About Gardening at Hollin Lane
This document was originally prepared for new plotholders but others might like a reminder about some aspects of allotment gardening at Hollin Lane Allotments. This isn’t exhaustive so if you need any more information that you can’t find here please ask one of the other allotmenteers or email the committee members at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We hope you will enjoy your time spent at the allotment, it’s demanding work but very rewarding!
Management of the Site
Hollin Lane Allotment Association is a ‘self-managed’ site; this means that though we lease the land from the Council and pay rent to them, we are responsible for the upkeep of the site. The Council will only involve themselves with work on the boundary. We are therefore reliant on our own members to run the site.
There is a Committee (all volunteers) who meet every 2 months or so to discuss matters such as events, upkeep, waiting lists, plot inspections (done by the 3 Trustees who report to the committee), health and safety etc. The committee do not expect to have to do the upkeep work alone, and there are some generous non-committee volunteers who do jobs such as path mowing, bramble pruning, clearing and general upkeep, and regular work parties which we advertise by email and notices on the gates and for which we need help from every plotholder. We are keen for new people to come on the committee which is elected at the AGM usually in late October.
- Weeds: The most common perennial weeds at the allotment are bindweed, mares tail, couch grass (the three worst!), creeping buttercup, dock and dandelion. It’s a good idea to get to know them and remove them as soon as they appear. Annual weeds can be easily hoed off and should be composted on your own plot. You can also compost perennial weed roots like couch grass on your plot in black plastic bags, just put them somewhere out of the way, and forget about them. They take a lot longer to compost but after 12 months they should be ready to use. Perennial roots can also be drowned in a dustbin full of water and the resulting liquid used as a plant food. Never put any weed roots in the sin bin, bonfire area or skip; all are compostable and a valuable source of minerals for your plot. Don’t remove soil from the plot.
Don’t let weeds seed as this is a nuisance for you and upsetting to your neighbours. Remember the saying ‘one year’s seeding, seven years weeding’ which is an accurate observation! If you take over a very weedy plot then please cut weeds down to the ground then cover areas which you are not ready to clear in weed suppressant fabric (carpet is not allowed, see Council rules on the website) to stop active growth and give yourself a chance to catch up. (Weed suppressant fabric available, contact the committee)
- Water: Water is available across the allotments via taps with water butts underneath, please make sure the tap is turned off when you are finished with it. Use the water from the water butt first, and refill the water butt for the next person to use. The water is turned off during the coldest winter months but is always back on in time for planting. Don’t wash vegetables in the butts; please use a separate bucket to avoid spreading disease, and don’t wash out any vessel which may have contained herbicide or pesticide in the butts. Watering is best done when the sun is low to avoid evaporation, and it is best to water individual plants rather than watering the soil which is wasteful and encourages slugs. If you have a shed or greenhouse, then please fix up water collection from the roof.
- Compost: You are expected to have a compost bin or two on your plot; it’s easy to build a wooden composter or add a cheap plastic one. It’s best to have two heaps; you can turn your compost to help aerate it and it will deliver better and faster results. Compost is essential for good soil health so it’s worth spending some time doing a bit of research on how to compost effectively. Anything you grow on your allotment, including annual weeds, can be composted. Nothing cooked should go on the compost pile nor any raw meat. Eggshells should be rinsed. There is some useful information on our website to help with making your own compost. Garden Organic has some helpful videos, too.
- Mailing list: You will be added to the Association mailing list automatically when you become a tenant, if you think you have been missed off the list then email a committee member.
- Paths: The path to the left, as you face uphill, is your responsibility, please keep the grass short and maintain the path in the same way as you would your plot. This rule includes the paths between the quarter plots, please liaise with your neighbour to make sure the path is fairly maintained. Path maintenance is important not just for the appearance but also to reduce the slug population (they lay eggs in the clumps of grass on the edges of your plot in May and September……). Please don’t allow fruit bushes and especially brambles to overhang the paths. Plant any new bushes at least a metre from the edge.
- Maintenance: Make sure the number of your plot can be easily seen; each plot should have a post with the location number written on it, please do not remove this, also you will need to repair or replace it if it is damaged. Half your plot must be in cultivation by the first six months, and the whole plot by the first year. All new plot holders now start off with a quarter plot which isn’t onerous, you’ll probably manage to do the quarter plot well before your 1st anniversary.
- Fires: You can have a small fire on your plot to burn items from your allotment (no plastic) if required, please make sure you have considered your neighbours when lighting a fire. You must make sure it is properly extinguished, before you leave.
- Tools: You can borrow wheelbarrows from the Social Area beside the Hut. There is a shed for the storage of tools by plotholders who don’t have a shed on their own plot (at your own risk!). The code is the same as for the toilet; if you don’t know the code then please contact a committee member for your ‘toilet training’ session which will include information about the sheds and opportunities to join the team of ‘toilet fairies’.
- Rubbish: A skip is hired once or twice a year for non-compostable rubbish, at other times it is your responsibility to remove this from your plot and dispose of it correctly.
- Security: The allotments do from time to time get broken into, for that reason it’s best not to keep valuables on your plot or in a shed. Most people leave their shed open, that way if we do get unwanted visitors to the allotments they can go in and have a look inside the sheds without damaging them. When we have had trespassers on the site they tend to make a bit of a mess but not take very much. Just to be sure anything you do value you should take home with you and not leave on your plot. Please get to know your neighbours and let everyone know if there has been any suspicious activity. Never give the gate code to anyone.
- Consumables: The Hut, (it’s an old shipping container rather than an actual hut) holds items for sale and equipment used for site maintenance. There are no power tools for hire. The key holders are listed on the side of the hut. The type of thing you can buy from the hut are various fertilisers, weed suppressant fabric etc. Also, listed on the hut are the names of the committee members (this information is also on the website)
- Manure and Wood Chips: The allotment buys manure for communal use, this is charged at £1 per barrow. Wood chip is also delivered regularly, and is free. Please help yourself – it’s great for creating paths and suppressing weeds on your plot. If enough people want to have mushroom compost we can order this too. Please email the committee to enquire.
- Growing Fruit and Vegetables: It’s completely up to you what edibles you choose to grow on your plot but please refer to the council guidelines on allotment use. Forest trees are not allowed for example! Our website also has some information on the type and varieties of fruit and vegetables that don’t grow well on the allotment. It’s also entirely up to you how you want to cultivate, whether organic, no dig, bio dynamically or a bit of everything, it’s all good. If you use herbicides or pesticides please respect your neighbours who may have other ways of gardening. You are expected to have at least 60% of the area for edibles. A good tip for new growers is not to plant too much of the same thing. A quarter plot is a decent size and it’s tempting to plant out all the seedlings you’ve lovingly grown. Unless you have a family who eat a vast amount of a limited selection of vegetables, it’s best to plant less of each type and create a more varied plot. It’s great having an amazing patch of 6 courgette plants, all of which are healthy and productive. But after weeks of consuming courgettes in every recipe known to man it could make you question your commitment to your plot. A great alternative is to companion plant, for example a courgette planted alongside sweetcorn and peas. This gives a wider variety of crop and means you won’t have a glut of one type. There are lots of great articles about companion planting online for example motherearthnews.com
- Seed Order: Once a year one of the members kindly coordinates ordering from a seed catalogue. This means we all get excellent value as the seeds are discounted through bulk buying. The orders are collected in November and the seeds or plants are delivered in January.
- Toilet: We have a composting toilet at the site. This is for all plot holders to use but we do ask that you are shown how the toilet should be used (liquid and solid waste products must be kept separate). Once you’ve had your ‘toilet training’ you’ll be given the code for the door. Please keep the toilet clean, it’s a joint responsibility so please make sure you leave it how you found it and check it if your kids have been using it.
Contact: Our Association’s officers and committee are listed on the website and posted on the side of the hut.