Home allotment tips and ideas
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is easier than you may think. Read on for our home allotment tips and ideas.
Find out the basics
What works in one garden might not work in another so it’s important to find out which way your garden faces and the pH of your soil. The amount of sun your garden receives will play a big part in choosing which plants you grow. The pH of the soil will determine which plants thrive and which may not.
The easiest way to find out which way your garden faces is to stand with your back against your home’s wall with a compass. If the compass is pointing to the north, then you have a north facing garden, if it points to the south, then you have a south facing garden.
To find out the pH of your soil, you can buy a testing kit either from your local garden centre or online. pH means how acid or alkaline your soil is. The pH scale also measures how much calcium is in your soil. In an ideal world, your soil will have a pH of 6.5. Most vegetables grow best in soil that is slightly acidic, although potatoes can cope in soil with a pH of 5. If your soil’s pH is on the low side, which is acidic, you can add calcified seaweed or lime to move it up the scale.
Choose the right fruit and vegetables
If your allotment will be in a shady part of your garden, there is little point planting aubergines or tomatoes as they need the sun. Instead consider growing leafy vegetables such as lettuce, kale, spinach and peas. Some herbs such as chives, lemon balm and mint can survive in darker conditions, but others such as oregano would struggle.
In partial shade, some varieties of strawberries can cope, as can blackcurrants and blackberries but they won’t taste as sweet as they would had they been grown in a sunny spot. If you have a south facing garden and your allotment can enjoy all day sunshine, you have lots more options when it comes to planting. Take your pick from tomatoes, radishes, potatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers… the list goes on.
To get the most from your home allotment, divide it into three sections and rotate the crops each year. And give your soil a boost by adding organic matter. Try to only grow what you need, otherwise you could end up with too much and it could go to waste. Lettuce leaves for instance, need to be eaten fresh.
Consider containers and pots
As well as having a traditional vegetable patch, consider potted vegetables and herbs on your patio. Rather than using canes, let gravity do the work. Hanging baskets can be a place for vine plants to thrive and grow up high. If you have a deep barrel container you could even grow potatoes.
Protect your vegetables
While there are pesticides available to protect your plants from pests, many of us would prefer to keep our garden organic. One of the best ways to promote an organic garden is to grow plants that attract bees, ladybirds and frogs. These creatures eat the pests that will happily munch through your whole vegetable patch. Lavender, mint, rosemary and basil also have natural pest repellent qualities, so are good options for your garden.
Think about watering
It can be helpful to have a water butt in your garden or an outside tap, so you don’t have to keep traipsing in and out of your home to fill up your watering can. A good soak every few days is better than a light watering every day, which is worth bearing in mind, especially if you don’t have much time to spend on your allotment.
Keep things separated
Use reclaimed railway sleepers to give you raised beds for your allotment, or consider a small fence to keep the allotment separate from the rest of your garden. Growing your own vegetables and fruit can be lots of fun for your whole family, and everyone will enjoy eating what you’ve grown. For more advice, check out the RHS website.