Allotment, Home & garden

What we’ve learned from our first six months on the allotment

By way of a quick update, we moved into this house at the end of October last year (2019). C immediately contacted the local council and another local trust who both run allotments to put our names on the waiting list. I was expecting (and also slightly hoping…) that we’d not find ourselves at the front of a list until we’d been in the new place a year – give ourselves time to get settled and so on.

But C and life had other plans, and in early January 2020 we found ourselves standing at the end of a fairly bedraggled plot, realising it was now our responsibility.

This is what it looked like then:

So… not very prepossessing.

Since then we’ve worked hard, popping up most days to do at least a little bit. We’ve weathered one of the stormiest springs on record, swiftly followed by one of the hottest months as well. This is where we’d got to in March:

I don’t know about you, but I think we’ve done alright.

What we’ve done…

So the big changes are hopefully fairly obvious.

Starting at the far end of the plot, which backs onto a field, with the help of C’s parents we chopped down some overgrown bushes, weeded, and dug up apparently endless amounts of rubble. The old man who’d had the plot before we took it on had apparently kept a lot of junk in the hope it would be useful – I can sympathise; I’m very similar – but what had ended up happening was that there were piles of rusted metal and old plastic containers, and everywhere we trod there were piles of broken glass and bits of brick and concrete.

We spent several weekends digging these up, ordered a skip, and got rid of as much as we could. We then had a suitably epic bonfire to get rid of anything else that could be burned. That was fun!

We then moved onto trying to tame the actual plot itself. We rotivated part of the plot and dug over several beds in the lower part of the allotment. The massive junk heap in the middle is a problem for this Autumn, I think…

We then started weeding. And weeding. And weeding. Obviously, in February and early March, the ground hasn’t warmed up – most things aren’t growing hugely vigorously. We were pleased with how quickly we got everything neatened up, and started planting.

We possibly put our potatoes in a bit early, as we were really keen to crack on. And we started filling the greenhouse with seedlings. I planted over one hundred cauliflower seeds, thinking that not all of them would germinate. How wrong I was…

At home we had to repair a fence along the back of the garden, so we used the least rotten bits of the old fence to build our raised beds in the top half of the plot. I think they’re starting to look pretty good.

There are three raised beds in the image, each with seedlings planted in rows. A woman is standing in the background looking away from the camera at another bed she's in the middle of digging.
Our raised beds with many, many brassica seedlings.

And then the warmer weather hit, and the weeds woke up.

Turns out, it’s really hard to get rid of Horsetail Fern. It’s been around since before the dinosaurs so to be honest it probably feels like it’s hard to get rid of us instead. You can think you’ve found and got rid of every bit of horsetail root in a bed, and by the time you come back the next day… there’s a new baby horsetail sprouting its head above the soil. It’s incorrigible.

But now we’re starting to get into the season where things become ripe – we’ve got cauliflowers (so many cauliflowers), broccoli (technically it’s Calabrese, not broccoli), and peas. Our beans are kicking off, our potatoes are inching nearer to ripe. Our gooseberry bushes and rhubarb are making themselves comfortable so we can harvest them next year, and our greenhouse is full of tomatoes and a very vigorous grape vine.

We’ve also got Aubergines that are starting to put out fruit, so we’ll see if we actually manage to get them to successfully ripen… they look like they’re struggling a bit. Our squash are going bananas and our sweetcorn is starting to put out little ears.

We’re still overwhelmed with weeds, and two of the beds we neatly dug over in March have become tiny patches of wildflower meadow (and a refuge for horse hair…) because the weeds took over while we weren’t looking. But every day is a learning curve.

I’ll tell you one other thing – during this whole Covid-19 situation, I was so glad that the allotment counted as our allowed ‘daily exercise’. If I hadn’t been able to get out of the house to come up here, I’d have gone mad.

Do you have an allotment? What are your top tips for allotment success? Or, what’s something you wish you’d known when you took over your plot?

I’m planning to do a bit of a monthly update on how it’s going and what we’re doing with it, so if you have any advice on things to keep on top of in July, I’d love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “What we’ve learned from our first six months on the allotment”

  1. You’ve done marvelous work! And did the greenhouse come with the allotment? I don’t have a true allotment, because it is actually my backyard but I grow LOTS of food there in raised beds. It, too has been my salvation during this lockdown. I’ll look forward to your updates.


    1. Yes, the greenhouse came with it! There’s also a (really run-down) shed at the very back of the plot that I didn’t include in these photos. The plot was used by an older man who had it for about 20 years apparently. He had to give it up at the start of the year because of his health, unfortunately, but he build the greenhouse himself and it’s still standing. We’re really lucky to have it!

      Thank you for your lovely comment 🙂


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