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How to get started with an allotment

As it’s National Allotments Week, here’s a guide to getting your allotment started.

Preserve what’s already there

It’s more than likely that you’ll inherit an overgrown plot, so start with an audit of the existing planting. Ask fellow allotment members what was previously grown on the plot. If you’re not sure what you’ve got, prune back hard and then give the plant a season to see if it fares well. While it’s tempting to start with a blank canvas, you might be digging up long-established perennials like rhubarb, raspberries or asparagus.

Learn from your neighbours

Allotment holders are a friendly bunch and full of great advice. Introduce yourself and ask for their tips on what grows well in the area. You’ll find inspiration, a guide to a practical layout and, if you’re lucky, some free cuttings to get you started. Be flexible and open to experiment. It can take several seasons of failures and successes to know what works, and most veteran allotment holders will tell you they’re still learning.

Condition your soil and start small

Your priority is the soil. Many allotment societies bulk-buy local manure, and this can be an eco-friendly and cost-effective way to get your soil in tip-top condition. Beware of overplanting and ending up with a glut of produce. Keep your amounts modest – remember, for example, that just two courgette plants will produce enough for a family of four. Think about trying a small, plastic greenhouse for a while before investing in something more permanent. This way, you can reposition it if needed and assess what size you’ll need.

Finally, make sure you have somewhere lovely to sit. Whether it’s a stylish Supremo Tuscany bistro set, or just a couple of folding camping chairs, you’ll have earned a rest after all the digging.

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