Everything you need to know about renting and looking after your allotment plot from Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council!
Great News you have just signed the paperwork for your first allotment plot…..but what to do first, where to dig, what to plant, where’s the water tap, when can I have a bonfire?….. It can be a bit of a mine field out there, so here’s a few handy tips to help you get started!
The key to allotment success is hard work and time! From week one of having your allotment you will need to work your plot, from digging your beds to weeding!
For the first few weeks, ideally you should allow at least four hours a week to work your plot – cultivating the land, tiding the plot and preparing to grow your plants.
Unfortunately not all allotment plots are left in a good condition which means you may find the first couple of weeks is clearing your plot and planning where you want to plant things or deciding the best place for your shed! Three key things to do when you start your plot are;
Digging your plot can be extremely daunting, especially if the plot is overgrown, so don’t try and get all your digging done in one day. Instead make a plan and dig sections over a few days. Ensure you are using the right tools (this will certainly save your back!). A Mattock (a pickaxe-shaped tool) and a small fork are idea for digging out clods of earth. Don’t forget that what you dig over is your best growing soil so don’t just pile it on one side of your allotment!
2. WEEDS AND CHEMICALS
It’s hard to know what is best for getting rid of those perennial weeds, many allotment holders would prefer to have organic plots, so planning one well-timed careful application of herbicide can make all the difference in the early stages of your allotment. This can help clear the perennial weeds and will greatly reduce the chance of them coming back.
Please be sure to read your herbicide and other chemicals carefully and perhaps consult with your neighboring plot if you are spraying, so you don’t accidentally catch their plants! They might even have some handy tips of their own about getting rid of the weeds.
Remember perennial weeds can spread fast so act quickly and swiftly to prevent these weeds from spreading, you don’t want the weeds doing the rounds!
Not all previous allotment holders will take their belongs away, some will leave sheds or tunnels, which you can make good use of and then some may leave other unwanted rubbish. This will need to be cleared, to give you a good start at your plot. The local dump will take most things and the council does provide a skip every 6 months, for those bigger items you can’t get rid of.
The clearance can take a couple of months, so don’t be downhearted if you can’t get to growing straight away, getting your plot prepared and ready will allow for better crops!
Also remember that some rubbish should not be burnt (please check with the Allotment Holder Responsibilities and Regulations) not only will you cause a nuisance to other plot holders and local residents you can potentially toxicate your soil!
DON’T FORGET NO BONFIRES ON A SUNDAY OR MONDAY.
Allotments are inspected regularly throughout the year, to help ensure the allotment site is in a good and safe state. The Council will walk around the allotments at any time and will note any allotment plots that could do with a little more work to ensure weeds are not spreading to other plots!
Once you have signed your Tenancy Agreement you are given three months to show you are working on your plot (no less than 40% cultivated), if you feel that the allotment is too much for you or you just don’t have the time then please let us know as soon as possible and before your three months probationary period. If we find that your plot has seen no or very little work done within the first three months, then your tenancy will be terminated.
It is also important to let us know if something has happened within your personal circumstances which means you have been unable to work over your plot, but you are still wishing to carry on with your plot, as we will then be able to take this in to consideration when sending out Weed Notice Letters.
Weed Notice Letters are sent out to those plots that need cultivating and ensuring all flowering weeds are disposed of as well as keeping their plot generally tidy. The letters give the tenant four weeks to make a start on what was requested, whether it was to cultivate the plot or to tidy up any rubbish. If no sign of improvement is made then the tenancy may be terminated.
These inspections are designed to keep everyone safe and growing their plants in a happy and peacefully environment, they are not their to snoop or to cause an offense to anyone.
Your allotment is your own little sanctuary, your home away from home or your ‘me’ time….whatever it means to you it’s a fair assumption to make that it means something similar to your allotment neighbour. When you become apart of the allotment community it often means that certain unspoken ‘Allotment Etiquette’ is expected to be followed.
To help you find your feet and become a member of the allotment community without unwittingly putting your foot in it, find below some handy hints to whatever is ‘not’ being talking about!
1. Getting to Know your Neighbours: Most Allotment sites have a warm community spirit as you are all there for the same reason, so your allotment neighbour could even become your best friend. They are often a source of advice and knowledge, spare seeds and even manual help if your struggling. So how to ensure this friendship doesn’t turn south, a few simple do’s and don’ts should help;
- Treat them how you want to be treated.
- Ask for their advice – they know the soil after all!
- Offer to help, if they have a particularly tricky job to do.
- Share what left over seeds, plants or even vegetables you have.
- Be willing to learn from them.
- Play loud music.
- Let your plot get overgrown, weed spores spread quickly!
- Let your dog run wild.
- Light bonfires on a windy day.
- Plant tall bushes or trees which will cast a shadow on their plot.
- Go over board with the chemical weed killer, especially if you know your neighbor has an organic plot. Also be careful how you apply it as it may blow on to their plot.
2. Cultivation: It is important to keep as much as your plot cultivated as possible. Plots are easier to look after if the plot is free from weeds! Remember to rotate your crops each year, you will find they grow better if they are not always grown in the same place year after year after year! Always keep your boarder and shared pathways on your plot clear to use and free from weeds. While certain weeds are important for wildlife, it is important to achieve a balance that works for everyone. If you are planning on allowing some weeds grow for nature then please ensure that they are cut back before re-seeding. Strimming is also an excellent way of clearing overgrown sections of your plot, just be careful what you do with the cuttings!
3. Keeping Animals: Allotments plots can be great for keeping chickens, not only does your plot get dug over and fertilised but you can enjoy the freshly laid eggs. Be mindful of the the Regulations set out by the Town Council on keeping chickens, as well as ensuring the chickens can’t escape into your neighbors plot. It is also good practice to ensure the chickens are locked up each night and all feed is stored away to help prevent an infestation of rats.
Dogs are always welcome at the allotments but they must stay within your own allotment plot or on a lead. Do not allow them to enter neighbouring plots or allow them to bark the whole day through!
4. Bonfires: Don’t light a bonfire on a windy day and it’s always a good idea to ask your neighbour before lighting it, they might not want to be working next to the smoke, but may only be there for an hour, so the fire could wait until they have gone. Ensure that all fuels kept to start fires are kept in a suitable container and at a safe distance from the fire. It is also important to make sure there is no wildlife living in the materials that you are looking to burn. Leiston allotments are strict with no bonfires on a Sunday or Monday!
5. Be Water Wise: Water is always in need, so it’s a good idea to set up your own water butt or two to help on busy days, when getting near a tap is hard going as everyone is wishing to water their plants! Remember that everyone is in the same boat, so don’t attach your hose to a tap and leave it on for an hour or so, it’s not a polite thing to do.
6. Be Considerate when Planting: Avoid planting tall trees and invasive plants, such as bamboo and willows. Also think carefully about where to plant other invasive plants such as strawberries, squash and sweet potatoes as these plants can take nutrients from neighbouring soil and compete with crops your neighbours have grown. Why not make use of some old drain pipes for strawberries – recycle and reuse old materials is great for your allotment as well as doing your bit to save the planet!
7. Share your Success: It’s not just about sharing your knowledge with others but also when you have had a bumper year and your freezer is packed, why not share out your crops for others to enjoy instead of letting them go to waste. Sharing out some extra crops, seeds and even lending out your tools can also be a sure fire way of making long lasting friends, what’s more you never know when you might need to borrow a spade!!
Our Top Tips for enjoying your allotment are;
1. Read the Regulations: When signing your tenancy agreement you would have been given the Allotment Holders Responsibilities and Regulations pack, which informs you on the do’ and don’ts of having an allotment in Leiston. Be sure you have read it because if you breech a regulation you may risk your tenancy!
2. Get Digging: Read our Get Digging page to ensure your start your allotment in the right way, ensuring you have a successful allotment year with your plants.
3. Remember the Basics: Do Not have bonfires on Sundays and Mondays and only burn organic materials – please see your Allotment Holders Responsibilities and Regulations for further burning guidance. Also remembering to never leave your bonfire unattended and to ensure it is out fully when leaving your plot.
Don’t be a water hog! There are lots of allotments plots and life will be nicer if we all shared and got along, so don’t spend hours with your hose attached to the tap. Be mindfully of others.
4. Be Careful What You Use: Getting rid of weeds is a never-ending battle. Some chemicals will destroy more than just those perennial weeds and laying carpet can often lead to your soil becoming toxic! Bark chippings can be great for small pathways but some chippings can also intoxicate your soil, leaving you unable to grown anything. With this all in mind, just remember to check the label and seek out advice if you are unsure!
5. Join the Club: Why not join the Leiston Allotment and Gardeners Association, great on value for seeds or gardening equipment and what’s more their advice is invaluable. Pop into the Allotment Shop on Valley Road on Saturdays between 10am to 12 noon for more information and to become a member.
If you have any problems or concerns about your allotment plot or about the allotment site in general please do get in touch with us, either by filling out the form below, by phone: 01728 830388 (Office Hours) or by post: Leiston Allotments, Council Offices, Main Street, Leiston, Suffolk, IP16 4ER.