New to Churchfields Allotments?

Our resident expert, Diane Ewart, offers some tips to new WAHGA members just starting out as to how they might make a success of their plots

Which basic tools do you recommend I buy?

A garden spade, fork, hand fork/trowel and one or two watering cans are all you need to start. Secateurs are useful for pruning fruit bush- es, and general trimming back. I’d also make, or buy, a compost bin.

I have an overgrown plot. What should I do first?

Think about, and be realistic about, the amount of time you have each week and tackle the plot in stages. Work on the area closest to the water supply, dig out the weeds, get the soil ready for planting and start growing. Gradually work from front to back and before the season is out the plot will be cleared.

What can I do with all the weeds I’ve dug up?

You can either bag them up and take the off-site to the ‘dump’ or household brown bin, or compost on- site.

Which are the easiest fruit and vegetables to grow for a novice?

Rhubarb, potatoes and onions/shallots are simple, almost foolproof, options. Onions sets can be planted in the autumn for harvesting next year, it’s a bit late for potatoes now but worth preparing a bed and setting aside an area for them. You might be lucky and get a rhubarb crown from a fellow plot holder in the autumn, otherwise they can be purchased. In the meantime, sow other quick-growing and easy options; carrots, salad veg, radish, beetroot, and rocket (more slug- and pest-resistant than lettuce). All beans are easy to grow, my favourites are runner and french beans - you might still be able to buy some plants now. Sow kale now for harvesting through the winter. But, most importantly, grow what you like to eat!

“For a lot of vegetables, pick while the produce is still young — smaller than the average supermarket produce.”

When should I harvest my produce?

For a lot of the veg, I recommend picking while the produce is still young, so smaller than the average supermarket produce. This applies to courgettes, runner beans, broad beans, french beans, mange tout, peas. For root veg, again carrots are so easy to grow; just pick them when they’re small. Small new potatoes are delicious. Sweet corn is best harvested when just ripe, and the flavour when picked and eaten on the same day is sublime.

Many veg can be left in place and harvested when you need them through the winter, broccoli, potatoes, parsnips, sprouts to name a few, so just pick when you need them.

Where can I get seeds?

The allotment shop has a wide range of seeds at very competitive prices. They stock the most popular tried and tested varieties that work in an allotment environment. Otherwise all the local garden centres have seeds and, on-line, try Sutton’s, Thompson and Morgan, Chiltern to name a few that I’ve used.