How to get an allotment and not lose the plot
As National Allotments Week approaches, the National Allotment Society offers advice on how to get a plot and what you need to think about
Allotments have long been the must-haves of the eco-conscious, health-aware generation keen to get back to nature and grow their own food. To mark upcoming National Allotments Week, allotment groups across the UK will be opening their gates and holding barbecues, plant and produce sales, allotment tours, competitions and exhibitions, coffee mornings and afternoon teas - many of them raising funds to support local charities.
Why are allotments so popular?
“There’s a lot of interest in food, and a growing awareness of children not knowing where their food comes from other than the supermarket, so I think families see getting an allotment as a way of remedying that. It’s also a fantastic way of getting outside and doing something together,” explains Di Appleyard of the National Allotment Society. Councils are still increasing their allotment provision - but how easy is it to secure a plot?
Where you live matters
“Waiting lists vary a great deal across the UK or even across a city, and whether you are prepared to travel or clear an overgrown plot,” Di says. “Put your name on the waiting list at your local council. There are massive waiting lists in some areas, but in others you only wait a few months. The site I’m on in is very popular and has a four-year waiting list, but if you are prepared to travel a mile down the road, you could get there tomorrow.” Alternatively, people can look for a private site on the internet – but they are harder to find. If a site you are aware of is not on the council list, go to the site itself and speak to the people there, who are often there at weekends. Find out owner and website details.
Think about what you’re taking on
“It’s rare that you’ll get a choice of plots as you will be offered the next plot that comes free, but it’s important to think about how much spare time you have and your level of skill. For example, a novice gardener working full time may well struggle with a full-size plot (250 square metres),” she says. “That’s a lot of space for somebody working full time.” Sometimes you may have a choice, especially if a plotholder has been asked to leave. But this will mean you’re stuck with an allotment which will need a lot of TLC. Most councils offer half plots.
The only obligation the council has is to supply a piece of land. However, most provide water from a dipping trough rather than a standpipe. Sheds are mainly down to the individual and some sites don’t allow sheds. Many plot-holders use half-size plastic sheds to house their tools. More sites, particularly those managed by an association which can fundraise, are getting toilets.
Having an allotment is something the whole family can enjoy