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You are here:home > Leisure > Allotments > Allotment Advice

Allotment Advice

Image of allotment plot









Below you will find some helpful advice on what you can and cannot do on your allotment plot; how to deal pests and diseases; and how to make compost.

Use the online form above to seek permission to put a shed or greenhouse on your plot.

The latest newsletter for plot holders The Potting Shed Gazette can be downloaded below.

We can provide you with lots of information and advice on your allotment email allotments@southampton.gov.uk or telephone 023 8083 3007 to find out more.

Allotment Do's and Don'ts

1. What I can do on my allotment plot

  • Erect a clearly visible number on your plot.
  • Ensure you lock gates behind you when entering and leaving the site.
  • Cultivate at least 50% of your plot and the remainder must be cut down and free from weeds. From the start of your tenancy agreement you have a two month period in which enforcement or non cultivation is not applicable.
  • Plant herbs and flowers as well as fruit and vegetables.
  • Have a small lawned area as long as it is regularly mown.
  • Build a pond, as long as it is built in a way that’s not dangerous to people and animals.
  • Have fruit bushes/trees etc. you must maintain the area around them.
  • Keep paths either side of your plot maintained.
  • Use water sparingly, you can use a hand held hosepipe to water your crops or fill up a water butt. Please note that at certain times there may be restrictions.
  • Compost and recycle as much as you can.
  • Get permission from the allotment officer if you wish to erect sheds, greenhouses, poly tunnels etc. or if you wish to keep chickens on your plot.
  • Bring your dog on site as long as it is kept under control and you clear up any mess and dispose of off site.
  • Bring children onto allotments but they must be closely supervised at all times.
  • Report damaged fences to the site rep or the allotment officer.
  • Keep an eye out for anybody you don’t know on site and don’t be afraid to ask them what they are doing.

  • Pay your allotment rent within thirty days of receiving an invoice. Discounts apply to plot holders over 60 and smart city card holders.
  • Inform the allotment officer if you change address.
  • Remove all belongings within two weeks of vacating your plot.

2. What I cannot do on my allotment plot

  • Sublet your plot.
  • Use your plot for any trade or business.
  • Use carpets on allotment plots.
  • Block communal pathways.
  • Dig up or obstruct paths between plots.
  • Light bonfires that cause a nuisance or leave fires unattended. Only burn dry material on suitable days.
  • Cause a nuisance to other plot holders or neighbouring properties. Nuisance could include bad or racist language, getting drunk, playing loud music, bonfires etc.
  • Go onto other people’s plots unless they have given you permission to do so. If you have children on site they are not allowed to wander around.
  • Move sheds unless given permission by the site rep or allotment officer.
  • Give your key to other people or allow them to visit your plot unsupervised.
  • Bring in or store rubbish on site.
  • Use on site skips for disposing of anything other than your own non-recyclable allotment waste.
  • Use a sprinkler to water crops.
  • Use any abusive or threatening behaviour on site, be it physical or verbal.
  • Plant any trees other than fruit trees.
  • Bring in or use tyres on site.
  • Exceed the five mile speed limit.
  • Keep bees on your plot.
  • Block communal pathways.
  • Dump any grass etc. dug up from your plot on paths, other plots, ditches or other area on site.
  • Construct a permanent base and no concrete to be used to secure posts etc.
  • Carry or use a firearm at any time on site.

Pests and Diseases

1. Potato and tomato blight

With potatoes, blackish, round patches appear on leaf edges and the leaf underside becomes downy white with the spores. If the weather remains moist the disease will rapidly spread.

The tubers then develop with a firm dry rot, which is attacked by other bacteria, causing apparently sound tubers to rot quickly when stored. Tomatoes show fewer symptoms but the fruit is disfigured with brown leathery patches.

To reduce infection it is important not to use tubers from previously blighted crops. Early varieties are very susceptible so it is important to sow these early so that the crop is maturing before the blight starts in July.

To improve your chances of avoiding blight remove all potential sources of infection such as small tubers and never leave old tubers in the ground. These can be burnt or composted as most infection is wind borne from external sources.

Since blight spores need humidity, slightly wider spacing may help air movement and ridging or mulching potatoes prevents the spores being washed down off the leaves into tubers in the soil. If blight does strike and the weather turns dry you may save the crop by cutting off foliage and leaving for three weeks to harden up the tubers.

2. Club root of brassica

This is a persistent disease on allotments. Symptoms do not become evident until a swelling forms on the roots. The above ground symptoms are wilting, stunted growth and the foliage may be different to healthy plants. The spores can remain viable for twenty years even without the host.

The spores are carried on soil, boots and dung. Club root is most common on poorly drained soil especially in low lying areas where flooding can introduce new spores. It is also more prolific in acidic soils where pH is less then 7.0 and in warm moist soils between October and April.

Adding lime to increase the pH above 7.0 helps but a too alkaline soil encourages scab on potatoes and white rot of onions.

Practice weed control to reduce club root on related weeds such as poppy, clover, shepherds purse, wallflowers and docks. Avoid over watering soil using furrow irrigation if possible. Dispose of diseased material by burning or removal off site.

3. White rot of onions

Onion white rot also affects leeks and garlic. Apparently healthy plants suddenly start to die, older leaves turn yellow and wilt and the roots become rotten. As the disease progresses a white thread like fungal growth can be seen with black fruiting bodies which look like black seeds. The white rot is very persistent and can survive up to fifteen years without any onions being present.

The root system of onions stimulates the disease to germinate and start the cycle again. Control is mainly by eight year rotation and removing any soil in areas affected. It would also be prudent not to grow garlic as this is deeper rooted and stimulates more white rot than onions. Destroy infected material by burning or removal from site unless you can ensure high composting temperatures.

If you have infected land it is worth growing garlic in ten centimetre deep holes of clean soil, so that when the roots eventually enter and trigger the white rot growth the ground temperature will usually be high enough to halt the disease.

Similarly, leeks survive and crop well due to a combination of soil temperature and root development at a crucial time of growth. Once the white rot has germinated and infected the new crop it does so you could grow an early crop and immediately lift it as infection appears which would remove a large source of infection. This would need to be carried out every year.

4. Black fly and green fly

Aphids, more commonly known as green fly or black fly are one of the most common pests that can attack a wide variety of garden plants. Aphids will attack all parts of a plant including leaves, shoots, flowers, stems and roots. They often cluster around young growth or on the underside of leaves and feed by sucking sap from the plant. This can lead to weak and distorted plants and if aphid numbers are very high they can actually kill the plant they are living on. The way that aphids feed also spreads plant viruses as the insects fly from plant to plant.

As they feed, aphids secrete a sticky ‘honeydew’ substance that drips onto lower leaves and often becomes covered in black mould. Although the mould itself is not harmful to the plant the mould prevents light getting to the leaf causing premature leaf fall.

Aphids are generally one to five millimetres long, can be found in a variety of colours and can be winged or wingless. There are over 500 species in Europe. The population of aphids rises rapidly in spring due to their life cycle.

Prevention and control to avoid black fly and green fly includes providing a healthy soil for strong plant growth and encouraging a range of wildlife that will include natural predators of aphids. You can also find resistant varieties of some crops that discourage aphids and the diseases spread by them. Regularly inspect plants and if you discover aphids on your plants remove them by hand and squash them. Heavily infested leaves should be removed and put in a bucket of soapy water. Also a powerful jet of water from a hose will dislodge the aphids. Finally, as a last resort, chemical controls can be used to target the aphids.

5. Slugs

Try to remove the overnight shelter by hoeing out weeds and grass. Try creating deliberate hiding places such as a few pieces of wooden planking and each time you visit the allotment check the plants and destroy the slugs. Don’t throw them on to your neighbours plot as they will come back.

Beer traps are fairly effective and should be covered to stop birds drinking from them.

One disposal point is your compost heap. Slugs are excellent composters and their presence will encourage their predators to congregate and destroy them such as frogs, hedgehogs, blackbirds and thrushes etc.

Another method is to use a barrier but these need regular replenishment and more than one material to be effective. Grit, eggshells and salt all work for a small time but are gradually eroded by rain. Bran attracts slugs but must be kept dry. When eaten, it swells up inside the slug and eventually ruptures the slugs’ body leaving the remains safe for the predator to eat unlike chemical pellets.

The single best method seems to be the beer traps if no natural predators are available.

Composting

1. What is composting?

Composting is a natural process whereby bacteria, fungi, worms etc. feed on organic waste and turn it into a useful garden product. These organisms all require a ready supply of oxygen for the process to work and their activity produces varying levels of heat.

2. Why compost?

It makes good sense to produce compost on your allotment as it reduces waste. It turns waste into a ready source of fertile organic matter which improves soil fertility and soil condition and adds nutrients. It reduces the use of natural resources such as peat.

3. What makes good compost?

Fresh material; green waste; moisture; air; and heat.
Raw fruit and vegetables
Wood ash
Shredded newspaper
Green waste material
Nettles and comfrey
Leaves

4. Don't compost

Cooked food as it will encourage rats
Potato tops and peelings as they may carry blight
Perennial weeds
Roots such as brassicas as they may carry club root
Fish or meat scraps
Weeds that have gone to seed
Dairy products

5. Successful composting

  • Keep the heap as hot as possible to speed up the process.
  • Try and mix brown and green waste to a 50:50 mix.
  • If the heap doesn’t work well try adding a nitrogen based compost accelerator.
  • Shred the waste as fine as possible.
  • Try and build the heap and leave it for as long as possible (the less disruption the greater the possibility to build up heat) but turn the heap regularly to mix the compost and keep the oxygen flow good.
  • Keep the heap moist but not waterlogged. Add water to prevent the heap drying out.
  • A cover such as an old blanket helps to prevent water logging but keeps heat in.
  • Once you’ve started a heap let it get on with the composting process. If you have more material start another heap or you’ll never really know when the first one is finished.
  • If your heap turns into a wet smelling mush then it has either become too wet or not enough fresh air is getting into the heap. If this happens try aerating and turning the heap and add a compost accelerator.

Sheds and Greenhouses

1. Do I need permission to have a shed or greenhouse/polytunnel on my allotment plot?

Yes. You need to get permission to erect a shed or greenhouse/polytunnel on your allotment plot. To apply for a shed or greenhouse/polytunnel use the online form at the top of this page, call into Gateway, email allotments@southampton.gov.uk or telephone 023 8083 3007.

2. What size of shed can I have on my allotment plot?

Sheds can be no larger than 1.83 metres x 1.83 metres x 1.98 metres (6 feet x 6 feet x 6 feet 6 inches) and can be constructed of timber, plastic or metal.

3. What size of greenhouse can I have on my allotment plot?

There are no size restrictions for greenhouses.

Downloadable documents

Icon Name of file Size Download time
PDF document Allotments Service Promises 726 KB 2secs @ 2Mbps
PDF document Dig This 465 KB 1secs @ 2Mbps
PDF document The Potting Shed Gazette - November 2011 668 KB 2secs @ 2Mbps
PDF document The Potting Shed Gazette - February 2012 489 KB 1secs @ 2Mbps
PDF document When to Sow 10 KB 0secs @ 2Mbps
Link to download Adobe Acrobat if required

Contact information