Over the fence: al­lot­ment rules

Are rules rel­e­vant to the al­lot­ments of to­day? Does it mat­ter what al­lot­ments are used for as long as they’re well cared for and tidy?

Gardeners' World - - Contents -

IRules are there

for a rea­son and it

makes life eas­ier if we stick to them

t’s widely ac­cepted that al­lot­ments are pri­mar­ily for grow­ing fruit and veg for per­sonal con­sump­tion, and should be non-profit. Hav­ing rules on al­lot­ments is a re­sult of prob­lems ex­pe­ri­enced by pre­vi­ous ten­ants and they’re made to make our lives eas­ier by pre­vent­ing prob­lems be­fore they arise. Rules are nor­mally set by the land­lord, who could be a pri­vate land­lord like a farmer, the lo­cal par­ish coun­cil or a com­mit­tee − and the rules for each site will dif­fer. Some plots have a small seat­ing area to re­lax in, which is fine, but turf­ing the whole plot, ad­ding swings, a tram­po­line and a BBQ, then us­ing it as a play area and gar­den

just isn’t in the spirit of

what an al­lot­ment is for! Another con­tentious

is­sue is an­i­mals on al­lot­ments: hav­ing a

cou­ple of chick­ens that are clean and well looked after can help keep prob­lem pests at bay and be a great source of eggs, but roam­ing, filthy foul can dev­as­tate crops and at­tract prob­lem ver­min. Other rules are more of a com­mon cour­tesy to your fel­low ten­ants or nearby neigh­bours, such as keep­ing your plot well tended. There is noth­ing worse than hav­ing a neigh­bour who only tends their plot twice a year, then it turns into a weed pit, spread­ing seed over ad­ja­cent plots and mak­ing more work for any­one nearby. Bon­fires after 7pm is a rule I try to stick to. Yes, we need to get rid of our trim­mings and dead plants, but there may be nearby neigh­bours who have their wash­ing dry­ing and the last thing they want is for you to throw a heap of green waste on the fire that will pro­duce tonnes of ex­ces­sive and smelly smoke. Al­lot­ment rules are there for a rea­son, and it makes ev­ery­one’s life so much eas­ier if we stick to them and have con­sid­er­a­tion for those we share our grow­ing space with.

AYoung fam­i­lies are the new blood

that is keep­ing

al­lot­ments go­ing

llot­ments – won­der­ful as they are and as much as I love them – were his­tor­i­cally an in­stru­ment of con­trol of the work­ing man, and many of their rules arise from this. But to­day’s plots are just as likely to be worked on by young fam­i­lies, and rules need to re­flect this change in use. The old­est al­lot­ments were cre­ated just after the En­clo­sures dur­ing the 17th cen­tury, when the prac­tice de­vel­oped of ob­tain­ing pri­vate plots of land via par­lia­men­tary Act and the ru­ral poor lost ac­cess to the com­mon land upon which they de­pended. The next swathe arose in the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion, when cities were crammed with peo­ple liv­ing in poor con­di­tions. In both cases, work­ing men’s health was suf­fer­ing, and al­lot­ments sup­ple­mented their di­ets and got them out of pubs and into fresh air. The rule that peo­ple shouldn’t earn money from their plots comes from this: work­ers should be sober and con­tent, but also avail­able to work. If those men mon­e­tised their plots, they might have re­moved them­selves from the labour pool. As this is no longer an is­sue, this his­toric rule is one that I would do away with in an in­stant − and there is room for lee­way with the rest, too. The days when tend­ing an al­lot­ment was solely a work­ing man’s game have long gone – to­day it’s for women and

chil­dren, as well as old boys. Young fam­i­lies are the new

blood that is keep­ing al­lot­ments

go­ing, and so some pro­vi­sion has

to be made. Why not a swing if it keeps the kids out of mis­chief? Why not flow­ers to pick and a lit­tle lawn to play on? Above all, al­lot­ments need to be used, and to be seen to be used – un­worked plots and ne­glect al­low coun­cils to open the way for de­vel­op­ment. So al­lot­ment so­ci­eties should recog­nise the needs of those ac­tu­ally dig­ging them to­day over the needs of some 18th-cen­tury in­dus­tri­al­ist.

Lia Leen­dertz is a gar­den and food writer, whose lat­est book is The Almanac: A Sea­sonal Guide to 2019 ( Mitchell Bea­z­ley, £10)@ lialeen­dertz

Rob Smith is the win­ner of the BBC Big Al­lot­ment Chal­lenge in 2015. He’s also an Am­bas­sador and Seed Guardian for Gar­den Or­gan­ics’ Her­itage Seed Li­brary @Rob­sAl­lot­ment

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