Starting your new plot, part 1

Here we are stood in front of your new allotment plot, you have been on the waiting list and eventually the phone call or email arrived and invited you to come to the site and look at the available plots and pick your dream.

This is where reality hits, the ready dug plot all raked into a fine tilth and ready for sowing disappears in a flash. What you have is a huge area of long grass, weeds and piles of rubbish- HELP!  Where do I start?

First off have a walk round the plot and see exactly what you have. Collect all the rubbish and stack it somewhere, the front or the back of the plot whichever you fancy,  some of it might be useful later so don’t throw it away to start with. You are now an allotmenteer and we were GREEN when it was just a colour.

The next piece of advice is to work little and often, I have seen many people take on a plot, arrive one day and work like mad, pull every muscle they didn’t know they had, go home  and come back in three weeks time and wondered what they had done. Weeds grow very fast between March and October.

Now we have an area of land covered with vegetation of one sort or another, where to now? There are two ways to go, either you can chop all the vegetation down and cover it or you can cover the area with a light excluding material.

There are many types of covers you can use but all of them will need weighing down to stop them blowing away. This is where the rubbish comes in. Bricks, timber, branches all help hold down the covering. What can you use as cover? Cardboard, plastic(black,not clear),old carpets or landscaping fabric. Be careful of old carpets as many of the chemicals used for cleaning can be poisonous, if using carpets please put them pattern side down, they look much better.

Having got this far it is now time to start the work, cultivating the plot. The best way is to uncover a part of the plot and start clearing the weeds and roots. I feel the best place to start is about 6 foot(2 metres) in from the front of the plot because most people stack rubbish, compost and anything else at the front of the plot making it difficult to get started.

Before we start we need some tools, not many at this time, a good digging spade or fork ,the best you can afford. They last a long time and are much used, and a bucket or a trug tub, a rake is handy but not necessary at this time. I always use a spade as I don’t think a fork does as good a job.

How big an area shall we start with, the best is probably about 4 to 6 foot wide(1.2 to 2 metres) and either the plot width or half the plot width. This is where the work starts, you need to dig this area and remove all the surface vegetation and ALL the roots from the area. When I started my plots on this site I worked strips about 4ft with across the width of the plot and I removed one to two full wheelie bins of roots from one strip.

I think that is enough to get you started on your dream, it will come and you will probably get hooked on this new drug.