Give your beds a raise and they’ll reward you

Some wood, a bit of muck and a sprinkling of diluted urine will combine to give you bumper veg crops in raised beds
Some wood, a bit of muck and a sprinkling of diluted urine will combine to give you bumper veg crops in raised beds
Brian Andrews, Frances Leppard and Charles Mobsby with their trophies

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It’s great to see so many new faces at the allotment. Trouble is there is such demand most councils have split vacant plots in half to cut waiting lists.

This means instead of having a normal 10 rod plot, 90ft long and 30ft wide, new tenants have only 45ft by 30ft. However, if cultivated well this area will provide fresh vegetables all year.

One problem is having a plot which is very wet or with poor soil, perhaps on chalk or, even worse, solid clay. Now’s the time to do something about it.

Raised beds are good because small areas are easier to cultivate. Use wooden edges. There’s no need for boards like scaffolding planks. Raised beds need only be four inches higher than the surrounding ground. A bundle of wood for this job will cost less than £10. It needs to have been treated with a preservative and lasts about 10 years.

The bed can be the whole length of the allotment but its width needs to be no more than six feet so all the cultivation can be done from the edges. The only time you walk on the bed is when it is being dug.

Dig the area where each bed is planned. Fix the edging boards with wooden pegs about 15 inches long and screw the boards to the pegs. The dug soil is already higher than the pathways but well-rotted compost, used growing bags and old potting compost can be used to top up the beds.

Make compost on a grand scale. I produce about 30 barrowloads every year and am always looking out for strawy manure which rots well if treated with one part urine in seven parts water.

Raised beds will also make it easier to rotate crops so the same one is not planted in the same place year on year.

Plan ahead; dig in manure on beds which will be planted with peas, beans, potatoes, onions, marrows and courgettes. All types of cabbage like ground which has been limed in the autumn and fertiliser used 10 days before planting out. Fish blood and bone is best for them. Carrots will be excellent if planted where old growing bags have been used to top up. They also like sand but remember to water them well because if the peaty soil dries out, germination will be poor.

To prevent carrot root fly, use plastic water piping in half-hoop shapes. Micromesh insect barrier netting over the piping will keep the pest at bay. Weeding can be done quickly because the raised beds are easy to reach and you get into the habit of doing it before the weeds produce flowers.

Have a go. Try a small bed and see how you get on. Some new plot holders have put raised beds on their entire plot.


Be careful when strimming around the base of trees. The line cuts into bark. The tree will die because the xylem and phloem cells which conduct water and food up and down the tree will be damaged. Councils, please alert your contractors.