Allotment Layout Ideas – When the first ten designs aren’t right

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 08

How many allotment layout ideas do you have to go through before picking up the spade?

The answer in my case was 10.

Ever the planner, and looking to avoid tiring revisions to beds and paths after the hard work was done, I put pen to paper, or finger to the mousepad, and mocked up some ideas.

Key priorities when deciding on your allotment layout

  • It has to maximise growing space
  • The paths must give me adequate reach into the borders
  • The water butts shouldn’t be in the far corner
  • Be mindful of shade cast by sheds and other structures
  • It should be easy to construct

Allotment Layout Ideas 1 and 2

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
Simple and symmetrical

The paths were wide on this plan but I liked the symmetry. The allotment is 10m x 10m and I love a strong structure in a space. I was concerned about the depth of the central 4 beds, however. I also wasn’t sure there would be enough space around the shed and water butts for practical access. The fence is located along the bottom of the image and the main allotment path runs along the top line. I hadn’t measured out the allotment at this point so I wasn’t sure how much access from the sides I would get.

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
Improving the size of the central beds.

By centralising the utilities I was able to wrap the beds around the middle. Aesthetically this pleases me and gives the central beds more accessibility.

Allotment Layout Ideas 3 and 4

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
Moving the shed to the back fence I can reduce the impact of shading

I was worried that placing the shed in the middle of the plot for aesthetics would mean I would have to have shady borders behind it (the sun comes from the top of the image). This change pulls it right down to the bottom. It’s still symmetrical though.

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
Getting into the finer details

I was worried that the wide central main path was too generous and the access paths were measly and tight. This change tweaks that for better access.

Allotment Layout Ideas 5, 6 and 7.

These are all variations on the themes above. I’m tinkering with flexible growing spaces with more smaller beds that can be optimised for different plants, looking to standardise the central beds to make them easier to construct, and doing away with separated outside beds.

Allotment Layout Ideas 8, 9, and 10 – the oddballs

I was starting to worry that my fixation on having an attractive, read symmetrical, design was compromising the utility of the space and complicating the construction. However, after playing with other layouts and asking for a second opinion from my better half (the verdict being that these look like ‘prison grounds’, ‘graveyards’ and ‘old-man-ish’) these were dumped from the shortlist.

The walkaround

After getting eyestrain from too much time on the laptop I hiked my pregnant wife and bored aunty to the allotment for some fun with string. I had bought a spool and reel from the lovely lady at Twool. With my aunt doing a good impression of a boundary post, we measured out the various beds (quite tricky with a 3m only measuring tape).

A few things became apparent;

  • I needed more space around the shed
  • I didn’t have access from the sides as the neighbouring plots are back to back without a path between
  • The outside beds would have to be smaller to be accessed from inside the plot
  • I wouldn’t need access across the outside beds to tend from the other side
  • The front border may have to be narrower or replaced entirely by a stepover apple.

Final Allotment Layout

Allotment Layout Ideas - When the first ten designs aren't right
The final allotment layout with suggested planting for this year

This is the working plan for this year. Permanent planting will go around the narrower outside borders, including asparagus, fruit bushes, and eventually, trained fruit trees.

The beds near the shed will be permanent herbs and cut flowers.

The four main beds will be the focus of the crop rotation.

The front borders are theoretical at the moment until I get my long measuring tape to ensure I’m not encroaching on the main site path. If things are a squeeze I may train a stepover apple along the front to provide a boundary. The maximum height of a fence on the site is 1.2m so I’m going to train fruit to this height to form a living fence and enclose the space a little.

You can see how things have started with my Garden Update 6th May


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