What are the challenges?
The plot you take on may not have been well cultivated by the previous tenant or may have been vacant for long period of time. You will need to put in some hard work to get the plot into a good condition for planting. You might find that the plot needs plenty of digging to loosen it up to enable you to fork in compost or manure. Think about your level of fitness and how much you can manage, dig a bit at a time if you are not used to it and consider using weed suppressants to help manage the sections as they are successfully cleared.
Challenge 2 – Keeping the weeds at bay
You will be required to keep your plot tidy and weed free and you will need to decide how to manage the weeds. Weeds are persistent so you will need to make regular visits to the plot to keep them at bay, especially during the growing season.
Challenge 3 – Time management
Allotments need regular visits. It is recommended to visit at least twice a week to keep on top of weeding and in hot weather, you might need to water your crops every day. Have a think about how you would realistically fit this into your routine.
Challenge 4 – Tools and equipment
You will need a certain amount of tools to tend your plot but the basics don’t need to cost a fortune, consider buying second hand.
We strongly advise that you do not keep tools or anything of value on the plot. You may also want to check if your household insurance will cover your tools on the plot in the event of theft or damage.
Challenge 5 – How to choose what to plant, where to plant it?
Deciding what to plant and where to plant it can be quite daunting. Do you want to consider companion planting or rotating crops on the plot? What is the soil quality on the plot? Does it suffer from exposure to the wind or is it covered in shade?
There are many books/ websites about allotments with information available. Don’t be shy to ask your neighbouring tenants for their advice. Many of them are happy to pass on a tip or two; you could also join one of the Allotment Associations which has a wealth of information.
The first year on the plot may not provide large quantities of produce as you may find your plot needs a lot of planning and preparation. As time goes on you will learn more about what grows well, where it goes, how much watering, fertiliser or mulching is needed and so on.