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Welcome to SAGA's Website

created April 2015 updated April 2019

Sandwell Allotment Gardeners Association


Sandwell Allotment Gardeners' Association, or SAGA for short, is an independent body working closely with Sandwell MBC on behalf of Allotment Associations in the Borough.

It is a voluntary body originally set up to help and advise the Town and Borough Councils on matters relating to allotments.

Its remit has changed over the years but its main purpose is still to work with any organisation or individual to further the interests of allotment gardening and allotment holders in the Borough of Sandwell.

Particularly, it seeks to promote the formation of self-managing allotment associations and advise and assist in their future growth and wellbeing.

The Association is committed to publicising the recreational activity of allotment gardening.

It actively promotes allotment gardening as an inclusive activity, regardless of the age, sex, race, creed or disability of aspiring gardeners. Furthermore it is actively committed to the provision of appropriate specialised facilities for any such group as need arises.

They are willing to act on behalf of, or intervene on behalf of, any member association in any matter to safeguard the interests of the association and its plot-holders. 


Starting an Allotment

Many people don't know where to start when they are faced with an overgrown allotment. It's a daunting project if you have never grown vegetables or fruit before, or have never watched your parents or grandparents on their vegetable plots. Don’t be intimidated by the old hands who spend most days on their neat and tidy plots. Remember, each journey must start with a single step. . . . .

Many of the old hands would only be too happy to talk to you and give you tips on what to do.  Each will have their own ideas.  I suggest that you try them out.

You will need to know your soil type to get the best out of it - for example, clay is very fertile. It is good at holding water and nutrients but may need hard work to get into workable condition. Sandy soil is easy to work, will be easier to clear of weeds and warms up quickly in spring. However, it will take a while to improve because it has a big appetite for organic matter. It is also a good idea to carry out a simple pH test to see whether your soil is acid or alkaline. 

Buy good quality tools to last a lifetime if you can afford them. If you are on a budget, look for good old tools in second-hand shops or at car boot sales. You will need

Spade    Fork     Hoe     Rake     Hand fork     Hand trowel

If you haven't got a secure shed to keep them in, take them home with you or hide them on the plot under compost or mulch.  

Plan your plot on paper. Take your time to do this. You will need space for compost heaps/bins, manure heaps, storage areas for pots, canes etc. You might want to plant crops like rhubarb, raspberries etc. which need a permanent place as they are perennial. Flowers which attract pest-eating insects are an important part of the garden and can also provide cut flowers for the home. If you want fruit, try small types such as cordons or fans. We do have our own orchard on site, that everyone shares in the produce.

You may want to put up a shed, greenhouse or polytunnel. Don't forget to leave a work (and sitting) space outside your shed and always check the allotment site regulations before doing anything permanent on your plot, such as planting fruit trees, keeping poultry, constructing sheds, greenhouses, polytunnels, ponds etc as there may be restrictions.  


Getting started

Don't panic if you are faced with a completely overgrown allotment. Cover the plot with a weed controlling mulch while you deal with a small area at a time. This will help you feel more in control. Cut the high weed down with a strimmer or shears, then cover the rest with black plastic, or cardboard with grass mowings on it.  

Weigh the mulch down with bricks and stones - the wind can be very strong on an open site.  Do not use old carpet for this, due to big disadvantages.

If you hire a rotovator and break up the topsoil with it, don't forget that you will still have to tackle perennial weeds such as docks and couch grass afterwards you will need to cover the prepared areas with a mulch to prevent the weeds returning while you get ready to plant your own crops.  It would be better to remove the perennial weeds by hand before using a rotovator, as we have mares-tail, couch grass and bindweed on site.  All of which can be spread by rotovation.

Don't dig if the soil is wet - it compacts it and destroys its structure.

Put annual weeds on the compost heap; put the roots and seed heads of perennial weed in black plastic bags (their leaves can be composted). Leave them in the bags for a year then put the bags' contents on the compost heap. There is never any need to remove weeds from the site, everything that grows can be composted.

If you start in spring or early summer, grow potatoes through your mulch. Cut a cross in the plastic/cardboard and plant through the hole.

You can divide your plot as you clear it into beds about 4ft - 4½ft (1 - 1½m) wide with paths 12 - 18ins wide between them. This will help you see progress as you clear, and will also keep your soil from being trodden on and compacted as you can reach from either side of the bed to weed and plant it. Keep the paths hoed.
Beds can also help you to rotate crops. Rotation helps keep up soil fertility and keep disease at bay.

Plan your vegetables to grow what your family and friends like.  Easy crops to start with are potatoes, beetroot, spinach beet (perpetual spinach), leaf lettuce (Salad Bowl), french beans, broad beans, pumpkins and, for winter, leeks and purple sprouting broccoli.

Take things gently and you will find an allotment will give you satisfaction and relaxation as well as exercise. Once you have tasted your first home-grown food, you could be hooked for life!

Some Useful techniques

During dry weather water the bottom of a seed drill before sowing seed. Cover with dry soil.Make sure that you use only a watering can for this, no hosepipes.

Sow and raise plants indoors in cell trays, pots and boxes for a head start. Transplants will be stronger.

Always water seedlings before and after transplanting. Make sure that you use only a watering can for this, no hosepipes.

Try to choose pest and disease resistant varieties e.g. blight resistant potatoes. Don’t use old potatoes from the shops, they will not be blight resistant.

Make a note of what you plant and where you plant it. This makes planning easier the following year.

If you only have limited time to spend on your plot, grow crops that don't need regular attention such as sweet corn, onions, garlic, potatoes and pumpkins.

Keep using the hoe and keep it sharp. Hoeing makes a loose top layer of soil which reduces water loss and prevents weed seed germination. Stones also help to retain water and only very large stones need to be remove from the growing land.

Buy in strawy manure in autumn and winter. Cover it and leave it to rot down for use in spring.

Cover empty beds in the winter with well rotted leaf mould or compost, especially for carrots and parsnips.

For your runner beans, dig a trench in autumn and fill with kitchen and green waste over the winter. This, when covered in soil, will give food and moisture to the beans planted on it.

                               And there you are, finished


*When it comes to weeding your plot, do the job thoroughly and don't cut corners.

*Don't try to clear too large an area in one go.

*It is better to be thorough than quick and you can always cover part of your plot to be cleared at a later stage. 

*Assess your soil before you start to dig to find out which areas need enriching with compost or breaking up by digging. 

*Although time-consuming, manual clearing will always give the best result.

*Establish clear paths or raised beds so that the growing area is not compacted by being walked on.

*Cover prepared areas if they are not to be used straight away.


*Water early morning or late evening, less evaporation.


*Soak a small area, rather than whole plot, water will sink in and roots will not remain on surface.


*Remember to contact the committee if for any reason you are finding it difficult to maintain your plot.


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