Gardening provides countless benefits to both physical and mental health; owning an allotment is the perfect way to allow yourself some much-needed time for self-care. It is a manageable amount of space and has the added benefit of providing you with fresh produce to take home. Owning an allotment is a great way of being around fellow green thumbs. 

Emma Strong, Head Gardener at Audley Villages, shares her top tips in light of this week being National Allotments Week. 

  1. Spend time planning the space 

Before you rush to the garden centre it’s best to plan out the space. Think about how you can practically use it throughout the year. Bear in mind the sun, the direction of the wind and also the soil type. Once you’ve looked into what you’d like to plant wait until after it’s rained to take your first step as the soil is damp.  

  1. Talk to your neighbours 

Chat to your neighbouring allotment owners to gain knowledge on the soil fertility and which produce gets the best results. Root vegetables can be very productive, while crops like peppers and cucumbers are great to bring home but can be the least productive to grow. 

  1. Keep soil fertile

Looking after your soil is key to producing healthy plants. Having a good Mulch on top of soil can help retain moisture, which will help on hot and dry days. Depending on the size of your allotment you could create your own compost heap using old pallets, saving you money from buying it. And watch out for pests. Try placing old tea bags and coffee granules in amongst the plants as the smell can keep vermin away. 

  1. Companion planting  

To make the most out of the space you have, plant complementary plants next to each other. They tend to forge mutually beneficial relationships which provide nutrients, keep away pests and improve pollination. Avoid planting members of the same family together as they will fight for the same nutrients, so keep your onions away from your leeks! Good examples are garlic and carrots as the strong scent of the former deters carrot root fly.

  1. Growing vegetables 

One of the joys of having an allotment is getting to bring home fresh, home-grown vegetables to enjoy with meals or share with friends and family. Courgettes, squashes, cabbages and cauliflowers can all now be planted out into their final positions. Peppers and tomatoes are also big winners in allotments. While it’s better to plant them earlier on in the year, you might be in with a good chance if you buy good, healthy plants from the garden centre. To keep your different vegetables separate you can create mini raised beds, which also gives you good access to all sides, making them easier to maintain.  And make sure you keep your vegetables netted to stop the pests from getting in.