Where do I start?

Even if the plot has been well-tended by the previous owner, it’s probably a good idea to dig it over. The soil at Woodhouse Allotments is heavy clay, very typical of most of the London area. The good news is that clay, if properly looked after, is extremely fertile and excellent for growing a wide range of vegetables. Less good is that, in the course of cultivation, you will need  to work in organic matter on an ongoing basis and ensure that it does not get waterlogged.

If the idea of digging over the whole plot straightaway seems daunting, then start with at least the patch you’d like to cultivate first. Again, even with a well looked after plot, you will probably need to dig in or mulch with organic matter such as manure, leaf mould, compost, or soil improver. Ask at the Trading Hut to see what is in stock.

The remainder of the plot can be covered with a weed suppressant material, such as black plastic, or woven plastic until you are ready to dig over new areas. Again, the Trading Hut carries supplies.

We do not recommend using a rotovator until you have thoroughly dug over the plot and removed perennial weeds. We have brambles, bindweed and nettles in abundance at Woodhouse: shredding the roots of any of these with a rotovator will only make them grow back more strongly.

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What should I do if the plot is very overgrown?

We do attempt to keep vacant plots cleared in between tenancies. Your plot should be cleared fairly easily with a strimmer or scythe, and then by digging. There is a Woodhouse Allotments strimmer available to hire – please see the secretary to inquire about borrowing this. It must be returned with a full petrol container and line.

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What can I plant on my plot?

Some plants will grow more easily in our conditions and soil than others. Even within the site itself some plots are more sheltered and some have better drainage than others. Have a look around the site at what your neighbours are growing and what seems to do well and do ask your fellow plotholders what they grow and what works for them. Everyone will be happy to help out.

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Can I have manure or compost delivered direct to my plot?

If you have vehicular access direct to your plot and the material can be delivered without any inconvenience to your neighbours, there is no problem. You will be responsible for letting the delivery vehicle on to the site, and for locking up again afterwards.

Otherwise, the delivery will need to be made to the nearest communal area. Please consult with a member of the committee beforehand to let us know and to determine the best spot for delivery.

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Can I put up a shed or a greenhouse?

You can build both one greenhouse and one shed on each plot. It’s a good idea to consult your neighbours before you undertake any building work; please also notify the committee that you intend to build either a shed or greenhouse beforehand.

The maximum size for both is 9 feet by 6 feet (2.75m x 1.8m). They should be set back from the communal road or path, and you should make sure that neither building obstructs any communal paths, and that your neighbours’ light isn’t blocked.

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Can I remove the shed or greenhouse from my plot?

You can remove non-permanent structures on your plot, but please notify someone on the committee that you intend to do this first. Please also ensure that you can take down the structure safely and without any nuisance to your plot neighbours.

Note that all the remnants of the building must be completely removed from the site and disposed of safely elsewhere.

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Can I plant some trees on my plot?

You may plant fruit trees that are grafted on to dwarfing rootstock that will yield a mature growth of no more than 12ft (3.65m). If you wish to grow anything bigger, please consult with a committee member before planting.

Fruit trees must be sited so that, when mature, branches do not overhang paths and other boundaries. Once they are planted, the majority of the plot should still be available for vegetables and other crops to be grown.

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Can I cut down the trees on my plot?

We have a number of trees on site, not all of them fruit trees, and while some are mature trees of many years standing, others are saplings which have been allowed to grow very large.

In any case, please check with a committee member before you cut down any tree which is taller than 6ft/2m.

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Can I grow whatever I like?

Within reason, yes. The allotment is primarily for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables but many people grow ornamental plants as well.

We ask you not to grow trees that will grow higher than 9ft (2.75m) at maturity, and you should not grow plants that will become invasive and spread beyond the boundaries of your plot.

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Where can I go for general gardening advice?

There are lots of websites available with advice for the new allotmenteer. Do check when visiting the site that it caters for UK growing conditions. Some good ones we’ve found are:

All three of these also have interactive forums, where you can ask questions and discuss gardening problems with others.

Do pick the brains of your fellow allotment holders here at Woodhouse, who will have first hand knowledge of the conditions specifically relevant to this site. People will be happy to help you.

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Do I have to cultivate the whole plot?

Plots must be kept free from weeds, rubbish and debris, and be generally well-maintained. A good rule of thumb is to aim to have at least two-thirds of the plot cultivated.

Newcomers will be given reasonable time to achieve this if they take on a plot which has previously failed to meet these requirements.

The rest of the plot, which can be pathways, non-permanent structures such as a greenhouse or shed, or tree canopy, should be neatly maintained, not overgrown, and in the case of buildings, not be allowed to fall into disrepair.

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Can I use weedkiller and other pesticides?

Weedkiller and other pesticides aren’t banned for use, but we would urge caution. Out of consideration for both your neighbours and the wildlife on the site, please only use pesticides if absolutely necessary and even then only use the very minimum amount. Try to administer pesticides on a still day so there is no danger of it being blown on to neighbouring plots. In any case, ensure there is no danger of pesticides contaminating any area other than that intended and take all pesticides, containers and delivery mechanisms home with you – they must not be disposed of on-site.

If you think you have Japanese Knotweed, please inform a member of the committee – details are on the noticeboards – before trying to remove it yourself.

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Can I use a hose to water my plants?

Yes, unless there is a hosepipe ban in force, you can attach a garden hose to one of the communal standpipes to water your plot with a handheld nozzle. Sprinkler systems are not allowed.  Please don’t leave garden hoses unattended while watering.

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Apart from my plot, what else do I need to look after?

The paths which run on either side of your plot need to be regularly maintained. The rule is that they should be navigable by a person pushing a wheelbarrow. You are responsible for the path to the left hand side of the plot as you view it from the communal drive or path.

Depending on where your plot is, you may have a strip of land between the boundary of your plot and an external boundary wall or fence. Optimally it should be 1-metre wide, but on some plots it is narrower. This strip needs to be kept trimmed or mown, clear of structures or obstacles, but not cultivated.

Similarly, you may have a strip between your plot and the tarmac roadway, which again should be kept trimmed or mown, clear of structures or obstacles, but not cultivated. This strip bordering the road is particularly important as it helps to keep the edges of the tarmac in good repair.

We also conduct working parties roughly once a month to clear communal areas and keep the site overall well – we ask that each plotholder should take part in two working parties each year. Dates are posted on the noticeboards and sent out by email – please check these and sign up if you can.

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Who’s allowed on my plot?

You’re welcome to invite guests on to your plot, but remember that you will be responsible for them and you will be responsible for the use of your site key. You should not wander on to other people’s plots uninvited.

If you want to leave your site key with a friend or family member when you go away on holiday so that they can look after your plot, try to let someone on the committee know that there will be someone different using your plot in your absence. Similarly, it’s a good idea to let your plot neighbours know.

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Are children allowed on the site?

Children are extremely welcome at Woodhouse Allotments, so long as they are properly supervised by a responsible adult. They will need to adhere to basic rules: to keep to their own plots or communal areas, and no picking and eating of produce without the express permission of their responsible adult (not everything grown on the site is edible). Please ensure children understand that the water from the standpipes is not suitable for drinking.

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When can I have a bonfire?

Bonfires are only allowed on individual plots between October and the end of March, out of consideration for our neighbours. We do sometimes have communal bonfires at working parties throughout the year.

  • Don’t use petrol or other accelerants on your bonfire.
  • Don’t burn any plastic material, or anything other than green or woody waste.
  • Don’t light your bonfire on a windy day when smuts could blow on to other plots or into the neighbouring gardens.
  • Never leave your fire unattended.
  • Make sure the fire is properly extinguished before you leave the site.

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What can I do with all my rubbish and waste?

There are four options available for your rubbish.

1) Compost it on your plot (green waste only)

Weeds and other green waste can be composted. At its simplest level, green waste piled into a heap and left will – eventually – break down into compost. Better, neater and less unsightly is a proprietary compost bin which can be bought from a garden centre or from the local council. Or you can build your own fairly easily, as pictured here: an enclosed structure will hold your green waste while it breaks down.

2) Burn it (green waste only)

3) Metal waste can be left in the scrap metal bay in the Grove Road car park. ONLY metal goes in here.

4) Take it home (suitable for all waste)

Do NOT leave any rubbish lying around in communal areas on the site.

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Where have the green bins gone?

We have had to take the green bins out of service as they were persistently misused and the Council refused to take the contents away. They are now used only by the Working Parties for collecting green waste.

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When will we next get a delivery of soil improver?

The soil improver that is provided free of charge by the Council doesn’t arrive on a regular basis but only when it is available in large enough quantities, usually every three to four months between October and March. Keep an eye on noticeboards to be notified when a delivery of soil improver is due.

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What does the Trading Hut sell?

There is a wide variety of items available, from compost, soil improvers, fertilisers, plant food, seeds, canes, supports, and Permatex (plastic ground cover). Prices nearly always undercut the local garden centres, so do please make use of this facility.

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When is the Trading Hut open?

Normally between midday and 2.00pm on Saturdays and Sundays; however as it is staffed by volunteers, opening times are subject to other commitments that they may have. If you would like to volunteer to help at the Trading Hut, please let a committee member know

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Can I order specific items from the Trading Hut?

Yes, ask at the Trading Hut about ordering in particular items.

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