Planning the Site

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Planning the Allotment Planning the Allotment

Whilst it may be tempting to grab that spade and get stuck in the first thing you should do once you have got your first plot is to get a pencil and a pad of paper and start planning - graph paper is best as it allows a simple scale to be used, but plain paper will suffice. This will help break down the work into manageable chunks, and produce a much better run and productive plot in the long term.

Visit the site at various times of the day to see which way the sun moves across the allotment and how much shade is created by nearby trees. Next you will need to list the areas you intend to create, aside from growing areas. For example: space for a shed/tool storage facility; greenhouse; compost; pond; and lawn or decking etc. You may not want, cannot afford or don’t have the space for all these, but if you have they will all pay you back in the long term, and it’s important to know where you will put them in advance… finding that your shed is in the wrong place is a costly mistake!

When planning you should consider the following:

 

Shed

Where you put your shed requires careful consideration. It should be easily accessible, out of view of main roads if possible, and not take up prime growing ground or cast a shadow in the wrong place.

 

If you have a corner on the plot that is in shade, then this could be the ideal location for your shed.

 

Compost Bins

You are likely to need at least 2 bins, possibly more. Make sure that you can access them with a wheelbarrow, and also bear in mind that whilst you can put compost bins in partial shade, compost will rot much quicker if it is warmed up by the sun.

 

Greenhouse

Even if you are not planning to put a greenhouse up yet, have a think about where this will go if you were to have one in the future (they needn’t cost a fortune either – most of the greenhouses on our site were free from freecycle). It should be in full sun and accessible with a wheelbarrow.

 

Water Butts

Water butts should be positioned near sheds or greenhouses to collect water off the roof. Put them on a stand or a pile of bricks so that you can get a bucket or watering can under the tap.

 

Paths

Paths should be straight and be wide enough for a wheelbarrow.

 

Pond

Will you install a pond sometime in the future? If the answer is yes, then plan it in now. Ponds add some interest, and are great for wildlife (frogs & toads) which in turn can help keep the slug population at bay.

 

Fruit trees

Some sites do not allow fruit trees, but others do. If you are planning to grow trees then be careful that they do not cast a shadow over your plot…. And more importantly that they do not cast a shadow over your neighbours plot. Consider training them as espaliers.

 

Fruit cage

Will you grow currants, gooseberries, and blueberries? If so plan where you will put a fruit cage. The size will depend on the number and types of fruit you grow (Mine is 2m x 4m and has 2 bushes each of blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberry and blueberry)

 

Permanent and Semi permanent crops.

This includes, strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, globe artichokes, flowers and herbs, all of which can stay in the same beds for years and years. Allow space for each of these and pencil these into your plan.

 

Once you have decided what areas you are going to need, hopefully there will be space for growing some produce. At this point you need to consider crop rotation. This will affect the number of growing beds you are going to need. In its simplest form this just means moving each crop around so that you don’t grow the same thing in the same space year after year which prevents problems building up in the soil. Most gardeners opt for a 4 bed rotation (Potato family, Legumes, Brassicas, Onions and Roots), and in which case if possible the number of beds you have should be a multiple of 4… so 4, 8 or 12 depending on the size of your plot and beds.

Each bed should be large enough to grow each crop, but small enough so that you can reach the middle of the bed with a hoe without standing on and compacting the soil.

Drawing out your plan, allows you to change things until you have satisfied yourself what you want. It’s a good idea to look around the site and see what everybody else has done, or visit local allotments to see if someone already has a design that you would consider as a model for yours. It may not necessarily be an identical copy but you might get some general ideas.

Once you are happy with your plan, you can take it down to the plot and start your masterpiece. A tape measure, ball of string and garden canes can be used to mark out the ground or even just canes lying on the floor. If the ground is covered with brambles then clear these first.

The picture above is one of my first plans for my allotment. It was amended a few times when I started to plan on ground on the plot as certain items were not to scale, but my plot today looks very similar to this initial plan.

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com
More in this category: Clearing the Ground »
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