7 Steps to Help Cultivate Your New Allotment Plot

Once you have chosen your plot and received the site introduction, you will most likely find your new plot is not in a perfect condition. As much as you would hope for a perfect, ready-to-go plot of land, it's more likely to be wild and overgrown.

The beginning of your allotment life will be hard work – but rewarding in the end. Below I have included seven steps to help cultivate your new allotment plot.

Step 1: Clearing all debris

Invest in a sturdy pair of boots and heavy-duty gloves and make the plot safe, by clearing all the rubbish. You may find glass, netting, metals etc. Protect yourself here.

Step 2: Clearing the jungle

Depending on the state of the plot, you may need the use of loppers, a strimmer, secateurs and a bush cutter. Most sites will have these available for plot holders to use, so ask before you buy. This is where your allotment journey begins. Clear the site by cutting back unruly foliage. It may feel like you are destroying, as opposed to growing. However, revealing the soil is an essential part. Take caution and care for the sake of possible nearby wildlife too. Go slow and re-home any wildlife that gets in your way. Most will move off when the noise starts.

Check if the previous owner has left any plants worth saving, i.e. strawberry runners or other fruit bushes. Dig them up and store for a later re-plant.

Step 3: Dealing with grass

If part of your plot is grassed over, you may wish to use this area for your shed or for creating raised beds. Or you will need to clear the turf and for this you will need a sharp spade and a lot of energy.

Step 4: Weeds and stones

Clearing the weed roots and stones can be time-consuming and dull. But by removing these, your plants will grow better. Remember to save the stones and rocks for later use for paths and weighting down covering.

Step five: Time to dig or no dig

Time to choose: are you are going for a traditional dig plot, a no dig plot or a mixture? No-dig: This involves covering the growing beds with polythene for a few months. Then covering the area with compost and mulch. Then growing produce in the compost.

Raised beds: This involves creating raised growing areas, creating bed sides (using wood, brick or raised soil), laying cardboard over weeds or grass, filling with compost and mulch... and then finally planting into the raised compost. (This can be expensive to setup, but you can start planting immediately)

Traditional digging: This involves rough digging the growing beds and tilling (turning) the soil. This will turn over the soil much more successfully (petrol rotavators, works well and will do the job in 1 hour, which would manually take all day). Most sites will have equipment to hire or available free, so please ask around. Once the soil is turned over, you can start think about planting layouts.

Step 6: It's all in the muck - Fertilise

Soil benefits from some added organic matter – chicken or horse manure are popular. Speak with site members, as many sites offer free or discount manure from local farms. Usually a few barrows full will be enough to top up the soil nutrients each year.

Step 7: Water, water, water

Rain water is best, so plan to collect as much as possible and only us tap water as a last resort. Many allotment sites have no main water, so collect from sheds and polytunnels. Second hand barrels and large tanks can cost from £6 -£50 to purchase... but will last years.

When watering remember to water the plant roots. Use a watering can with a fine spout so you don’t waste water. Some vegetables take a lot more water than others, so choose carefully what to grow. Try to cover the plant base, with mulch as this helps maintain moisture, as well as repelling weeds.