By Billie Winwood
I’ve been a gardener for a few years now, having moved into our new build house with our first small garden almost four years ago. I had two small veg patches in the garden, and packed in what I could. But as I learnt more about gardening, found new plants I loved, ate the food I had produced and realised how much good gardening was doing me physically and mentally, I knew that I needed more.
And throughout the pandemic, these feelings just grew. So like many others, I decided to apply for an allotment. I’ve been an allotment holder for a grand total of 3 weeks now – it feels like longer in some ways! – and I have already learnt so much. There is no amount of reading blogs and articles online that can tell you what having your own allotment will actually be like.
For one, each plot and allotment site is very different. It’ll completely depend on what state your plot is in, what the soil is like, whether anything like a shed or tools have been left by the previous owner and more.
Not only that, but the time of year that you get your plot makes a huge difference. Many people told me I wouldn’t get much done at this time of year, seeing as it’s a bit late to sow many types of plants. But I’ve found that I’ve actually loved getting stuck into the plot in late November/early December. I’ve been able to focus on making sure my sheds are sorted out, cleared lots of brambles, cover up half of the plot to suppress the weeds and grass, and take a lot of rubbish to the tip!
Each time I get back home after a few hours on the plot, I take some time to reflect on my progress. And it got me thinking about the less practical side of things when getting a new plot.
So here are my top tips when taking on a new plot.
- Take your time
For me, I wanted to get on my plot right away and start work. I felt like the seasonal clock was ticking and was desperate to get going. But then someone reminded me that the plot is *mine* now, and will be forever more if I want it to be.
I realised that I don’t need to rush to do everything at once. Little jobs always take longer than you think, and spending time on the plot and getting to know it has let me think more freely and creatively about what I’d like it to look like over the next year. If I’d rushed in, I might have regretted some key decisions in the time to come.
So really take your time to make the plot work for you. Think about a plan and focus on smaller tasks at first. You’ll make much more progress than you think. Take plenty of photos so even after a few weeks or months you can look back and see how far you’ve come.
- Ask for help
You don’t have to do it on your own! I applied for the plot on my own, and didn’t think my husband would be that interested. But we’ve both got stuck in and he’s also really enjoyed it! It’s great to have a project to work on together that will be of benefit to us both.
I’ve also had lots of offers of help on the plot, some from friends with no garden of their own who’d like some outdoor time. I’m definitely taking them up on their offer. The more the merrier!
- Make your own decisions
I’m really lucky to have received a lot of help and advice, both in the garden and since I’ve got the plot. While there are so many websites and videos online about how to get started on allotment, there is nothing quite like getting real advice from people you know.
But sometimes, a lot of advice can be overwhelming, even if you’re the one who’s actively asked for it! You’ll get plenty of contradicting suggestions and ideas, based on what’s worked for other people.
So – don’t be afraid to ask for advice, but also don’t be afraid to ignore some too! You’re the only one who will know what you want to do, and how you want to do it. It’s your plot, your garden – you decision!
It’s too easy sometimes not to take your own advice, so I’m going to really try to keep these tips in mind myself as the months go on. Hopefully not only will the allotment thrive, but I will too!