The planning and designing stage

Once you have your plot you will be so excited to get things growing but it really does pay off to make a plan before you start. Creating a plan isn't difficult. It's just a case of answering a few questions and then making a sketch.

How much time will you have?

You are bound to have already given this some thought before even looking for an allotment plot but you do need to be realistic and if you are only going to manage to get down to the plot at the weekend it is no use planting crops that will require daily attention.

You will be amazed at how much time growing your own can take and not just out on the plot either. You will also be spending time preparing, blanching and freezing surpluses too.

What do you want to grow?

Once you have decided on how you will manage your plot it's time to decide what you want to grow. Do you want to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers or any combination of the four?

Do you want to use the space you have for crops which are especially expensive in the shops such as asparagus, raspberries and strawberries for example?

Do you want to grow things that cannot be bought in the shops such as varieties of potato not available in the supermarkets, runner beans harvested when very young and tender, purple, yellow and white carrots or flowers for the plate such as using chive flowers to garnish a salad?

Do you have any favourite vegetables or fruit that you want to try growing and maybe try out different varieties each year? Are there any that you don't like and won't eat? No point in growing those just because everyone else does unless you are growing them for someone else!

Once you have created the list of crops you want to try you will need to know whether they are permanent perennial crops such as asparagus or rhubarb and if not whether they are prone to soil bourne diseases and will need to be part of a crop rotation such as onions or cabbages.

So if you are totally knew to the whole thing as I was you will want to get a good book to read up on them all. My favourite book is the Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening from the HDRA (or Garden Organic as they are now known. I also love The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit by Matthew Biggs, Jekka McVicar and Bob Flowerdew.

How much space for permanent beds and structures?

If you are not going to have all your seedlings on windowsills indoors you will need a greenhouse and unless you live very close to your plot you will also want a shed. A composting area is a necessity and life is so much easier if you have an area left empty for working to build structures or for storing materials until they are needed. Will you have paths separating the growing areas? Many do not but I feel that it makes things a lot easier to manage.

How many of the crops you want to grow are perennials that need planing in a permanent bed and how many are for a crop rotation? Once you have an idea of all the elements and the measurements of your plot it's time to sketch them out.

Create your draft plan

If you use a computer graphics program that uses layers you will be able to easily move the elements around but it is also fine to just sketch it out with a pencil.

Take the plot you have into consideration and find out if there are any areas that are shaded for part of the day and bear in mind where the water source is, if there is one. Also bear in mind that you may not want your working area or greenhouse and shed too close to the composting area for obvious reasons.

view my vegetable plot plans

view my fruit and herb plot plans