The amount of compost you need to feed your plot is likely to be much greater than any compost you are able to make from your recycled plant material alone.
Composting at the allotment is, at best, useful as a means of tidying up a plot of unwanted crops and weeds. At worst, it can help spread diseases when you come to use it.
Compost can be very useful if you intend to grow fruit and vegetables in pots. I mix soil 50 : 50 with homemade compost to fill my pots, and this achieves excellent results. You may like to see this page on how to make homemade compost.
Having an area reserved for composting will also use up valuable space. Nevertheless, whether for composting or for dumping waste material in the short term, having some space set aside for waste material is almost essential.
Burning is my preferred way of getting rid of plant rubbish, either in a bonfire, or using an incinerator. You may like to see this article on the best garden incinerators, that burn hotter than an open bonfire, and are better able to cope with green material.
An allotment plot needs yearly addition of nutrients to replace the goodness taken away by growing fruit and vegetables. See the starter guides below for more information.
Well Rotted Manure
Composting may not be relevant for an allotment, but the use of manure at an allotment most certainly is. Manure is a combination or organic material and animal excrement, most commonly horse, pig, or cow.
Like compost, manure should be left to decompose over a period of months before it is used. The decomposition process uses energy to break down the manure, so if you apply the manure too young, the manure may end up taking energy away from your plants.
You may like to see this page on organic fertiliser ideas.
Ideally your allotment organisation will arrange for a communal supply of manure for all to use. Failing that, you may be able to arrange for a trailer load of manure to be delivered to your plot. If so, simply create a space for it on your plot, ideally within a boxed area until it is ready to use.
The end of each growing season is an ideal time to dig over all used beds and apply a thick mulch of manure. There are a number of reasons for doing this:
- It is not good to leave bare soil exposed over the winter as the wind and rain can wash vital nutrients away
- Covering with a mulch also helps to suppress weed growth, especially in the spring, when they can take off during a very busy time for the keen allotmenter
- Manure is in high demand in the spring from other allotment plot holders. Getting to a communal pile at the beginning of autumn can put you ahead of the rush!
There is only one way of transporting manure from the pile to the plot, and that is by wheelbarrow.
This can be exhausting work, and it is best (easier on the body!) to spread this effort out over a number of weeks. Each 3m by 4m bed can absorb as much as 9 wheelbarrow loads of material.
Ideally, the manure in the picture above would be more decomposed. One advantage of adding manure in late summer is that it allows more decomposition time over the winter.
Adding manure to fruit bushes is particularly important as they are hungry plants.
The photograph shows a tayberry bush with a thick mulch applied. The best time to do this in the spring. Spring is a crucial time when the bush will flower before producing its fruit.
When applying the manure, try to create a concave shape with the depression around the base of the plants, to help channel water to the plants’ roots.