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Thread: Plot 1B - starting out top tips?

  1. #1
    1Bee's Avatar
    1Bee is offline Early Fruiter
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    Smile Plot 1B - starting out top tips?

    We've finally (finally!) got an allotment. I've been growing in pots and tiny beds in the equally tiny front garden for years, but now we've come to the top of the waiting list and have signed up for a half plot.

    So, with hindsight, what is the one thing you wished you'd done, or hadn't done, when you started out? I'd be really grateful for your wisdom!

    About the plot:- It's roughly 8 or 9 metres square, and, according to parish council minutes and google maps (I've been sneaking!) hasn't been cultivated in years. It's recently been leveled by a digger and looks to be good quality soil. There's water on site, but nothing else - no compost heaps, storage, toilet, bark chippings, manure.
    On the other hand, there's not much in the way of rules, either, so as long as we're willing, working and trying, I don't think anyone will be on our back.

    It's a five minute drive away, so we're desperate for a shed, but we're being realistic and want to keep our expectations low for the first year - concentrate on putting down membrane for paths, tackling weeds, bringing some space into cultivation, having fun, and feeding the soil. And soul.

    I'd like to get potatoes and leeks in this year, and maybe courgettes and squashes, which are my secret crush.

    We have a pre-schooler who loves being outside (preferably wet and muddy) so we'd need to make sure there was space for him to enjoy, too. We're thinking of growing a bean teepee for him.... Also, because of him, our first priority will be picking over the site for broken glass, as there's a lot of it on the other half of the plot.

    I am RIDICULOUSLY excited, but also pretty scared we've taken on too much. I don't want to fail at this!
    Nicos, Bigmallly, Gillykat and 1 others like this.

  2. #2
    crannman is offline Sprouter
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    hi dig over a small area plant spuds at least something will be growing . then take your time on the rest of the plot had mine 3yrs its a ever changing thing most of al enjoy don't try and do it all at once

  3. #3
    Kristen is offline Early Fruiter
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    The best thing in your favour is that the time is right to be sowing & growing things. Many newbies start sowing seeds too early and then they get killed by late frost, or divorced because they can't see out of any windowsill in the house!!

    I'd advise against rotavating as it will chop up roots of pernicious weeds, and all the bits will grow.

    If the plot is a wilderness I, personally, would make a one-time application of Glyphosate based weedkiller (and a second one two weeks later on anything that was missed, or wasn't dying already) to get a flying start. Opinions vary on that of course, but I personally don't think it is any different/worse that the contamination on vegetables I buy in the supermarket (Organic excepted) or eat in a restaurant or round a friend's house.
    The usual advice for newbies for Year One includes:

    Grow only what you like to eat

    Favour crops that are more expensive in the shops - more Feel Good Factor! Main Crop spuds are cheap to buy in winter, and your home-grown ones will probably be sprouting in the cupboard by XMas. New Potatoes are better value (and flavour)

    Grow crops for flavour. Most (maybe all?) that you grow and harvest fresh and cook immediately will taste better. Things like Sweetcorn and New Potatoes will taste much better - the sugar starts turning to starch as soon as they are harvested, so a couple of days travelling to the shop, and another couple of days in your fridge is No Contest compared to picked and in the pan within 10 minutes

    I would suggest trying to grow varieties with better flavour. Its very subjective, and will depend on your personal preference but also your soil and husbandry. The variety you buy in the supermarket will have been grown because it doesn't bruise easily, or lasts a long time, or is convenient to harvest all-at-once. Home Growers have so much choice for variety.

    There are threads on here for "Best [Tomato] variety" and although you might not actually like some of them, growing the varieties that are universally popular is a good place to start your journey.

    My one piece of advise is to keep a notebook (or spreadsheet if you prefer).

    Crop Name / Variety
    Date Sown / Planted
    Date of First and Last harvest (to help with planning next year)
    Notes on whether you liked/hated it and whether you need to grow more/less next year
    Bigmallly, Gillykat and MonicaS like this.
    K's Garden blog the story of the creation of our garden

  4. #4
    Kristen is offline Early Fruiter
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    Quote Originally Posted by crannman View Post
    don't try and do it all at once
    I think that depends a lot on the individual? We've had newbies posting on here who are clearly built like Hercules and cleared and dug the whole plot in a weekend or two ... others take longer ... some much longer

    It is worth covering any areas of the plot not being cultivated initially. Tarpaulin will do, if you have one, another favourite is to cover with cardboard (blagged from a Bike shop, or White Goods Superstore) and then covered with compost / manure. The cardboard will stop the weeds growing for a season, and as it all rots down the compost/manure will be taken up by the soil.

    It will also keep the Allotment Police happier as the unused parts of your plot won't look like wasteland!

    (Don't use old carpet (often banned on allotments) Once it starts to rot the weeds grow through and it becomes a nightmare to remove the tangled mess.)
    Bigmallly and Norfolkgrey like this.
    K's Garden blog the story of the creation of our garden

  5. #5
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    Martin H is offline Early Fruiter
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    I wish I'd put the effort in to clear the perennial weeds from the paths between beds as well as from the beds themselves. It would have saved me a lot of effort of pulling out the stuff that spreads sideways into the beds as well as giving the slugs fewer hiding places.
    My gardening blog: In Spades, last update 30th April 2018.
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  6. #6
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    Nicos is offline 'Allo 'Allo !
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    Make sure your plot boundaries are very clearly marked..... that will avoid problems in the future.

    Take lots of piccies as you go along!

    Perennial leaves?....yup do a thorough job of removing them, and their roots.

    Get the right tools to suit your height and strength...you can buy longer handled tools, or smaller spades
    etc.

    Get used to the idea now that your car boot will soon look like part of your allotment!

    I'm really chuffed you have finally got a plot of your own! Enjoy!
    Bonsai Si likes this.
    "Nicos, Queen of Gooooogle" and... GYO's own Miss Marple

  7. #7
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    Norfolkgrey is offline Mature Fruiter
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    Hi and welcome.

    Lots of great advice so far. Mine is don't expect too much in your first year, be happy with little achievements and be willing to change/ compromise as you go.

    If you have any questions (no matter how daft you think they are) just ask away

  8. #8
    WendyC is offline Early Fruiter
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    Is your plot 9 metres by 9 metres or 9 metres squared? If it is the latter I wouldn't waste space putting a shed on there!

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