Allotment Planting Design
Allotment plots, and vegetable gardens, come in all shapes and sizes. Below is an introduction to planning a layout and some principles that may be useful to follow.
However, part of the fun of allotmenting is creating your own space and experimenting!
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Allotment Planting Design – Example Layout
The following allotment planting design is included to help illustrate the principles of allotment planting.
Allotment Planting Design – Crop Rotation
Creating at least four growing areas, or beds, can be useful to plan and keep track of crop rotation. Crop rotation helps prevent disease by limiting the build up of bacteria and bugs associated with a plant family in any one location.
Rotation also allows beds time to recover, and provides a gardener with the opportunity to add nutrients to the soil.
Crop rotation works as follows. Keep vegetables of the same family in the same bed, and this way the bed is only used once every four years for a particular kind of vegetable. Common groups are:
- Brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts)
- Legumes (peas and beans)
- Root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, radish)
This is easily adapted – if you want to grow onions / garlic / shallots or salads, then simply create a space in one of the groups above, and continue to move them together with this family.
Allotment Planting Design – Nursery
A nursery is a very practical way of starting crops earlier in the growing season, and keeping important growing space free for other crops until the seedlings are ready.
A nursery can be simply a space set aside in your vegetable garden for growing seedlings, a cold frame, plastic greenhouse / glass greenhouse, or even a conservatory or utility room.
In the simple plan above I have placed a nursery near the shed, so that it is close to garden tools and is relatively sheltered.
Allotment Planting Design – Paths
Every plot needs a plan for paths to avoid walking over beds. Traditionally, an allotment simply has paths running down each side of a single long bed. In the plan above, this approach has been adapted with both vertical and horizontal paths to create squares for crop rotation.
Plants would be grown in columns north to south (ie vertical). This is to allow maximum light for each row of plants.
Grass paths are a practical choice and are easily created. Simply keep cutting or strimming back any weeds that grow along your designated paths. Eventually nature will do its work and the paths will be predominantly grass, as this is one of the few weeds that survives a regular ‘hair cut’.
Allotment Planting Design – Storage
Create a space for garden storage, and put this at the back of the plot. Storage often involves height, so placing this furthest away from the sun will prevent shadows.
Allotment Planting Design – Watering
Think about watering – a major task during hot spells in spring and summer. If it is not possible to find water by either hand pump or hose, consider fitting water butts.
Allotment Planting Design – Fruit
Fruit can be much less work than growing vegetables, often has a higher success rate, and some varieties are either expensive or hard to find in shops. Whether it be raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, gooseberries, currants etc. they can be well worth the space.
My suggestion is to place these together at the back of the plot. Fruit bushes and trees are taller than vegetables, so planting them at the back of the plot prevents them casting a shadow.
Planting them together will help with protection from birds. If grown in squares or rectangles, it makes it much easier to create a temporary or permanent fruit cage by creating a frame covered with netting.
Allotment Planting Design – Herbs
I have not included herbs in the sample vegetable garden above, but these can be a great addition – especially for a keen cook. Herbs do not need to be rotated, so a good space for them is at the front, or sides, of any of the vegetables beds, or around the fruit beds.
Allotment Planting Design – Compost
If growing vegetables at home it is worth considering buying or building two compost bins, and even a wormery, to help you recycle garden and kitchen waste. This should be in a sheltered spot in your garden.
See my page on how to make homemade compost.
For an allotment, I suggest you find another way of removing waste, either by burning or transporting elsewhere. I try to avoid as much vegetable waste as possible either by strimming or hoeing and leaving the weeds to rot on the soil surface, or digging and turning them into the soil to rot down.
For a big vegetable garden, or allotment, you are likely to need much more compost and manure than can be provided by your own composting efforts.