Improve your plot to get the best results

Raised beds
Raised beds
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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It’s great to see so many new faces at the allotment. The trouble is that there’s such a demand for allotments that most councils have split vacant plots into two halves to reduce the waiting lists.

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

One of the problems is having a plot which is very wet or the soil is very poor, perhaps on chalk or, even worse, on solid clay.

Well, this is the time of year to improve any of those situations.

Raised beds are a good idea because small areas are easy to cultivate. The idea is to use wooden edges. There’s no need to use boards such as scaffolding planks, as raised beds need only be 4in higher than the surrounding ground.

A bundle of wood for this job will cost less than £10. Choose wood that has been treated with a preservative and will last for about 10 years.

The bed can be the whole width of the allotment, but the width of the bed needs to be not more than 6ft so that all the cultivation can be done from the pathway around the bed.

The only time you walk on the bed is when it is being dug. The best idea is to dig the area where each bed is planned. Fix the edges with wooden pegs about 15in long and screw the boards to the pegs.

The dug soil is already higher than the pathways, but well-rotted compost, former growing bags and old potting soil are used to top up the beds.

It’s a really good idea to make compost on a grand scale, trying to find materials which will compost. I produce about 30 barrowloads of compost every year and am always looking out for strawy manure which rots well if treated with one part urine and seven parts water.

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

Plan ahead. Dig in manure on the beds which are going to 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 is used 10 days prior to planting out the plants. Fish, blood and bone is the best one.

Carrots will be excellent if planted where former growing bags have been used to top up the bed. They also like sand, but remember to keep them well-watered because if the peaty soil dries out, the germination will be poor.

To prevent carrot root fly, plastic water piping can be used in half-hoop shapes and micromesh insect barrier netting over the water piping will keep the carrot root fly away.

It’s easy to do this on a raised bed.