New members

Picture from the collection

"Siesta.jpg" by Miguel Farias

Welcome to Trap Ground Allotments

If either now, or at any time in the future, you have any enquiries or problems, please do not hesitate to ask for help from any of the elected members of the committee. They, and any of the long established allotment holders, will be most willing to offer help and advice.

If you are a newcomer to allotment gardening, you may be surprised at how much time and effort is involved during the growing season. A plot left untended for only a week or two can easily revert to wilderness. We are all dependent on our neighbours. Rampant weeds rapidly spread and seed themselves far and wide. If your newly acquired plot looks untended our advice is to clear it completely and then to bring it back under cultivation row by row.

Tackling weeds

There are various stratagems for preventing the weeds from reasserting themselves including regular strimming, mowing, spraying or covering with black plastic. We have a range of equipment available to members to help with this. You must not use old carpet to suppress weeds as this is banned from the allotment site. Paths and boundaries are also the plot-holders’ responsibility and may need friendly negotiation with plots next door. If side paths are at least one metre wide, without dead-ends, then you may be lucky and find they get mowed by the volunteers who undertake our mowing. Impassable patches of nettles and brambles are havens for rabbits and other vermin.

Skipping

We order a skip for rubbish collection, usually during the winter months. You can collect the non-bio-degradable rubbish in large plastic bags, and then either take them home to dispose of, take them to the Redbridge municipal tip or use the skip when it is available.

Don’t be discouraged. You have committed yourself to the most rewarding of hobbies in one of the most delightful locations in Oxford. But if you discover that, for any reason, the Trap Ground allotments are not for you, please let one of the lettings secretaries know as early as possible. There is always a waiting list.

Caring for a new plot: advice for beginners

Many people each year eagerly take up allotment gardening with high hopes. But, within a couple of seasons, they give up, disillusioned, leaving only jungle behind them. Usually, they have simply not taken into account the time and regularity of attention that an allotment demands. They have often been defeated through mistakes made at the very start.

We have a separate page with advice about clearing a plot.

Planning your plot

Decide next how much land you can really cultivate in your first year. If you are going to have plenty of time throughout the summer, you might think of bringing the whole plot under cultivation in one go. In this case, the whole area should be dug over or rotavated as soon as possible. Our rotavator leaves a fine tilth but cannot deal with soil loosened by recent digging. Remember that, while the rotavator does a very impressive looking job in a very short time, it does not remove perennial roots, such as couch grass, nettles and bindweed. In fact, it chops them up and redistributes them. You will still have to hand weed and hoe thereafter. If you think that cultivating the whole plot is a bit daunting, decide how much you can cope with and then decide what you are going to do to prevent the rest promptly reverting to bush. There are several ways of going about this:

Table: methods of weed control
Method Advantages Disadvantages
Scything and Mowing Traditional and eco friendly, particularly if parts of the land are to remain fallow for more than one season Most allotment plots are unsuitable for mowing. It would require repeated and regular attention just as a lawn. It is an illusion to imagine that land left neglected will revert to an attractive wild flower meadow. But regular mowing may help keep the brambles at bay and the thistles down.
Covering with plastic sheeting The woven material is as good as carpet as a weed suppressant, is lightweight and can be used many seasons in succession. It can be expensive where large areas are to be covered. When it frays, the resulting fibres can be a nuisance for machinery. Please make sure that these do not stray onto the main paths.
Spraying So long as a non-persistent weedkiller like Roundup is used, and it can be applied during growth, this is probably the most effective way of killing persistent weeds. Many gardeners grow their own crops precisely to avoid the use of chemical sprays. So if you do use them, be very careful not to allow any drift onto other plots. Weed killers are very expensive and persistent weeds will need repeated applications, whatever it says on the bottle.

Notwithstanding all the above, there is no substitute for digging your plot!

When you begin cultivation, don’t make your plans too ambitious. Start from one end and work methodically until the whole area has been tamed. Never make the mistake of clearing a bit here and a bit there or half a row of this and a little patch of that. The jungle will win. Don't allow areas of wilderness to remain. An old gardener’s truism is "One year’s seeding means seven years' weeding". And do share your trials and tribulations. You are among friends.

Getting started

A good starter crop is always the potato. During its cultivation, you usually have to dig over the soil three times - when planting, when earthing up and when harvesting. In between times, the foliage is usually dense enough to see off any weeds. Spinach beet needs clean soil to get going but can then usually look after itself. For almost instant results try radishes and lettuces.
Thereafter, no other allotment gardeners will tell you the same thing twice. No two seasons are the same, no single crop behaves the same two years running and your neighbour whose beans are the envy of everyone probably can’t grow carrots to save his life. What they will agree on is that, for all its petty frustrations and the many hours of work, this is the most rewarding and satisfying hobby. With application, a small family can become almost self-sufficient in vegetables, salads, soft fruit and flowers in a very short time. Just compare the flavour and freshness of your home grown crops with the tasteless, glossy packaged, wildly expensive rubbish from the supermarkets and you will never look back.

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