I was thinking about our allotment site and that it’s been 5 years since I took on the plot. In that time there’s been a surprising amount of change. When I arrived there were plenty of plots vacant and now the site is 100% occupied, even if some of the plots are not really fully under cultivation.
Some of the people on there when I arrived have gone, of course. Sadly some have died and some have given up as age increased and health deteriorated. Others moved house and away and quite a few have arrived with high hopes and disappeared when they realised it involved a little more work than they first thought.
So Who Will Stay on the Plot?
You’d think it was easy to judge who is likely to stay on a plot for a while and who is likely to be gone next year but it’s not. Take my plot 29, the couple had two adjacent plots and 29 had sheds, decking with railings, raised beds and the other was planted up with fruit bushes that they’d paid a small fortune for, yet off they went.
Another couple who have two plots on our site have spent a packet on timber from which they’ve built raised beds, compost bins and frames, yet after all this work and financial investment they let the plots go to weed and have now let one go. It’s as if they invest all that money and effort and then realise that cultivation takes time, which they don’t have.
Other people take on a plot and do nothing apart from digging it over. Yet often these are the ones who are still there year after year. They know that it’s the cultivation that takes the time and that’s what they do.
How much time does an allotment take?
I think this is the thing that causes most people to give up a plot, they don’t realise how much time it will take. Of course there is more to do at some times of year than another. I reckon March is one of the busiest months and December the quietist month but generally I think you need to allow 8 to 10 hours a week to keep a full size allotment running properly.
I read in one of the Government’s ‘Dig for Victory’ leaflets produced in WW2 that you should try and garden a bit each day rather than plan a full day on the plot. Very sensible advice. The number of times I’ve missed out on good weather, thinking ‘I’ll get this finished off and tomorrow‘ only to find tomorrow is pouring with rain and so nothing gets done. The weeds keep growing though.
It’s a lot of time to invest in one way but only an hour a day really. Try and get a couple of hours when you can and it’s surprising how much gets done by the end of the week.
So that’s my New Year Resolution, get down to the plot at every opportunity even if only for an hour.
Another point I’d like to make is use a hoe. I go on about hoes and yet I still see people forking out annual weeds. Yet a good sharp hoe will clear quite a large patch in a few minutes. Even the perennial weeds give up and die eventually if their head is cut off each week!
I say a ‘sharp hoe‘ with good reason. I’ve a metal file in my allotment shed and when the hoe comes out, so does the file. A sharp hoe is a joy to use and every fifteen minutes, stop and sharpen a few more strokes.
So, that’s my resolution for the New Year – little and often and my best tip apart from use a sharp hoe.
I like the rants and raves. I must say I agree with you about using a hoe to clear weeds. I have a stainless swoe that I strap to the bike crossbar when I go to the allotment, I also keep an old cheap one at the site, if I’m passing I call in and do 30 minutes or so, even this short time is enought to do three or four of my 10ft bt 4ft beds. I was in France some years ago and I bought a sharpening stone that I use all the time. It’s abour 15 inches long and has an oval cross sectional area, I suspect it’s meant for a scythe but I use it for all my tools with an edge.
Have a nice new year.
Thanks Donald, a Happy New Year to you as well.
I must keep an eye out for a swoe and give it a go.