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Allotment Growing as You Get Older

What to do with the allotment when it starts to get too much or you get older!

By Dick Handscombe a 76 year old allotment holder

Older Plot Holder with Turkey

Author Dick Handscombe with his Christmas home-reared turkey! He lives a self-sufficient frugal life in Spain, growing his own on his large allotments.

We all eventually grow older and at some time we may start to feel that an allotment is getting too much for us due to aches and pains, recurring accidents, the effect of hot summers or cold winters and the basic fact of having less energy.

I have an 800 square metre rented allotment to look after, solo for the past three years.

In the last couple of years I have started to take steps to make it easier to handle rather than give it up and hand it back to the owner.

At the suggestion of John I’d like to share my ideas with you, which are all are possible on privately rented plots of land but some may not be on allotment association or town hall rented lands.

Share the load of running your allotment

Find somebody or somebodies to help work the entire plot or half the plot.

  • Persuade a younger member of the family or a neighbour to help out voluntarily , in return for produce.
  • Pay for some hired help.
  • Involve the gardening club of a local school.
  • Involve a scout or two who want to obtain their gardening badge.
  • Involve one two friends from your old peoples club.
  • Let a totally unemployed family work the plot in return for giving you vegetables.

Reduce the space you need to constantly work productively or keep neat

  • Give back half and allow this to be rented out separately.
  • Cover half with old carpets or sheets of black plastic permanently or work each half alternate years.
  • Plant up half with fruit trees and bushes planted through plastic sheeting.
  • Plant up half with alfalfa for your own or a local person’s rabbits.
  • Plant up half with an annual or biannual green manure crop.
  • Grow perennial aromatic herbs ecologically for sale. For instance rosemary and sage.
  • Plant half up with roses for cutting for the house, showing or even sale.
  • Grow young fruiting or flowering trees for sale.
  • Set up a poultry run. My Christmas turkey this year is 40 lbs as well has having fresh eggs daily and free manure.

Plant through black plastic

  • Planting through holes or slits in black plastic sheeting reduces the time spent on weeding between plants.
  • A water reservoir continues to all exist all summer under the plastic between plants which will develop longer roots.
  • After a few months the earth under the plastic will firm up and it easy to walk on the plot in wet weather.

Plant less but healthier types of vegetables

  • Cut back on the number of types and varieties that you grow .
  • Only grow sufficient for your own use. Tell people who have received free or inexpensive vegetables in the past, when you had planned over production beyond your own needs, that in future its ‘ help out or no veg’.
  • Only grow vegetables that have high concentrations of beneficial vitamins and minerals. These include globe artichokes, broccoli, garlic, onions, parsley, peas, tomatoes and squashes.

Make raised beds or set up containers for daily harvests

  • Construct raised beds for the smaller vegetables or most frequently harvested.
  • Collect large containers such as plastic builder’s buckets, plastic drums, large paint pots, large shrub and tree tubs etc., for growing all or some of your vegetables. Place them on top of earth covered with a black plastic sheet and you will have no weed problem.
  • As on my daughter’s allotment in Hove, build a meter high raised cold frame for bringing on seedlings and sheltering winter salad leaf plants and mints as well as vegetables such as carrots and radishes.

Only work the plot for half the year

  • In the UK as in parts of Europe with freezing winters only work the plot from the spring to early autumn.
  • If in Spain or other hot summer cold winter Mediterranean areas only work the plot from October to June and avoid the hottest months or work it just through the two springs , march to June and September to December.


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