Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your allotment, with a focus for first time plot holders, with our own collection of ideas collated from Pintrest, you can check these out towards the bottom of the page. If you’d like any tips of your own added, fill out the suggestion box at the bottom of this page and we’ll add them to this page so we can build up a great collection of hints and tips. Just click the tip section below to expand. Also, click here for our month by month allotment tips.
CAAA Tips and Suggestions
Get a pen and paper and plan!
Ask any allotment owner and they’ll tell you to keep on top of your weeds. It’s something we all have to do and it’s essential if you want to get the best crops out of your allotment. Garden Without Doors recently posted a great guide for weeding and we recommend you take a look. Even print it out and pop it away somewhere at your allotment if you have a shed or somewhere dry to store it. Out tips are:
Annuals (such as chickweed, cleavers and groundsel)
Most, especially when young and before they have set seed, are easy to pull out by hand if the soil is moist. Or they can be hoed off when it’s dry.
Annuals that set seed quickly (such as hairy bittercress).
They can be hand pulled or hoed, as soon as the seedheads are spotted. Don’t compost them or leave them on the soil surface.
Deep-rooted weeds (such as docks and dandelions)
Try to remove as much of the root as possible in one piece, (easiest when the soil is wet). Small bits of root will grow a fresh plant, so don’t attack them with a rotavater. You could use a weedkiller containing glyphosate, which will kill the roots as well as the foliage. More than one application sometimes.
Weeds that entwine round other plants (such as bindweed and bryony)
Difficult to poison or hoe them without harming the plant they are growing up. Possible to apply a weedkiller gel by hand. Or train them up a cane some distance from your plants and treat them with glyphosate, as above.
Weeds that are brittle underground (such as couchgrass)
Their roots easily break into many pieces, each of which can form a new plant. Either use glyphosate, or fork and re-fork the ground to remove all traces. Do this well before planting crops, to allow any regrowth to appear and be removed before you plant. A rotavator will not help.
Weeds with tough protective surfaces (such as horsetail/marestail)
Their tough protective surface can resist weedkillers. If they are bruised but left intact they are more susceptible to glyphosate.
Underground bulbils (such as celandines)
Later in the season, when you disturb them, they shed their bulbils, which will go on to make fresh plants. So dig them out as early in the year as possible.
Get to know and respect your neighbours
Wildlife, Pollinating and Companion Planting
Many people have an allotment primarily to grow produce, as well as creating a sanctuary to escape to while making new friends. But wildlife plays an important part of any allotment site. With urban cities like Cardiff seeing a big drop in it’s local wildlife due to development and changing lifestyles it’s important to think about the critters and animals who we may be sharing our plots with. Allotments play a huge part in supporting wildlife in urban areas, often they create links between tracks, hedgerows, parks and rivers. And aside from the help some of them give us by assisting with pollination and pest control there are things we, as plot-holders, can do to help keep this eco-system balanced.
- If you have room on your plot, set aside a bit of room to plant some nectar rich flowers to help attract pollinators. Many crops rely on pollinators; apple, plum and pear trees rely up to 85% on pollinators, 85% for runner beans and similar beans, cucumbers have a 60% reliance, pumpkins up to 85% to name a few and remember that honeybees pollinate an estimated 35% of UK crops.
- In Spring spotted nettles, primroses, black and redcurrants will feed pollinators. In Summer hollyhocks, marigolds, borage and open centred dahlias will feed them. Autumn your nasturtiums, single flower dahlias and sunflowers will feed the pollinators and Winter flowering shrubs like Vibernum tinus, Skimmia (Kew Green), Mahonia (Underway), Hamamelis (intermedia) and Daphne bholua (Jacqueline Postill) are some good examples. As with any shrub, make sure you can keep on top of the pruning.
- Try and reduce your usage of chemicals if you don’t already, eliminating their usage if you’re able to.
- Lure ladybirds to your plot by planting some dill, carrots, celery, parsley and fennel and when the ladybirds come each one will eat up to 60 insects a day including aphids, leaf hoppers, mealy bugs, mites and others.
- We know you can’t have a hose on site but if you’re able to bring a spray bottle to spray the bugs off, they rarely climb back on.
- You’ll see a lot less slugs and snails if you place broken egg shells around the base of your crops, if growing in pots wrap some copper tape around the middle of your pot and try some companion gardening; fennel and rosemary are great slug deterrents.
- Try making your own natural pesticides, take a look here for some good recipes.
- Try creating some homes for the wildlife; bee boxes, small stone and log piles for insects, compost for slow worms, nesting boxes for birds.
- If you bring children onto the site make sure they know the importance of looking after the wildlife.
- And like we’ve said before, chat to your neighbours and fellow plot holders to see if they have any tips of their own, and check out our companion planting guide below.
When planting the above companion plants, try when possible to plant them in pots to avoid them taking over the plot, especially mint.
Perennials for busy allotment keepers
Got an idea, suggestion, tip or trick for good allotment keeping? Let us know below in the suggestion box.