National Allotment Week 2019 is still running for three more days, and it’s a great opportunity to learn more about growing your own fresh produce, whether in a rented allotment plot, your own back garden, or even a window box.
The week-long event invites members of the public to visit their local allotments, many of which have opened their gates from August 12th to 18th.
You can rent an allotment in cities, towns and villages the length and breadth of the UK, but National Allotment Week is also about encouraging people to grow their own at home or in other private spaces.
First of all, you need bare topsoil free from any grass so you can plant your seeds – so it’s time to lift the turf, if you’re starting with a grassy plot.
If you’re starting a vegetable patch in your own back garden, you might want to clear an area and then lay fresh turf along the edges, giving you a neat outline of healthy grass that’s easier to maintain with a straight, sharp edge.
If you’ve inherited a rented allotment plot that’s strewn with rubbish, left-behind tools and other materials, spend some time properly clearing the space so you can plan it out and plant it out effectively.
Fully clearing an allotment plot can be a challenge – there might be old root systems snarling up the soil, and you might even want to remove the topsoil and replace it with a more fertile and well draining mix – so don’t shy away from this part to get off to the best start.
While clearing the plot, you might encounter dangerous materials like broken glass or buried shards of metal – so wear sturdy gloves, use tools, and stay safe.
Again, by properly clearing the area in the first instance, you give your allotment the best chance to thrive, with no nasty surprises while digging over the earth further down the line.
Allotments, especially overgrown plots, can be tempting habitats for animals, especially if there’s an abundance of berries, fruits and tasty vegetables growing there.
You might consider wildlife to be pests if they eat your hard-earned produce, but at least give animals a chance to leave safely before you fence and net off the plot – and especially before you take a mower or strimmer to the long growth.
Finally, whether you’ve inherited an allotment or you’re starting a vegetable patch in your own garden, work with what’s already there if possible.
That might include hardy and herbaceous perennials left by the previous occupant, wild plants like garlic, mint and berry-filled brambles, or even more established features like fertile fruit trees, all of which can give you your first harvest sooner than you might think.