 months to work out.
5. Get yourself a good allotment 'bible'
A how to allotment book that gives you everything from what to do each month, a crop planner and a troubleshooter for pests and diseases. It will be referenced time and time again. I use this one and I love it, but make sure you get one aimed at where you live.
6. Don't be too disheartened when things don't grow, die, get eaten
It will happen. Often. More often than you think. Especially in your first year. I planted 12 pumpkin seeds this year, I have one plant. This pumpkin plant is my pride and joy, but the percentage of success here is tiny. It could have been the soil, it could have been the weather, one definitely got demolished by slugs. I'm sad, but choosing to revel in the accomplishment of one plant instead.
7. Try and get your head around crop rotation
Work out how many beds you have and then work out how many years crop rotation you need; I have 4 main beds and therefore a 4 year crop cycle -
Year 1 - brassicas
Year 2 - peas, beans and fruiting veg
Year 3 - roots and stems
Year 4 - onions
Start each bed on a different year in the cycle, and if you're better than me you'll work out how to make your rotation go in the right order...
8. You're probably gonna have to up your DIY skills
There is endless amount of things to make at the allotment, fruit cages, trellises, compost bins. Unless you choose to invest in these things already made. For me, part of the fun is the hard work put in on this side of things.
9. Be prepared for a full body work out
You don't have to be at peak fitness to have an allotment, gods know I'm not, but you will feel it. Nearly every task you do on your plot will be some form of exercise, especially the harder things like digging over beds. Remember though, what you put in you get out in the form of produce that is only there because of you. 10x better than the gym if you ask me.
10. Enjoy your plot
Make sure you take time out when you're there to just sit and enjoy the fruits of your labour, both literally and figuratively. If your allotment is feeling like a chore, another to-do on your long list then you've tipped the balance somewhere. Yes, you will need to put in a whole bunch of hardwork, but if you're not enjoying what you've achieved then what is the point?
I hope these are helpful to you in some way. I'm off to head to my allotment with a cup of tea to see how much the rain has encouraged the plants (and the grass!) to grow and work out if I need to do anything before I head out of town for my best friends wedding this week!
Peas, love & cider,
what am I eating this week?
more salads, broad beans, sweetcorn and wedding cake!