Alloment growing

Allotment growing

Need help with your allotment? Advice and resources, from getting started to establishing a flourishing organic plot!
Getting the keys to your first allotment can be both exciting and daunting. But nothing beats having a small plot of land to call your own. And having the ability to grow organic fruit, veg and flowers.

Follow our tips for fresh air, fresh food and feel-good vibes by the wheelbarrow load.

First plot first steps

Your local authority or allotment society should be your first port of call for getting on an allotment waiting list. But be patient: some lists can be lengthy.

New plots come in all shapes, sizes – and states! But most plots are measured in rods or poles, with 10 poles (or 250sq metres) being the average dimension.

The first glimpse of a plot of this size (especially if it's carpeted in knee-high weeds or grass) can be quite intimidating. We recommend working on bite-sized chunks.

Preparing your plot

Instead of trying to clear the whole plot or using quick-fix chemicals, divide your plot in half.

Cut down larger foliage in one half to soil level. Put the debris into a compost heap or bin and apply a thick layer of organic mulch to the soil. This can be well-rotted compost, cardboard (with a layer of manure on top) or black plastic. This will exclude light, and after 6-12 months the earthworms will do all the hard work for you.

Dig over the other half of your plot and root out unwanted plants. Turn the soil surface with a hoe so you have a crumbly tilth. You're ready to sow your first crops!

Check out our No Dig method for more tips.

How to adopt an organic approach

An organic allotment is built from the ground up – and is teeming with life. There will be worms and fungi below ground, and butterflies and birds above ground. As well as lots of tasty produce.

We recommend:

  • Adding compost or bulky organic materials to the soil to improve structure and nutrients.
  • Minimising digging (after your first plot clearance) to avoid disturbing complex soil life.
  • Planning your plants and using crop rotation, to make the best use of nutrients and circumventing 'pests' and diseases.
  • Growing green manures to improve structure and nutrients and suppress weeds.
  • Encouraging biodiversity by providing habitats, and avoiding pesticides. Birds, frogs and hedgehogs love to nosh on snails and slugs; beetles, ladybirds and hoverflies help control aphids.
  • Love your weeds. Accept you will not get rid of all weeds and many of them are beneficial for wildlife and soil structure. Some can even be eaten.

You may only have a few hours a week to dedicate to your plot, so make sure you grow what you want to eat. We recommend luxury organic crops you can't buy easily in the shops...

Three easy starter crops

Fact sheet:


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Easy to grow from bare-root runners, these plants provide sweet fruits within 20 weeks of a spring planting.
Suggested varieties:
Aromel, Cambridge Favourite, Florence, Honeoye, Pegasus, Red Gauntlet
Average plant size:
15cm tall, 30cm wide
Equipment needed:
Feed, netting, horticultural fleece

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Fact sheet:


Pea Dwarf Defiance John Lee harvested pods
Little else rivals the taste of a homegrown pea straight from the pod. Sow in late spring and support with twiggy sticks. Pick regularly for lots of pods.
Suggested varieties:
Sugar Pea Norli (mangetout); Ambassador, Cavalier, Waverex (shelling)
Average time to harvest:
10-14 weeks
Equipment needed:
Twiggy sticks, mulch (eg compost)
Average plant size:
90cm tall, 30cm wide

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Fact sheet:

Lemon Balm

Vegetable growing patch
Luscious bundles of fragrant herbs are cheap and plentiful at the allotment. They're also a great draw for wildlife. We love lemon balm for tea.
Suggested varieties:
Melissa officinalis (botanical name)
Average time to grow:
From 12 weeks
Equipment needed:
Average plant size:
Up to 75cm tall, 45cm wide

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Allotment checklist

Reusing, recycling and reducing your reliance on outside resources is the key to a bountiful organic allotment...

  1. Soil testing kit. Find out if your soil is clay, chalky, sandy or loam, and its pH level.
  2. Compost bin. This can be a heap, a black 'dalek' box or knocked together from old pallets.
  3. Water butt. Save precious water and add guttering to your greenhouse or shed so you can collect run-off.
  4. Tools. Browse second-hand shops for your essential toolkit. We recommend a hoe (for shaving off annual weeds), a fork (to get at your root veg), a rake (to create a fine tilth), a wheelbarrow (for easing back pain!), and a sharp knife or secateurs (for pruning, harvesting and cutting woody growth for plant supports).
  5. Lidded container. Useful for making your own plant food from nettles, comfrey or rhubarb leaves.
  6. Envelopes and bags. For saving seeds – and collecting your delicious harvest.