Getting Started

For anyone who is new to growing fruit and vegetables it can be quite difficult to decide how you will manage your plot, especially in the first year. The plots at Crookham Park have not been cultivated before and although they are very neatly laid out and have been boosted by the addition of topsoil, the underlying ground will be compacted from years of military use which means we all have to dig deep! By digging down a half a metre or a couple of feet and preferably incorporating compost or manure at the same time, you will improve drainage and the structure of the soil that will set you up for success for many years to come. It’s hard work and you don’t have to do the whole plot in the first year. You could dig half the plot initially and then cover the other half in polythene or straw to kill off any weeds and then plant squashes, courgettes, marrows or pumpkins through the top layer. These plants can cover a lot of ground with the vines reaching 3 to 6 metres (10 or 20′) and are easy to look after and will provide you with a good tasty crop from late summer through to late autumn. The straw will eventually break down and can be dug in to enrich the soil as part of the double digging process next season. Don’t forget that you can also plant flowers to brighten up your borders.

There are a number of perennial fruit and veg that you could get established in the first year and are fairly low maintenance. These include raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and rhubarb along with asparagus, globe artichokes and horseradish. The tallest growing plants should be grown on the north end of your plot so as not to shade other plants that are growing nearby – and spare a thought for your neighbour too, as you don’t want to cast a big shadow over their plot either.

Some of the most popular crops for first timers are salad crops like lettuce, spring onions, radishes and herbs but these are high maintenance and need to be sown regularly throughout the season to keep up supply. Think how many of these you actually consume and weigh up the effort involved – the seeds for most of these types of crop come in packs of 1,000 and you may only get through 10 or 12 lettuce all summer!.

Easy to grow and reliable plants with a long cropping period include carrots, beetroot, parsnips, leeks, sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, onions and Swiss chard. There are lots of different varieties available that will enable you to maximise the growing season and produce veg that you don’t often see in the shops like black carrots, yellow beetroot, red sprouts, purple potatoes and giant onions.

There are lots of online resources that will help you to plan your plot and here are a few links that will give you more detail on how to get a plot ready for production.

doubledigging100 Double Digging – Vegetable Gardener
In a hurry for great soil? Grit your teeth and get to work. Double digging requires lots of elbow grease but creates fertile, well-drained soil every time.
Click here to visit Vegetable Gardener…
An American site using US weights and measures. ED.

Schrebergarten100 How to plan an allotment – The National Allotment Society
Allotments are wonderful things, but they must be cared for and nurtured in order to get the best out of them.
Click here to visit The National Allotment Society site…

 Info sheets How To Dig Over Your Plot
Digging over an allotment plot is one of the most important tasks for any allotment gardener. If you want to have your soil in top condition or if you are aiming to run your allotment organically, this is especially important.
Click here to view or download a 2 page guide from (pdf)…

RHS advice Allotment: getting started
Readying an allotment for cultivation from scratch can seem a daunting task but with these simple steps, from The Royal Horticultural Society, a productive plot is easier than you might think.
Click here to visit the RHS website…