The Planning of Our Allotment Plot

I have been thinking long and hard what I would like to do with the plot, it is a lot bigger then an average size allotment plot standing at 100 square meters in total. Now that is a very big plot to have, the only unfortunate thing about having this plot is that there is no water access on site. This means I need to collect as much rain water as possible, which I really needed to take into consideration when doing my plot planning for this year. Currently on the plot I have 5 sort of water butts full to the brim with rain water, they were left from the previous owner who left many months before I got the plot. In time since they left and I received the plot, it must have rained a fair few days to fill them all to the top. Having five water butts full is amazing but they are spread out all across the plot, two catching water off the shed roof and three catching the water off the green house roof. Me personally I would prefer to have all my water in one location on the plot, as this way it doesn’t take up loads of little places across the plot and it’s just one bigger space taken for water collection. 

Moving all the water to one location also means I need to have loads of smaller water contains running in an overfill system, which means that the water would fill up one container which is elevated higher then the container next to it. When this container fills up to the top (or very near the top) the excess water would go down and hose into the next container using gravity, it is a plausible system that I wouldn’t see any issue with it not working. I would just need to make sure that the first container is up high enough compared to the other containers, then make sure the containers then dragged down in a sustained fashion so that the water will travel freely down to the following containers.

The other option I have available is to use an IBC, which is a 1000L water tank used to store anything from just water up to hydrochloric acid (which can melt bodies, thank you Breaking Bad). The main concern I have about an IBC tho is that it is quite large in size, it probably won’t take up as much space as the previous system I spoke about but it will take up nearly as much. Also the other concern I have is the price, they can range from £15 each (used) all the way up to £150 (new). Buying an IBC for £15 usually means that it has had some kind of harmful chemical in that you don’t really want to have trace elements of on your vegetables, sometimes you might be lucky and find one for that cheap that has only had water in (highly unlikely). If you do go for an IBC as cheap as £15, it means you will have to clean it out yourself or pay to have it done professionally which isn’t cheap. 

After having a long discussion between ourselves and talking to many other allotment owners, we came to the decision of going for an IBC over the overflow system. Yes they aren’t cheap to buy but if you are lucky enough you might find one close to your allotment on eBay, Gumtree or even Facebook. We haven’t been this lucky unfortunately, all we seem to find is one for cheap but it is far away from where we live and as we don’t drive it is impossible to collect. Luckily enough tho I have found a company located not that far from where I live that sells used IBC’s professionally cleaned for only £60 per container, that is a steal compared to the others I could find and if I can find a man with a van to collect it means I don’t have to pay delivery. The company is called toucan environmental based in Kingswood in Bristol, they deliver all over the UK for £45 delivery charge (which I am trying to avoid by collecting in person). Here is a link to their site if you would like to take a look yourself,

Basic layout of the allotment when we first got it.

From the image above you can see the basic layout of the plot in its current state, this is the arrangement of the plot when I first got my hands on the plot. The orientation of the plot compared to the way the sun travels over means that the shed is in completely the wrong location to me, it should be down in the bottom left corner and the greenhouse should be where the shed is. This way the plot is more open to sun throughout more of the day and won’t be shadowed as much as before, I also need to remove some of the branches off the tress out the back of the plot. They over shadow the plot during some points off the day which means they need to be trimmed a little, unfortunately they do not belong to me and are technically on national railway land which could be a problem. I don’t want to get in trouble for going on to their land as that’s a £1000 fine (which I don’t have) but I need them to be trimmed a little, so watch this space to see if we can work anything out.

The plot needs a lot of work to get it to how we would like it to be and in doing so we have set ourselves out a big challenge to get it to how we would like it, the plan you see below is what we have come up with.

Our allotment plan.

It isn’t the most complicated of plans but there was a more adventurous one in the works, it was one in which we hid and IBC under the shed. Yes I did say under the shed, it would involve digging a hole big enough to sink the IBC into the ground and run all the pipe work needed to get the rain water down into the IBC. Then there would be needed space for the pipe work and pump to get the water back up the surface, then have a floor placed over it strong enough to hold the shed and all its contents above it. Yes it would have freed up more space on the plot for raised beds or fruit tress but it would have been so much work involved in digging the hole and running the pipes, so we decided together to put the IBC to the side of the shed instead of underneath it. Maybe in a few years when we are more established on the plot, we might look into it again or maybe just leave it how it is. Time will tell in this circumstance.

Anyways back to the plan above, as you can see I have moved the shed and greenhouse like previously mentioned. Then we have placed an IBC to the side of the shed and one behind the greenhouse (if we decide to go for two over IBCs over one), our the front of the shed I will make a patio area so when Dawn goes up the plot in the day she has someone safe to sit with our newly acquired camping chairs. Running off from the patio area there will be a path running up to the back of the plot going in front of the greenhouse, then splitting off between the raised beds and splitting off to the composting bin at the back of the plot. We are planning to have three composting. Bins in the plot in total, one for making leave mulch and the other two for normal composting.

It will probably take many years to get the plot to how we have it planned, it will be a slow process as it is a very dramatic change from the its original state. 

This is the end of this post which means we are now up to date with the blog posts and all blog posts from now on will be weekly, informing you all about our highs & lows on the plot. So keep checking back or even subscribe to the blog if you would like (there is no obligation to)

Michael & Dawn

Getting The Plot In Order

As I said in our previous post, we started renting out allotment at the end of September 2018. It was in a right state when I first walked onto the plot with weeds as high as me and I stand at 5’9. 

There was some benefits to the plot tho, she (yes I do refer to the plot as a women) came with a shed and greenhouse. The shed has discoloured windows and needs a lick of paint but it’s a shed, having a shed already on the plot is a god send. They are not cheap to buy new and also even if I did get a second hand one I wouldn’t be able to get it from it’s previous location to the plot as I don’t drive, I do really need to get round to sorting that out.

The greenhouse is amazing to have on the plot already as well. It has a few broken panes of glass broken and it was full to the brim on the inside with weeds, as they have broken through the concrete floor. But it is still a green house and with a little hard work it will be ready for us to use this year.

So it was time to tackle the weeds, I wanted to find out what I was dealing with before I went hacking away at it all and it turned out I have the dreaded mares tail / horses tail. 

“Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), often called mare’s tail, is an invasive, deep-rooted perennial weed that will spread quickly to form a dense carpet of foliage, crowding out less vigorous plants in beds and borders.”

This is a real pain of a weed to deal with due to it being a fast-growing rhizomes (underground stems) kind of weed and they have taken over the whole plot. I can even see them sneaking into my neighbouring plot which will be a pain for them. There is many ways of getting rid of it and there is none that get rid of it 100% as if one root is left that is the size of a finger nail, it can grow back and create more deep stemmed root systems all over again.

Because of this I had a massive decision to make, do I go down the chemical route and buy a very very strong weed killer that is special designed for taking out mares tail. The only concern about doing it that way is the chemical is not selective at all, it kills everything it comes into contact with so if by bad luck I get a gust of wind that takes it off down the plots. I could be killing off someone else’s plants or crops, I don’t really want to be doing that as I haven’t been on my plot that long at this point and I don’t want to be removed from it for killing off other owners crops. Also with this chemical it has to be sprayed on to the plants between the middle of March and the end of September, which means everyone will be planting out there seedlings and I don’t want to potentially kill off there planned crop.

The other route I can go down is clearing the whole plot with garden sheers and a rake, it would be a long process and means that I wouldn’t be tackling the root system at all. So the mares tail will grow back over time but hopefully if I keep cutting it back every time it shows it’s little head, I will be about to kill off the root system over time. 

So I sat down one afternoon and did as much research on both methods of removing the mares tail and I finally came to a decision on what I will do, I decided (with the help of not having that much money) to go down the route of doing it by hand and moving it into one big pile.

I cut it all back in one day, with my garden sheers and raked it all into one big pile in the middle of the plot. I didn’t want to remove it off the plot by putting it into my green bin for the council to remove, as they put all the green waste into a communal type of compost heap and this would just spread the mares tail. So I started a lovely warm fire in my incinerator at the plot and slowly worked my way through the pile burning all the mares tail that was on the plot. This way I know it won’t be spread as I am burning off it all and every mares tail that sprout up this year, I will cut away (hopefully) killing the root system over time. I know I have said this twice now but it is really for me to make a mental note to watch out for shoots this year.

After I cleared all the mares tail on the plot I can see and burning it all, I moved onto removing the well rotten raised beds that were left by the previous plot owner. There was 4 beds in total spread out across the plot, I don’t know what was grown on the plot before and I wish I did to be honest. Knowing what was previously grown means I can plan my crop rotation, as each different type of plant / crop removes different nutrients and you don’t want to remove to much from one place on the plot. Anyways I will get into crop rotation and nutrients more in the my post about my plot planning, that one should be next unless I get side tracked at all.

Because the raised beds where in a very well rooted condition, I placed them inside the greenhouse to keep them out of the elements. This way they can dry over time and eventually burn them down and maybe use the corner brackets for my new raised beds, but I am not 100% sure how I am going to make my new raised beds. 

Now that the plot is clear from all the sky high weeds and rotting raised beds, I covered the half the plot with cardboard and plastic sheeting. My reasoning for doing this is to suppress any weed growth, stop the soil from freezing over winter and also to just make it look like myself that I have achieved a lot.

Having an allotment is a slow process and I am not the kind of person who likes slow process, I prefer to get things done quickly right and be able to use it to it’s fall potential. I will get it all done in time and not having that much money means, I need to think of more creative ways to do stuff on the plot and save money at the same time.



Introducing Ourselves

My allotment covered in weeds when I first got the allotment.

Hello all and thank you for taking the time to take a few minutes out of your day to read our first ever blog post.

I think it might be best if we introduce ourselves first so you know who we are and a little about ourselves.

My name is Michael and my beautiful partner is Dawn, we are both in our early 30’s and to be completely honest we both have never been into gardening or growing our own vegetables. I am a massive video gamer to the point I used to have a mild addiction (Dawn would say a heavy addiction), but I now only play in the mornings on weekends but that will change when the mornings become lighter and the weather warms up a lot. I have never been a person big into vegetables and healthy eating but recently I have been noticing my waist increasing more then I would like it to, so I have started to eat healthier with chicken and rice most lunches and trying to cut down heavily on my meal portions (which I am really struggling with). My reasoning for wanting an allotment is to get the exercise for working the plot, get a lovely supply of healthy food and to have an outside space I can go to as I live in a flat with no garden for my own use.

Dawn is a massive pet person, should would honestly choice to be around animals all day instead of people. Her obsession is that bad that at one time we had four cats in a one bedroom flat and then decided to look after a friends chocolate lab for a week while they are on holiday. It was a fun but very demanding time as the lab was so scared of the cats that he would rather go up over the back of the sofa then get down in front of the cats. All of the cats are now up in cat heaven and we have a little long haired chi called Kiki D.

We got our allotment back in the end of September 2018, it isn’t like a conventional allotment as it isn’t long and thin like most allotments you see on allotment sites. They allotment is a square in shape and is 10 meters by 10 meters, which is very large for an allotment. The allotments go side by side down a nice path overlooked by some lovely houses, on the other side of the plot s is a railway track which runs along the back of all 70 plots. It is in such a nice secluded place that I completely forget that I am in the town I live in, every dog walker who walks past says hello and a few stop and chat to say how well we are doing as they can remember the tall weeds that used to be on the plot.

We have some quite big plans for the plot but we know it isn’t all going to happen overnight, having an allotment isn’t a rush to get it all done as it’s a place to enjoy and de-stress. I will go into more details in another post of our plans for the plot and what we have gotten done so far.

If you have gotten this far, thank you very much for reading the whole thing. This blog is going to be a little thing that we would like to keep updating with our process on the plot from our ups & downs, highs & lows and the little victories along the way.

Michael & Dawn