It’s not only the humble potato or common carrot which can thrive on allotments – you can also grow a cornucopia of delicious soft fruits like summer berries and blackcurrants.
What’s more, fruit bushes and trees are long-lived.
Gooseberries and blackcurrants can do well for 20 years, trees can produce for decades and raspberry canes can last more than 10 years.
Plot holders are being encouraged to grow fruit as part of this year’s National Allotments Week, running next week August 5-11)
“Plot-holders are better off looking at soft fruit because it takes up less space than fruit trees and is easier to manage and pick,” says Mike Thurlow.
He is the horticultural adviser to the National Allotment Society, which is running this year’s National Allotments Week campaign with Kelly’s of Cornwall.
“The root run of soft fruit isn’t so expansive so it doesn’t interfere with other crops or with neighbours’ plots.”
Summer fruits are generally easier to care for than larger fruit trees.
Many currants can be grown as bushes, while raspberries and blackberries need to be trained against a framework structure, usually a post and wire system.
“Soft fruit can’t be shoved away in a cold corner,” Thurlow explains.
“Full sun is needed to ripen the wood rather than the fruit because it is ripe wood which gives you the bountiful harvest the following year.”
If you are growing bushes or training trees, plan them as part of the structure of your allotment, as they are likely to be permanent fixtures.
Most fruit trees are pollinated by insects so you’ll need to avoid windy sites, and add plenty of organic matter to the well-drained soil.
Strawberries, one of the nation’s favourite summer fruits, should be placed in the sunniest border and should be moved around on a three-year cycle.
Few allotments allow trees to be grown because they shade other plots and sometimes can’t be moved when a new tenant arrives.
So if you want to grow fruit trees, you may have to buy dwarf rootstocks to train, creating espaliers, cordons or fans in sunny spots.
“Redcurrants, white currants and gooseberries can be fan-trained and turned into espaliers and cordons. It’s a bit of fun.
“You could train them up the side of a shed or make a support from stakes and training wires,” Thurlow explains.
“Fruit which is trained takes up less room and is easier to manage because the fruit has air and light around it so there are likely to be fewer disease problems.”
Be warned that blackcurrants are big plants which will need plenty of room, each taking up around 1.5 square metres of ground so don’t plant them too close together.
“You’ll often have fewer berries from two struggling plants than from one good one,” Thurlow points out.
n National Allotments Week runs from August 5 - 11.
Jobs for the week:
* Continue to feed roses regularly with rose food that is high in potash and magnesium. If they are in a mixed border, feed the whole area
* Prune philadelphus, or mock orange, after it has flowered
* In hot, dry spells, lift the cutting blades of your lawn mower by 1cm (half an inch) so you don’t cut it too short
* If you are going away, move your containers to a cool, shady spot, stand them in saucers and water them thoroughly before you go. Get family or neighbours to water while you’re away
* Clip privet and other fast-growing hedges
* Take cuttings of clematis
* Cut lavender for drying
Good enough to eat:
Why buy expensive bags of rocket in the supermarket when you can grow it so easily?
It’s become one of the most popular peppery leaves to add to salads or to dress dishes such as grilled goat’s cheese. Rocket likes moisture-retentive soil and some shade.
It dislikes hot, dry weather, so sow it early in well-drained soil or, if your soil is heavy, start it off in cell trays and plant out in open ground when the seedlings are large enough to handle.
It’s grown in the same way as lettuce, preferring the cooler conditions of spring. If you’re growing it in pots, sow it more densely than lettuce and harvest it when the leaves are young, as it can run to seed quickly.