First time allotment owner

Hi. We have taken on an allotment with a shed and I’m good kept condition. We aim to plan what beds we want, thinking of long raised beds possibly 4. We have never done anything like this before. And are unsure even though we have read and read advice and tips, on where to start exactly. Do we need to crack on clearing the plot and digging up ready to lay our beds? Or do we wait for spring which we’ve read will be easier for weeding? Any help and advice will be much appreciated. Emma

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Hi Emma

I wrote this guide for newbies taking on an allotment: https://www.jackwallington.com/13-tips-to-help-allotment-newbies-by-an-allotment-newbie/

Personally I would start clearing some areas now to plant into. You can do this by weeding out weeds or by covering them with cardboard and a layer of compost.

I don’t dig over soil as is often recommended, instead I just add a layer of compost on top of the soil if low in fertility. If it’s very dark then it’s likely high in nutrients. Either way, given it’s your first year, I would add some compost or well-rotted manure.

Concentrate on small areas to start and cover other areas with card or weed suppressant matting until you are ready to expand. The big mistake I made initially was trying to clear and prep too big an area.

Any other questions please let us know!

Jack

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Hi Jack,

Great advice thankyou. I aim to clear one area this weekend and take it step by step. I shall have a read of the link you have sent me, thankyou! We are lucky enough to have taken on a decent plot with very healthy soil!
I shall let you know how we get on clearing and what our next step is. We have bought and have been reading the half hour allotment book as recommended it’s great now I feel confident to get cracking. Thanks so much! Emma

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I am on the board of my allotment club in central Stockholm - and my standard advice to newbies to our club is that they should take plenty of time just to sit down, look at the allotment from different directions, getting to know their neighbours, and have plenty of allotment refreshments. The Swedish verlan is “fika”, meaning sitting down for some coffee/tea and cookies or Swedish cinnamon rolls.

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Hi. I took on my plot around the same time last year. I’ve learnt a lot along the way but the most important leson of all was: It’s your plot to do what you like with. You’ll get a lot of advice, both welcome and unsolicited, along the way and I think this is the key one to remember. So people will tell you different things in answer to your question - my one piece of advice is to go with your gut. The worst that can happen is you’ll learn something.

From day one when I got the key, I spent the first month clearing some the overgrown beds. I knew nothing, and the ground was dry and I had no tools and made it much harder than it needed to be. But every day was a school day. I put some potatoes in first - easy and unfussy. Then some carrots. A plot neighbour gave me some beetroot seedlings so they were next. Then courgettes. Doing the ground work is great, but you really feel good once you’re growing something. So I could have a few things growing while getting on with clearing the rest and getting it ready for my BIG PLANS*.

I felt better once I’d spoken to another plot holder who said she’d only done a third of her plot in the first year. I didn’t even bother trying to grow things outside over winter - I spent the time getting the plot ready for spring and now I’m raring to go.

Good luck. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I hope you find the same.

*Ever-changing

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The best thing I did was to take it slowly in bite sized chunks and focus on one area at a time . My plot was very over grown when I got it and I was itching to get started, gradually it got cleared over time ( I covered it and used the no dig method, spent some time watching videos etc). The good thing for me was that even though a lot of the plot was unusable to begin with I managed to grow a few things in my first season and learned from it. I also started with the easier maintenance stuff that also stores well - potatoes/onions/squash etc . Good luck!

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That sounds like a great approach Marc, thanks for sharing.