02 Oct 2017

i-build answers all green-fingered budding allotmenteers’ queries

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With the trend for sustainable living reaching an all-time high, more of us are switching onto the benefits of growing our own produce and, as a result, many are taking the allotmenteering route.

Allotments have been in existence for many years with numerous people reaping the benefits of growing their own produce and spending valuable time outdoors. Although often established as an environment for impromptu meet-ups for the green-fingered older generation, the younger demographic is also showing an interest in the possibilities of owning an allotment plot.

The work involved in maintaining a plot should never be underestimated; it is recommended that allotmenteers devote at least seven hours a week to preserving the condition of their plot in the spring and summer months, while a recommendation of around two hours a week during winter is advised to keep everything in order.

How to apply for a plot

The first port of call would be to contact your local authority which will be able to provide you with a directory of locally available sites. It’s worth noting, however, that due to their ever-increasing popularity, there are long waiting lists for available plots. Unoccupied plots can also be found via the National Allotment Society’s website.

What are the benefits?

Aside from the health benefits associated with keeping active, allotments boast many benefits; they’re inexpensive to purchase, provide a suitable home for wildlife and, importantly, allow allotmenteers to grow and harvest their very own personally-grown supplies.

Preparing the plot

Once you’re successful in obtaining a plot, your first job will involve ground clearing. Any overgrown weeds, such as nettles, that will be a threat to your future vegetable and fruit growth will need an effective method of removal. Hormone weed killers are regularly used for removal, however, it’s important to consider that these weed killers will remain active within the soil – resulting in postponed planting.

It is advisable prior to any planting commencing that you test the soil and check its structure. Plants require specific nutrients to enable their growth. Using a laboratory soil test will allow you to select the correct fertiliser regime for your plot.

Do you want an organic allotment?

There is no mandatory requirement for an organic allotment, however, you must bear in mind the views of your fellow allotmenteers. Many sites have divided their allotments into two divisions; organic and non-organic areas, to maintain the happiness of both parties.

Essentially, organic gardening avoids the use of any pesticides and fertilisers and relies upon a more natural approach to manage pest and weed issues.

Organic gardeners will handle pest problems using mesh and fleece methods to eradicate pest problems rather than turn to pesticides.

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Ripe for the picking

With the trend for sustainable living reaching an all-time high, more of us are switching onto the benefits of growing our own produce and, as a result, many are taking the allotmenteering route.

1. Lettuce
An all-year-round plant, lettuce can be grown in the open ground as well as pots and window boxes. There are four different types of lettuce; cos, iceberg, butterhead and looseleaf. Harvest months for lettuce are from April to September.

Top tip: slugs are regular pests of lettuce. Some plants, such as sage, rosemary and lavender, are avoided by slugs, so planting these near lettuce rows may help.

2. Figs
Generally problem-free, this succulent, easy-to-grow fruit is an allotmenteer favourite. There are more than 700 types of fig trees throughout the world, however, the most common within the UK is the Brown Turkey. Reaching up to 10m high, they are suitable to grow in either containers or plots.

Top tip: if your fig tree’s roots are restricted, ensure it is watered often.

3. Potatoes
Often most associated with allotments, potatoes are the go-to vegetable for plots. Potatoes require a good supply of nutrients and plenty of water.

Potatoes require deep, fertile soil to grow to their full potential. Soil can be improved by adding organic matter, such as well-rotten manure, in the autumn season.

Top tip: before planting your potatoes, supplement the soil with a general fertiliser.

4. Cucumbers
Cucumbers are divided into two types; indoor and outdoor. An allotment with a greenhouse will be the perfect environment to grow an indoor variety, which can be transported to the ground around June/July.

Top tip: cucumbers produce male and female flowers. The female flowers have a wider stalk in comparison to a male.

5. Apples
The most common and easily-grown fruit in the UK, an apple tree’s final height will reach between 1 and 4m. Requiring little maintenance, apple trees should not be planted in poorly-drained, shallow soil.

Top tip: in cases of brown rot, remove all infected fruits from the tree to prevent spreading.

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