Ensure you start your eco plot/allotment productively

It is very encouraging that more and more town halls are setting aside parcels of land for the provision of small allotments or plots for the growing of ecological vegetables, herbs and sometimes fruit.
In some cases, applications are sought from anyone but in others they are restricted to pensioners or unemployed people. Mostly plots seem to be free while others require just a token annual fee.
The benefits of having an allotment are as follows.
1. Space for growing if you have just a small garden area or apartment terraces and balconies.
2. A hobby that gets you out of doors throughout the year and back in touch with nature.
3. Daily fresh vegetables, herbs and perhaps fruit to eat that are untainted by chemical pesticides, insecticides and weedkillers if every allotment holder uses only ecological products.
4. The chance to grow and eat your seasonal favourites.
5. The chance to just harvest what you need and grow mini varieties so that waste is minimised after harvesting.
6. The chance to grow original heirloom and heritage varieties from Spain or other countries.
7. New friends within what will become, in many cases, an international community.
8. A chance to improve your spoken Spanish by chatting with neighbouring allotment holders.
9. The chance to choose to grow the crops which have the greatest number of beneficial vitamins, trace minerals and fibre as a contribution to a healthy diet.
The book ‘Living well from our garden – Mediterranean style’ indicates this information for a wide range of possible crops.
The book is available from Amazon Books. Note that the cover has been changed recently.
Having applied for and obtained an allotment, normally on a one- or two-year renewable lease, set out to make your vegetable and fruit gardening as productive as possible. The following guidelines will help you do so.
1. First dig over your ground to remove large weeds, rocks and bricks. Then do a first rotovating to obtain a fine tilth.
2. Then add a coating of manure from local stables or shepherds, or sacks of dried sheep or goat manure that are available inexpensively from agricultural co-operatives and rotovate again. Aim to do this by the end of September to be in the position to make timely autumn sowings and the planting of plantlets for autumn, Christmas and winter vegetable crops.
3. If you plan to grow herbs improve a small area further with a sack of worm compost and fine sand.
4. Before you sow or plant anything decide whether you will water with a hose, sprinkler or piped irrigation system. Since you will be growing crops in rows or blocks a woven irrigation piping may be the best investment.
5. Consider buying a five-kilo plastic box of TerraCottem, the soil improver mentioned a few weeks ago in this column, to mix into seed sowing drills and plantlet planting holes.
6. Weed regularly and set up a composting bin to recycle them annually.
7. Pests are unlikely to be a major problem on small plots with a diverse mix of crops. But do have handy some natural sulphur powder to deter ants and dust the leaves of tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and squash type crops from mildew, a neem oil spray such as that sold by Flowers to use as a general insecticide, and an ecological slug and snail killer.
With that best of luck to Spain’s new allotment gardeners.
© Dick Handscombe

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