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Growing tips for allotments

The Community Allotments at Minnowburn, County Down, Northern Ireland
The Community Allotments at Minnowburn, County Down, Northern Ireland | © National Trust Images/Oskar Proctor

Listening to the sounds of nature, nurturing new life, unearthing potatoes and watching your first tomatoes ripen on the vine are just some of the simple pleasures we take from growing our own food. Find out how to get the most from your allotment or veg patch, and why growing your own fruit and veg is good for you, in more ways than one.

How to get the most out of your allotment

To dig or not to dig?

Attitudes towards digging have changed. Understanding of the impacts of digging on soil health are now better understood. Every time earth is turned over the soil structure is damaged and carbon is released. It’s better to top-dress with compost, leaf mould and manure, and let the worms do their work.

Why do I need to thin seedlings?

If seedlings are too crowded they won’t thrive, so if you’ve sown in the open ground, thin twice. For the first thinning, leave twice as many plants as you’ll need. At the second thinning remove every other plant in the row.

Why do I need to earth up potatoes?

May can still bring a late frost which would damage exposed shoots. Earthing up before this helps to keep the stems upright, and prevents the tubers from being exposed to the light, which can make them go green.

What is the purpose of mulching?

Peas and beans need plenty of moisture to produce a good crop. In very dry weather, instead of watering, spread grass mowings, decayed leaves or compost to a depth of one inch along each side of the rows.

Which birds are our friends?

Robins, wrens, hedge-sparrows, song-thrushes and many others will be looking for food, and in doing so will help you keep garden pests under control.

A row of compost bins stands next to a vegetable bed in the community kitchen garden at Hatchlands Park, Surrey.
Compost-making is good for allotments | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

How gardening is good for us

According to the Royal College of Physicians, the social interaction, exercise, sunlight and access to nature that gardening gives us have several health benefits. Its report, Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening, published in June 2018, found that working in the garden improved dexterity, strength and mental wellbeing, and reduced social isolation.

Research from the Royal Horticultural Society shows that gardening is good for our physical, mental and social wellbeing, helping us to keep fit and connect with others, to be part of nature and to enjoy colour, aroma, wildlife and beauty.

My allotment is the place I go to escape and switch off. When I'm digging around in the soil my mind is clear and calm for once. It's just me, my veg and peace.

A quote by Charlotte National Trust supporter
Gardener working in the walled garden at Mottisfont, Hampshire

Get gardening

Our gardeners are on hand with ideas for your garden, plot or window box. From planting veg to tackling weeds, they’ve got all the important topics covered.

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