The amazing thing about growing your own fruit and veg is that anyone can have a go. If you’ve had success in your own garden and want to go bigger or you fancy making the most of growing your own but are short of space, the right soil or enough sunshine, an allotment could be the answer.
Allotments have been around for hundreds of years, helping to feed families through good times and bad. There are few things more satisfying then sitting down to a meal that you have not only prepared for yourself but actually grown from scratch. The demand for allotments is generally high due to the increasing trend to embrace a wholesome lifestyle, paired with being more conscientious about how we spend our hard-earned money.
National Allotment Week is on between 10th – 16th August this year, but don’t worry if you don’t have an allotment space; you can create your own mini allotment in your garden. So grab your gardening fork (and if the kids need entertaining then grab them too!) and head off to your ‘allotment’!
Benefits of allotment gardening
Saving money – growing your own fruit and veg can have a dramatic impact on your weekly shopping bill.
The feel-good factor – spending as little as fifteen extra minutes a day in the fresh air can build up your levels of vitamin D, raising serotonin levels, increasing not only health but happiness too.
Burning calories – 30 minutes of allotment gardening can burn around 150 calories.
Being around like-minded people – socialising is good for the health, and spending time with like-minded people can reward you with a multitude of happy moments.
Encouraging wildlife – otherwise built-up urban areas benefit from the green corridors that allotments create. Just one square metre of land can support hundreds of different species of wildlife.
Getting the kids involved – kids will love to help plant seeds with you and it’s a great way to get them out in the fresh air.
Allotment ideas – essential kit
Although having the right tools for the job is important, starting out on your allotment adventure or mini allotment needn’t break the bank. Your essential starter kit should include:
Planning your space is a must when starting an allotment. If you are unsure what to grow, how about taking your inspiration from a meal you are looking forward to digging into? If you’re just beginning and wondering how to start an allotment you’ve missed the summer crop, but all is not lost. Once you have created a healthy soil base for planting, there are still vegetables that can be planted in August. To create good planting soil, you’ll need to dig and fork through the soil to loosen any compaction, remove weeds and debris and add some organic matter (compost). And there’s still time to plant out and even sow some crops, here’s some ideas of what to grow on an allotment:
Cauliflowers – August is the time to transplant winter and spring cauliflowers. They should give you a harvest in the new year.
Cabbages, Broccoli and Kale – if sown in August these will be ready for harvesting next spring. Cover them with nets to keep birds off.
Lettuce and other salad crops – it’s still possible to sow lettuce though they may not germinate if the weather is too hot. Try some rocket and cress.
After some more inspiration? Take a look at our What to do in the garden in August blog for some more hints and tips about what you can get up to in the garden this month.
Mini garden allotments
Your allotment size doesn’t have to be big, especially if you haven’t the time to maintain your own allotment. How about setting up a mini allotment in your garden? If you haven’t got the room to dig up a patch of land, you can grow the above veg all in grow bags. Brassicas need a lot of room, so make sure you don’t plant too many in each bag. If you don’t fancy veg then opt for flowers or herbs instead and grow them the easy way in our Clever pot range – perfect if you’ve not got all that much space outdoors. And don’t forget to pretty up your mini garden allotment too with a fresh lick of paint colour and solar lights.
Allotments in August
If you’ve been planting throughout spring and summer, your crop will be coming to fruition now with everything from peas, beetroot, beans, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and onions through to grapes, raspberries and blackberries. Aside from allotment growing, there’s still jobs to be getting on with:
Weeding – make sure you’re keeping on top of the weeds so your plants aren’t having to compete with them, especially in wetter weeks when weed growth can spiral out of control! And when it’s hot remember to continue regular watering to promote healthy growth and prevent plants bolting prematurely. A water butt will definitely come in handy, and is a great way to be more eco-friendly.
Harvesting – don’t forget to harvest regularly, especially runner beans and courgettes, which grow at speed and will become too large and stringy if left too long. A good plant food is sure to give you the best crop possible too.
Supporting – if you’re growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, don’t forget to tie them in to plant supports. As the fruits develop they’ll become heavy and the plants will require extra support to the main stems to avoid breakages.
Earthing up – earth up potatoes and around brassicas (cauliflowers, broccoli, kale) to support unsteady stems. And trench your celery to keep the stems out of the light.
Maintaining – you’re probably too busy sowing to remember about your allotment wood, but that will need some TLC too. Don’t forget to keep sheds and fences protected with masonry paint.
A veggie growing mission
So, go on, give it a go, no one starts out a green-fingered genius but with the right tools, hard work and persistence you’ll make your allotment a success before you know it. Allotments are a wonderful thing that will thrive given lots of love and attention.
Interested in having an allotment of your own? Contact your local council to apply for an allotment near you. They’ll either allocate you a plot or in many cases, add your name to the waiting list.
And when you’re ready, find everything you need for your allotment project from our huge gardening section.
Sown seeds bought from wilko? We’d love to hear from you. Tag @lovewilko in your Instagram pictures to be featured on our site! Also be sure to check out even more family gardening adventures with @grow_with_joe for more family gardening inspiration.