Allotments are areas of land divided into sections, each of which is rented by a gardener and cultivated for crops. Vegetables make up a large proportion of allotment produce. Space on an allotment plot varies, but is almost always enough to plant and grow a wide selection of vegetables. Soil preparation and testing is key, as is well-planned crop rotation. Put in a minimum of two hours work at the allotment per week to get best results, according to the BBC's expert grower, Geoff Stokes. Allotments are sometimes referred to as community gardens in the United States.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Allotment patch
- Compost or manure
- Soil pH kit
Plan out your allotment area on paper. Consider dividing the allotment up into raised beds or marked-off sections. This makes it easier for you to rotate crops and maintain control over your vegetable patches.
Select a range of vegetables for your allotment. Choose species that are known to grow well in your climate. Vegetables such as carrot, potato, squash, bean, broccoli and cabbage will grow in most areas of the United States.
Till your entire allotment area, or the sections you want to use for growing vegetables. Dig down to a depth of 6 to 10 inches and turn the soil over, according to the University of Illinois. Loosen any soil clumps, discard any rocks and sift out as many weeds as possible. The more weeds and roots you remove now, the easier it will be for you in the coming months.
Test your soil type and pH. Use a pH testing kit or check if your local university or government agricultural department offers soil testing facilities. For example, the University of Illinois has soil testing labs across the state. Recommended pH for most vegetables is around 6.2 to 6.8, according to Master Gardeners at Ohio State University. If your soil is heavy and claylike, or if it's sandy and light, add manure and compost.
Grow similar vegetables together. For example, brassicas such as cauliflower and cabbage use similar nutrients in the soil, so plant them together in a bed. Next season, you can rotate them to a different part of the allotment.
Check your seed packets for advice on sowing and harvest times. Consider propagating some seeds, such as tomato and bean, indoors a few weeks before the last frosts and transplanting outside when they're sturdier. Check packs for plant spacing distances. For example, leave 2 feet between potato rows and a foot between each plant.
Give your allotment a liberal spray with a garden hose once or twice a week. In the hottest summer months, increase watering frequency so that the soil is damp to the touch. Vegetables such as potato and tomato require regular deep watering.
Mulch the allotment with shredded sterilised straw or bark to deter slugs and conserve groundwater. Harvest vegetables when ripe and ready. Check individual packs for exact details.
Tips and warnings
- Grow potatoes. These are one of the most straightforward vegetable crops for beginner gardeners.
- Don't water too much or add too much fertiliser. This can drown the plant roots or ruin the flavour of some crops.
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