Writing to you exclusively from our office in Fleming building, CCCU campus, we at the SGO are passionate about helping you succeed to the best of your abilities in all sustainable matters. Whether it’s perfecting the perfect sustainable meal menu, or assisting you in promoting Fracking awareness, or working together on a water-use campaign, we are here to help you. Which is why we have released the Allotment Blitz Allotmenteer’s Guide to Gardening. This guide is for both beginners and advanced gardeners a-like. Whether you have an allotment already or if the idea is just a distant dream, we hope to give you helpful tips on making your allotment experience as successful and rewarding as possible.
So join us over the next few weeks as we release our four part series of the ‘Allotmenteer’s Guide to Gardening’, inspired by CCCU Edible Campus’s Allotment Blitz allotment events.
Allotment gardening is increasing in popularity all over the UK. Allotments are a cheap and effective source of freshly grown fruit and veg, a good place to have a natter with neighbouring gardeners while you’re on a break, and a great source of physical activity. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
1) Basic Tools
The basic tools you’ll need are a fork, spade, seed rake, hoe and trowel. If you don’t already own one or don’t have much money, visit a car boot sale to find second hand tools.
2) Make an allotment plan
It might seem more exciting to dive in headfirst, but before properly working on your allotment, get to know your plot. Observe the path the sun takes across the sky to help with planting positions. Observe your plants as they grow to learn how long they take to grow and any problems that occur for future reference. In your plan, consider the time you will spend on your allotment. Every person and every allotment is different, but if you want to steadily improve your allotment, working on it for 4 to 5 hours a week means you will start noticing a substantial difference within your allotment very soon. If you enjoy it, spend more hours on it. Remember, picking crops can be time consuming. In the summer, visit your allotment for an hour or so each night. If you find it relaxing, it won’t seem like hard work!
3) Clearing Allotments
Start clearing them slowly. Start with a small, manageable size, perhaps inviting somebody else to join you. Dig carefully to remove perennial roots, multiple times with a couple of weeks’ gap between each dig to remove regrowth.
4) Start simple
Instead of diving head first into the deep end, start with easily manageable plants such as peas, sweet corn, radishes, beans and courgettes– rather than those cauliflowers and aubergines you are desperate to make.
Let’s think about manure. Manure is used to supply nutrients and add to biological activity of soil. Chicken manure provides the most nitrogen and phosphorous. Chicken manure is organic, however is not necessarily ecologically or economically friendly as the chickens may not be free-range.
You could make your own green crop manure. These will give you choice to choose crops for each job needed. Species belonging to pea/ clover family will improve soil fertility. Green manures will decompose after they have been dug in, improving drainage and root penetration.
Make sure your manure is organic, as it does not contain herbicide from an animal’s diet of treated food, however it is often pricy and hard to find. Sow soft compost straightaway. For other types, make your bed a month before bed making or you may discover slugs, weeds, clumps of soil and old compost.
Compost is a great fertilizer. It can enrich the soil with organic materials. When using it, mix it with the soil completely, as it provides oxygenation. Firstly, decide why you need a compost bin– for a type of compost, or for compost turning.
Next, set up your bin. 16-gauge plastic-coated wire mesh and hardware cloth are good. Or build it from wooden pallets, snow fencing and a rabbit hutch. Reserve an area for composting. Burn plant rubbish in a bonfire or incinerator.
Materials that you can put in your composting bin include yard waste, such as grass and hedge trimmings, leaves or tree bark and wood chips. You may use household waste such as spoiled produce, fruit and vegetable peel, tea bags and coffee grounds. You could also use human hair, or even fabric scraps! Garden waste such as plants and weeds can be used, however avoid using diseased plants.
7) Work with what’s there
If broccoli is growing, leave it. If an onion is growing, take careful of it. Not only does it make the task easier for you, but you have an interesting garden from the get go.
8) Little and Often
Make sure to consistently tend to your allotment. Visit it on a regular basis for a small time, and don’t abandon it when the weather gets bad. This ensures that your allotment will steadily improve, and you don’t have the large task of deweeding and maintaining your allotment after leaving it for some time.
9) Choose crops that don’t spoil
Being at university is a busy time and we understand if you can’t visit your allotment every day. Which is why, when considering vegetables to grow, it is important that you choose those that won’t spoil if you don’t harvest them immediately. These vegetables include chillies, potatoes, rhubarb, artichokes, beetroot, carrots, kale, onions, garlic, shallots and spinach.
Prepare the ground by digging it to remove weeds. Dig a trench to the depth of the spade, and barrow the soil to the other end of the plot. Fill up the new trench with soil from the previous one. Move backwards as you dig. Fill the final trench with the soil from the first.
Simples! Now have a go at getting started on your own allotment.
In Blog 2 of the ‘Allotment Blitz Allotmenteer’s Guide to Gardening’, we will be discussing ‘Weather’ and how to deal with tough conditions!
Catch you next time,
Meg & the SGO xxx