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If you are looking to get your own plot started, the good news is that now is an ideal time to get going. There's a good chance your plot requires some clearing, and autumn gives you ample opportunity to clear and prepare your beds for the spring.
It can seem a daunting task, particularly if you are facing a thick jungle of brambles and weeds, but don't feel you have to clear it all in one go. Much better to get one section good and ready than to go mad and be demoralised. Covering the uncleared sections with thick plastic, tarpaulin or even old carpet, will keep the growth to a minimum until you have time to deal with them. Be careful of using a rotivator - as effortless as it may sound, perennial weeds that are just chopped up by the machine will only end up propagating.
Anything you do clear can be used to start the all-important compost heap, which will be invaluable once you do start growing. A generous helping of manure at this time of year will keep your soil well fed.
With some or all of your plot ready to go, it's time to grow. Garlic and hardy pea varieties can be planted as early as December, but winter is really when you should be thinking about your spring planting - so get your seed catalogues out and start making plans.
As to what you plant, well, trial and error will soon tell you what works and what doesn't. But if you are new to growing your own, it might pay to stick to low-maintenance crops such as winter squashes, potatoes, rhubarb, artichokes, beetroot, carrots, garlic and shallots, all of which require very little care other than weeding and watering. Herbs are also an excellent option and always come in handy in the kitchen.
Thereafter you may want to become more ambitious and there is absolutely no reason why you can't try new and exciting things.
Your local authority should be able to provide details of available plots nearby, while www.allotment.org.uk is an excellent resource for newbies, with diaries, forums and articles to help you make the most of your patch.
Have you recently started an allotment? What are your top tips for beginners? Leave your comments below...