What do I need to think about before I take on an allotment?
What is my next step?
Taking on a plot can be rewarding but it’s challenging, tiring and fun. We hope that this information will help you decide if becoming a tenant is for you!
What are the benefits?
Growing your own food can be rewarding in lots of ways – watching your seeds grow through its many stages and ending up as fresh veg on your table is a very satisfying feeling. In addition, you can be confident that your food hasn't chalked up any air miles, has been grown organically (if this is what you have chosen to do) and is exactly what you want to eat. You will probably also discover new recipes as you work out what to do with your glut of courgettes! If that’s not enough, an allotment will keep you fit - for a lot less money than joining a gym – good for both your physical and mental health.
What are the Challenges?
Challenge 1 – Clearing your Plot
The plot you take on may not have been well cultivated by the previous tenant. You will need to be prepared to put in some hard work to get the site into a good condition for planting. You might find that your plot needs plenty of digging to loosen it up to enable you to fork in compost or manure. Think about your level of fitness and how much you can manage, dig a bit at a time if you are not used to it and consider using weed suppressants to help manage the sections as you successfully clear them.
Challenge 2 – Keeping Those Weeds at Bay
You are required to keep your plot tidy and weed free and you will need to decide how to manage your weeds. You may decide to try a variety of methods. (Please remember that it is advisable to use a watering can for chemical weed killers as the wind can blow droplets of spray onto neighbouring plots). Whatever method you choose it is likely to require physical effort! Weeds are persistent so you will need to make regular visits to your plot to keep them at bay, especially during the growing season.
Bonfires - Tenants are not permitted to have bonfires on Mondays and Fridays. Tenants are only permitted to burn garden waste, anyone found burning any other material will be reported to Wiltshire Council and is subject to having their tenancy revoked. Bonfires must be attended at all times with due care and regard for neighbours – under no circumstances should a lit or smouldering bonfire be left unattended.
Challenge 3 – Time Management!
Allotments need regular visits. It is recommended to visit at least twice a week to keep on top of the weeding and in hot weather you might need to water your crops every day. Have a think about how you would realistically fit this into your routine, or rope your family into helping.
Challenge 4 – Tools and Equipment
You will need a certain amount of tools to tend your plot but the basics don’t need to cost a fortune . Check out the local press or car boot sales for second hand tools, ask around other tenants or join up to Freecycle. The Allotment Shop at Coldharbour Lane stocks a certain amount of equipment like canes and netting and may be able to help you source water butts and compost bins. We strongly advise that you don't keep tools or anything of value on your plot. You may also want to investigate whether your household insurance will cover your tools on the plot in the event of theft or damage.
Challenge 5 – How Do I choose what to plant? And where to plant it? And all the rest??
Deciding what to plant and where to plant it can be daunting. Do you want to consider companion planting or rotating the site? What is the soil quality on the plot? Does it suffer from exposure to the wind or is it covered in shade? There are many books about allotments on the market so you should be able to find one to suit you. Don’t be shy to ask your neighbouring tenants for their advice. Many of them are happy to pass on a tip or two; you could also join the Salisbury Allotments Association which is a wealth of information. The first year of your plot may not provide large quantities of fruit and veg as you may find your plot needs a lot of planning and preparation. As time goes on you will learn about your plot – what grows well, where it goes, how much watering, fertiliser or mulching is needed and so on. If you are realistic about what you can achieve, plan well and act with patience, you are sure to reap all the rewards of being an allotment holder in the fullness of time!
What do I do next?
Get yourself on the waiting list by contacting us. We can advise you which site may suit you best and how long waiting lists are,as well as when you might expect to get a plot. In the meantime, start reading about the subject and deciding how you would manage your dream plot!