An Introduction to Allotments
What is an allotment?
An allotment in the United Kingdom, is a small area of land for individuals to grow their own fruit and vegetable in, and in some instances keep livestock such as chickens.
These allotments are normally let out at a nominal yearly rent by local governments or independent allotment associations.
History of the allotment:
The allotment system began in the 18th century and has experienced many changes some of which can be read here:
Technically there is no such thing as a 'typical allotment' simply because tenants generally lay out their plots and grow plants to suit their own needs and preferences, meaning that each plot can be quite unique and have its own individuality.
The attached slide show consists of pictures taken on the writer’s allotments to depict what one could expect in a typical growing season
The pictures have been taken over a period of ten to fifteen years and put together to show how an allotment can change over weeks, months and indeed years.
To do this, the contents as seen here are of a general nature rather than being about specific plants.
Where does one start?
On receipt of your plot it is advisable that you make a few notes to assist you when you come to draw up your layout plan.
The following list details some of the information you may require to do this;
Take note of any permanent structures e.g.Trees, shrubs or buildings.
It is also wise to check if the buildings are listed, and if any of the trees have TPO's on them (Tree Preservation Orders)
Establish which way is North, the direction of the prevailing wind, and what areas get the most sunshine and for how long.
Dig a few trial holes to establish the quality and depth of the topsoil.
This may also let you know what soil treatment/s you have to do prior to planting out.
Either do a pH test or send a soil sample off to a soil research laboratory to find out the general mineral/nutrition content of the existing soil.
Readers with a previously cultivated garden that is new to them would be well advised to follow the same procedure and develop a similar plan.
The Layout plan:
When producing the layout plan you should consider some or all of the following;
Compost heap, Coldframe, Greenhouse, Fruit bed, Crop beds.
Soil quality can play a large part in the success of your produce so knowing something about your soil type can be a big help.
The following list covers the most of the more common types found in the UK;
Chalky, Clay, Dry, Peaty, Waterlogged.(see related links)
This is probably the most important aspect of keeping an allotment so having understanding of this can be advantageous.
The following list should go a long way to address this;
- When to start Cultivation,
- What tools to use,
- When to do Single digging,Double digging or Deep digging.
- How to test the soil,
- When to add Lime, Nutrients, and Fertilisers.
- What Soil improvers and or Green manure to use.
- If and when to use Raised beds, and how to control/ deal with Weeds.
Links to most of these can be found in the 'Related Links' column.
Once the allotment is set out and the soil is prepared it is time to:
- Plan what you want to grow and when,
- How to make a Crop Rotation Plan,
- When to use Catch crops.
- When to Feed, Water or mulch you plots.
Again you can find out by using the 'Related Links' Column.