Organic allotment

Many allotment holders grow organically to reduce the amount of chemicals going into the ground

lifting potatoesOrganic gardening is a system that avoids using synthetic chemicals, such as pesticides or fertilisers, and instead relies on crop rotation, composting, animal manures, legumes, green manures, and biological controls to keep the soil fertile in the long term and to manage pest, disease, and weed problems.

The underlying principle is that soil is a living system, and that gardeners work with it rather than attempt to dominate by intervention with powerful fertilisers and pesticides. Aspects of this approach include maintaining genetic diversity of crops by growing a wide range of cultivars, encouraging the presence of wildlife in and around the plot, avoiding waste and pollution, recycling organic materials, and using renewable resources whenever possible.

When it comes to pest problems, organic gardeners will use mechanical methods (such as mesh and fleece to exclude insects) rather than pesticides, although organic pesticides can be used if all other options are exhausted. They subscribe to the use of companion planting, will tolerate a certain level of damage, and believe that the food produced by organic methods is superior to that produced by other means. Even gardeners who do not subscribe to every aspect of organic gardening have been heavily influenced by its sound, basic tenets (netting against carrot fly is now the norm), and broadly support its aims.

Hardcore organic gardeners believe that organic gardening is an all-or nothing commitment – that the garden is an indivisible system, and all the relationships between different aspects are inseparable: you cannot pick and choose which bits you follow. Other gardeners who loosely call themselves organic take a more relaxed view.

There is no compulsion here, and allotment gardeners must make up their own minds. However, be aware that your neighbouring plot-holders may have strong views on these matters, and try to act in a considerate way that takes their feelings into account. On some sites feelings have run high enough for the allotment authorities to divide the whole site into organic and non-organic areas.
Whichever system or methods you choose in the end, the principles of using the lowest possible inputs and making the fertility of the soil of overriding importance are sound. They will enhance your results whether you are strictly organic or not.

Further details on organic gardening (282kB pdf)
More on organic pesticides (131kb pdf).

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