Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

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jumping bean
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Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172696Post jumping bean
Thu Oct 15, 2009 8:58 pm

I have just taken over an allotment waist high in thistles, any advise on where to start. And what would you recommend are the top ten tools or things that I might need, I am on a very tight budget.

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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172700Post MuddyWitch
Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:28 pm

Top of your list should be enthusiasm, closely followed by enjoyment, a good helping of hard work & a dash of pride.

A good spade that feels right for you, a watering can, a trowel and you can make a start. Most allotment groups have unwanted/abandoned tools that you can borrow, or in some cases, buy for pennies. Always worth asking.

Owt really expensive, like a rotovator is often hired communially, so again I'd make your lottie committee your first port of call. If they have a notice board, why not put a note up asking for old tools?

Good Luck

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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172710Post Urban Ayisha
Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:18 am

i would get a compost bin together. dont know about norfolk council (would be interested to know as we might be moving to norwich next year!) but some councils subsidise them for about 80% of the price (not brilliant at percentages but from about £40 to £5). if not, source a few pallets (sp?) and knock them together. a wheelbarrow comes in handy too, and some large buckets/old laundry baskets type things to chuck weeds and things into. and sizeable bits of tarpaulin to cover bits of your plot to kill off weeds (i found it invaluable as it means you can ignore that bit til later when everythings a bit more under control!)

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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172713Post MKG
Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:57 am

Definitely the spade - there's hardly anything you can do without it. You can turn over the soil, break up the lumps, level the beds AND produce a fine tilth with a spade. And if you're digging, a good pair of gloves is a must (at the risk of everyone calling me a wimp) - try to find thorn-proof ones, then they'll be a great help in getting rid of those thistles (and the nettles which will do their best to take the place of the thistles). There are loads of other things which could be mentioned but, to be quite frank, I'd wait for the "wouldn't it be nice if I had a ..." moments. That way, your budget will be spent on things which will be of immediate benefit.

You'll also be surprised how many other lotty holders will pop along to give you advice and say things like "No, no - you need a rake for that. Haven't you got one? Hang on a minute ...". This is not being a user - allotmenteers, in general, love helping other people out even if only so they can nudge their mates to tell them all about the know-nothing newbie. Let them do it - it's a public service, if you like, and a tight budget isn't made any less tight by pride.

And don't forget seeds - you're definitely going to need those. Once again, though, I'll bet there'll be loads of freebies there too - but you really need to buy at least the basics.

One last thing - don't aim too high in your first year. A couple of beds actually producing something is far, far better than struggling to bring the whole allotment into immediate use and breaking your back in the process. Get a couple of beds ready first, and then take your time with the rest.

Mike
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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172801Post grahamhobbs
Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:40 pm

Funny everyone has said a spade, now I keep a big allotment and a spade would be much lower down my list, top of the list has to be a fork, preferably a secondhand one owned my an old timer who has carefully sharpened the prongs. This is what you should be digging with, you shouldn't be trying to invert the soil, but loosening the soil and helping to remove unwanted weed roots.

The next essential I'd put as a lawn mower (with the thing to collect the grass), surprising perhaps, but it you don't want to be plagued by slugs you must keep your paths cropped short. Hopefully though your alloments may have one they lend out.

I find a sickle useful for keeping the edges of the paths trimmed with a quick run round with the sickle, quicker than anything else but not everyone is happy using one.

A hoe, again get an old one with a good old fashioned steel head that you can sharpen. And that's the next important tool a stone for sharpening the sickle and hoe, in fact, you should get it before you get the hoe or sickle, because without it they will be useless.

Then I suppose comes the spade, these days I tend to use it only for trimming the edges of the grass paths - but no it does come in useful for other little jobs, but really you shouldn't be digging the soil over with it.

Other things to look out for are a string line, a trowel, and a rake.

Then we haven't mentioned protection for your crops - definately need netting over your brassicas. I find hoops made from plastic pipe, about 25mm size usually blue sometimes yellow, is the best as it is snag free with short lengths of rebar (builders reinforcement bar) stuck into the ground over which the ends of the hoops go. Alternatively you can put polythene over to make a cloche.

Next you need to look out for materials for building your compost, others have suggest pallets, they're fine. But also look out for old dustbins or drums for a wormery and for making nettle or comfrey tea, or a rhubarb spray against white fly.

As someone else said its your spirit that is the most important, an allotment can be hard work and it can't be negelected, but it is rewarding, deeply satisfying work. I have seen many young hopefuls come and go on the allotments and I think that often it is not really the work that has defeated them but the fact that they approached it in the wrong way or haven't understood something and made it hard for themselves. So finally I'd suggest you look out for a sympathetic experienced hand on your allotments who you can turn to when problems seem too big or intractable.

Luckily these days we have forums such as these that we can also turn to for that experience (and a multitude of opinions), so keep in touch.

jumping bean
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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172803Post jumping bean
Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:51 pm

Thank you so much for the advise, I have absorbed the lot, I am very excited about getting going. I will be taking pics as I go so hopefully will be able to keep you all informed.

I will still be keeping an eye on this thread if anyone else has any advice or ideas, it all helps.

jumping bean
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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172804Post jumping bean
Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:52 pm

Urban Ayisha wrote:i would get a compost bin together. dont know about norfolk council (would be interested to know as we might be moving to norwich next year!) but some councils subsidise them for about 80% of the price (not brilliant at percentages but from about £40 to £5). if not, source a few pallets (sp?) and knock them together. a wheelbarrow comes in handy too, and some large buckets/old laundry baskets type things to chuck weeds and things into. and sizeable bits of tarpaulin to cover bits of your plot to kill off weeds (i found it invaluable as it means you can ignore that bit til later when everythings a bit more under control!)

I will find out and let you know.

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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172819Post Millymollymandy
Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:33 pm

A digging fork every time, I've never used a spade in my life (but that's probably because I always garden on stony soil where a spade is worse than useless).

Good luck with the lottie! :thumbright:
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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172868Post homegrown
Sat Oct 17, 2009 10:30 am

I'd suggest you get a plastic bin with a lid and an old pillow case or hesian sack, inside put grass clippings, your thistles and/or other weeds, a couple of spoons of lime, herbivore manure, nettles or comfrey, tie of and hang in bin filled with water, the pillow case or sack contains the weeds, if you have a OH or boy kids get them to p in bin once a week (free form of Urea), every two days take out bag and drain then put back in with lid on, after two weeks drain water and dilute 1 litre of liquid to five of water and pour on your garden. repeat a second time for another two weeks then replace ingredients.

you can even put used ingredients in another water filled covered bin and rot down, then safely add to your compost without fear of thistles or other weed seeds germinating. :flower:
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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 172954Post paddy
Sun Oct 18, 2009 9:46 am

I would use these tools = digging Hoes/Azadas because after using them myself i swear by them as others do here. You can dig and chop the weeds with them, then give it a rough digging over, then i would cover with horse manure and cover the lot with heavy black plastic that builders use and leave it untill January, then give it a good digging over, digging the rotted manure into the soil and you are away for next season :icon_smile:

Here we go http://www.chillingtonhoes.com
Last edited by paddy on Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 173095Post Gem
Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:50 am

Top things for me:

A fork
A sythe/siccle
A wheel barrow
Old carpet (there is always someone with some lying around.
A few old buckets

Clearing off an allotment is such a pain but its a good time to do it. What I would do in this situation is chop down the majority of the thistles to knee hight, fork over, pull up what I can and then cover..
Depending on the size of the allotment and the number of hands (eg 2 pairs and 50m by 10m) this will take you about a day of hard labor.

I didnt bother with a compost heap to start with, I didnt have my 'plan' sorted and didnt want to end up with it stuck somewhere that was inconvenient. Instead I got my old buckets, chucked in some nettles and comfrey (thistle not great as it takes longer to mulch.) filled with water then left to stew for a few weeks or until I needed it. This liquid fertilizer is a good soil top up (not so much for winter but when your plants are in) and doesnt require the permenant heap.

Though getting your heap in as soon as your plan is ready is a good idea, its not one of the 'first' things I do.

Depending on what weeds are present I will as often as not just dig them in and cover them then repeat. The worms will take the stuff down and you are saved the effort of removing and redigging it in. This doesnt work for rhizome propegating plants or anything particularly woody though..

Anyhoo theres my tupence worth :wink: Good luck with the new allotment and def don't take on too much too fast, having a few productive beds is much more satisfying than fretting and spreading yourself too thin. I use the same philosophy myself and still always fill my space just by planting throughout the year as and when I have the time.

Derry
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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 173103Post Derry
Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:15 pm

ive had a plot for about 2 months and its taken most of that to clear long grass, thistles, nettles, a pond and an old tree.. 2 weeks ago i had 2 beds dug, and im thinking of digging a narrower one and then thatll be it for now. ill get some winter crops in and leave the rest til spring

top 10 things..
1. a mommy & daddy to do all the hard work,
2. a friend to do diggin,
3. a good pair of shears - my mom bought some that have a looped bit just off the handle and it cuts bigger branches, its bloody useful, ill find the brand name for you =] i mention shears because thats all we used to clear our plot. 2 weeks of work and lots of chopping =]
4. decent tools, so good quality spade, fork, rake.. but you can just use a fork for digging/turning/raking
5. gloves! good ol' thorn proof gloves. maybe thermal ones for this time of year
6. i havent started a compost heap yet, but we have got water butts because the water supply gets turned off soon.. might be something you check out at your site?

i cant really think of owt else =[

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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 173107Post grahamhobbs
Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:26 pm

I forgot and I don't think anyone else has mentioned - a dibber. If you raise your seeds in modules or rootrainers, a dibber makes light work of planting them out.

For the first few years, there is likely to be lots of slugs about, so its best to raise your seeds in modules, rootrainers or pots so that the plants can reach a good size before you plant them out. The stronger the plant the less likely it is to be attacked by slugs.

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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 176392Post A&A
Tue Nov 10, 2009 6:49 pm

Can I make a suggestion to look at Charles Downding's superb book "Organic Gardening the Natural, No Dig Way" To me it makes perfect sense & he's been doing very successfully for 3 decades. I think we all spend too much time digging ground that doesn't need digging when nature can do the job wonderfully well for us. Of course, there are exceptions and certain weeds need digging out - but you can apply as little or as much of his advice as you like; there's some fascinating stuff in there - good honest advice imo.
Andy

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Re: Top 10 Things for my New Allotment.

Post: # 176401Post grahamhobbs
Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:19 pm

Completely agree about Charles Dowdings book, the book if you want to be serious about growing your own vegetables. Unlike other books it really concentrates on the approach to make things efficient, the holistic way to avoid slugs, etc.

You will however probably have to modify things somewhat in that he imports large quantities of municipal manure, covering not only all his beds but also the paths. I'd love to be able to do this, but it is probably not practical for the average allotment holder - imagine the work involved in shifting a 10ton lorry full of manure arriving at the allotment gates, let alone the cost of it.

Having said that, putting in the effort to get as much manure/mulch material as you can reaps enourmous rewards and will save you a lot of work in the long run.

Personally, and I'm sure many will disagree with me, I find well mown grass paths between beds is the most practical, saving the manure I do get for just the beds. Slugs like long grass but they don't like well mown grass and with motorised lawn mowers it doesn't take much to keep them shorn.

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