rethinking allotment layout

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pops
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rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234238Post pops
Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:10 pm

ok so i'm new (i will use that for the next 2 years at least) to my allotment life, but i though small beds woul dbe easier to manage, but now - after spending a lot of time in evenings standing looking at the neighbouring plots (while the hose tries to revive my poor garden) i've realised that the most productive allotments (if not the prettiest) are simply completely turned over and a narrow path up the middle with planks for tread boards between crops on either side.

i'm thinking that when autumn rolls around and i have to dig over anyway, should i just dig the whole shabang over?

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MKG
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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234254Post MKG
Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:30 pm

:iconbiggrin:

The most productive plots are those run by people who've been doing it for donkey's years - they know their stuff (and they spend hours and hours every week doing it). But I'd bet there's nothing too adventurous on their plots. Small beds (so usually no-dig) demand a different mindset and different methods. Trying to apply row-planting techniques to small beds is never going to work very well. Have a Google for square foot gardening - that's more the way to go for small beds, AND!!! you can actually get more crops out of a small bed using those methods than can the stalwart row-diggers.

Nothing wrong with either method, but I know which I'd use. I have a jippy back, and the idea of annual digging fills me with horror.

Mike
Last edited by MKG on Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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pops
Barbara Good
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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234267Post pops
Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:01 pm

hmm, thanks MKG - i'm still umming and ahhing but i'm certainly not a 'neat rows' person, more of a 'stick it in the ground where there's a space' person.
i will check out the square foot thing.
(even though i now have several hundred square feet to play with!)

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234268Post pops
Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:01 pm

...oh that sounded all wrong. :D

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234314Post prison break fan
Sat Jun 04, 2011 8:16 am

I have 2 allotments side by side on a small site and agree that the people with just the central path seem to do better. mine are very higgledy piggledy, but that suits me. I grow enough for us and find space for flowers as well. The people who have laid theirs out into beds seem to spend a lot of their time maintaining paths and edges. I cover my plots with cardboard, carpet, straw, etc in the autumn, and havent done proper digging for about five years. pbf.

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234322Post Tru&Ad
Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:04 am

We took out first plot over last year and our second earlier this year.

First plot has sorta 2 paths and a few beds up and down

Second one we've divided into 4 quarters with an apple tree in the centre.

Neither is right or wrong. Just how we felt.

As long as you get as much into your plot as possible it's all good
Adam
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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234323Post pops
Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:12 am

i feel the rising excitement of a scale drawing coming on! :D

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Flo
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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234460Post Flo
Sun Jun 05, 2011 1:43 pm

You won't follow the scale drawing believe me. Having put in a raised bed to keep the raspberries in (they do need caging) and extended a couple of small sort of raised beds, well everything else goes in with the minimum of space between things. There are two households eating off the plot. I'll never win the best kept allotment trophy but the allotment police leave me alone as the place is fully productive.

Go for productive. If it's productive then there won't be space, weeds, debris and complaints about the state of the plot.

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234641Post pops
Tue Jun 07, 2011 4:30 pm

thanks flo :D

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234647Post grahamhobbs
Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:21 pm

Pops, your quandary is what we all go through and there are horses for courses. Traditional rows have the advantage of appearing simple but it means every time you walk on your plot you have to take your boards and take them away when you have finished (otherwise a haven for slugs) and on wet days you will still have to hoe where the board has lain to prevent compacting the soil too much.
The next alternative is to have beds and paths but to mulch the lot. The paths can be kept narrow, the mulch keeps the weeds down and is loose enough to hoe (ever tried hoeing a compacted path?). The disadvantage is the amount of mulch you need every year if you have a big plot.
The alternative is to have raised beds with timber surrounds. But then what do you do with the paths, ok if you can cover them with paving or something that isn't going to allow grass or weeds to grow, otherwise keeping them under control is difficult. Also on a big scale it means a lot of construction work.
After trying all the above, I've settled on 1m wide 'beds' (I would go for wider myself but OH prefers this width) with no surrounds and with grass paths in between. The paths are laid to be mown easily. I also have 2' high raised beds for some crops, especially carrots. I have thought larger beds would be sensible for some crops, potatoes, pumpkins, sweetcorn, etc. but we don't grow many potatoes (or sweetcorn outside because of squirrels), so haven't had a great need.
Although all these grass paths would seem like a lot of work, I have found that with a petrol mower they can be kept short (very important against slugs) easily and quickly (perhaps in a wetter part of the country, where the grass grows quicker, maybe this would tip the balance against them). Equally I'm adept at trimming the edges very quickly with a spade.
The advantage is that I don't have to dig the plot in winter, the compost/manure goes where it is needed, this and growing intensively keeps the weeds down, and everyone can just walk around my plot with ease at anytime (our plot is a bit of a social centre).
There is no one solution that fits all. Different people, different circumstances, availability of compost materials, different crops, etc all can tip the balance between solutions.

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234689Post pops
Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:55 am

thanks fo ryour reply graham, that's pretty comprehensive!
i'm confused, and i'm just beginning, but gardening is turning out to be a very laid back and sloooooow hobby, so i guess i have time to make mistakes and try new approaches.
presently i have as you do, beds without edging and grass pathways inbetween (well, it's more like strips of scrub inbtween, but that's probably just the parched conditions.)

the plants are growing either way! :D

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234694Post grahamhobbs
Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:05 am

Good luck Pops, just remember the 'uncultivated' bits are as important as the cultivated bits, it's where all the nasties mobilise their invasion forces.

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234701Post gregorach
Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:56 pm

Allotmenteering (for those of us who have the misfortune to work for a living) is almost always a trade-off between productivity and ease of maintenance. It's a question of finding a balance that works for you... How many of those productive neighbours of yours are retired?

My allotment philosophy is very much one of sacrificing maximum productivity for ease of maintenance... I have a bed system with permanent paths, so I lose maybe 25% of the possible growing area - but I don't need to dig it over. There's only me, and I find it hard enough to use everything I grow as it is, so maximum productivity isn't that big a deal for me. Plus I have a number of other time-consuming hobbies, so if the allotment needed too much work, it just wouldn't get done. Better to keep it in good order with less growing space than to maximise growing space and let it get out of hand.
Cheers

Dunc

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234755Post Geebogs
Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:14 pm

I think if you do want you think you can manage to start with, you'll do fine. As you say, it's a relatively laid back pastime and you have as long as you like to experiment.

Our plot was really overgrown when we took charge of it....
Image

So we just set to and cleared all that we could. We ended up digging a load of it over. To be honest, we just wanted to get some stuff in the ground to make all the hard work (and waiting for the plot in the first place) seem worthwhile!
With four small apple trees,3 blackcurrant bushes, 3 gooseberry bushes and tayberries already there, space is at a premium for anything else.

Image
I like the idea of no dig, but time will tell if we put it into action.

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Re: rethinking allotment layout

Post: # 234951Post pops
Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:48 am

"How many of those productive neighbours of yours are retired?" -> most of them! ;)

geebogs - great pics, i'm about halfway between your two pics there, and we too have several 'sitting tenants'! 2 gooseberries, 3 blackcurrants and ginormous honeysuckle, a giant blackberry, 12-15 raspberry canes and a 1foot high stone wall down one side *sigh*
i think i will take cuttings to prop the honeysuckle and then cut it right back becasue it is ridiculous, the previous tenant had it up agains a shed which is looong gone.
and am thinking about movingthe fruit bushes this autumn so they are in a more convenient place for me! (3 of them are right in the middle!)

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