After all this sitting and looking at the plot I have come up with the first stage design which I am sure will change but for now gives me something to work towards.
I have decided not to dig up the whole space but to opt for 6 separate beds with a working area at the top and an area at the the bottom for compost bins. This design means that I can define the growing areas more easily and have pathways inbetween.
Having paths allows better access to the growing spaces without having to walk over the soil. It also means that if there is ever a time when I have nothing better to do I can grass seed them a little at a time but still have full access to the more important vegetable patches.
As much as I’m in this for the food I still want my plot to look good!
I have been down to the plot several times to plan. I may have looked like a very relaxed person sitting drinking tea and reading a book but I assure you inside I was busy thinking and planning. It was quite tiring actually on one occasion I had to come home to have a nap!
The other good thing about taking the time to sit looking out at your plot is you also get to look at your neighbours and get some inspiration as to how you want yours to be. It is important not to get too despondant when doing this. When comparing my overgrown space to that of the other well manintained, organised plots I did feel a little overwhelmed but another cup of tea soon made me feel better.
So maybe my first piece of advice as to what to buy for your allotment is to invest in a good flask. No problem is unsolveable when you can take a step back from it, sit down and have a nice cup of tea.
The first visits to the allotment should be used as planning time. It is a great excuse to enjoy your space with a deckchair, pad and flask of tea without having to do any hard work. If anyone calls you lazy then just assure them it is a vital part of the process and for me it was the first time I really fell in love with the plot.
Whatever size your growing space, whether a full allotment, half (like mine) or a small patch in your garden, think about what it is you want to achieve. As yet no washed our summers, army of slugs or pulled muscles have dampened your sprirts.
That’s all to come but for now it’s your time to dream.
Before agreeing to take an allotment have a look around the site. I suggest looking for key things, firstly what state the ground is in. It sounds obvious but it’s important to think straight away about how much time it is going to take to get the ground workable and how much time you have to give. From what I have read it suggests a minimum of 8 hours a week just to keep it ticking over and thats after the initial slog of getting the patch ready for the first plantings.
It is also important to check that if the plot has been left for some time there is something growing on it. Grass and weeds are an indication of not only the work ahead but that the ground is fertile and can grow something. If you are lucky enough to visit when its been raining it is a good time to check for water drainage. Any muddy puddles are a sign of work to be done. Talking of water another key thing is to find out where you will be getting water from to use when the weather changes and we get the longed for hot summer.
As a final note it is important to check the general position of the plot. Is it it the corner where it will be shaded by trees in the spring/ summer months? Any bushes that will also interfer with the sunshine getting through? Where does the sun move over the plot and are there any structures (other peoples sheds or fruit trees) likely to over shadow your ground?
I thought I should back track a little and start at the very beginning. We (my partner and I) got our allotment in December after only two years on the waiting list which I am told is not long in this climate of increased interest in the ‘grow your own’ trend.
I am an allotment first timer so any advice I give will be as I learn it. My first piece of advice is on being offered a plot before agreeing to take it on go and visit the site. We were lucky to be let in by one of our soon to be neighbours who gave us a brief outline of how long it had been since the patch had been worked on and a few other bits of info about the site. Ignoring the sorry tales of slugs and snails that all gardeners seemed to have been plagued with this year we went and had a look around.