Allotment gardening – National Allotment WeekPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips
The fun of having an allotment
I’ve had an allotment for 15 years and what great pleasure it has brought me. My first plot was classed as medium in size and served me well for a few years but I soon yearned for more space to try new things, including planting an asparagus bed and a building a proper fruit cage, so when a full size plot became available, I was lucky enough to get the tenancy. I love the space, freedom and peace that having an allotment brings – not to mention the wonderful fresh produce! I’m also fortunate in that my allotment is a short walk from where I live, meaning that I can pop down most days without having to plan a journey which might involve a car.
Having an allotment encourages creativity. Allotmenteers are hoarders, seeking out discarded items which can be put to good use – timber pallets turned into compost bins; empty plastic bottles used as cloches and for keeping pests at bay. And then there’s The Shed, a place to find solitude (and shelter from the rain…) amid the joyous clutter of tools and twine, netting and canes.
There’s a social side to allotmenting too. Allotments are great places to meet people and make friends who have a common interest – the very people who will understand your despair when you find that slugs have devoured your entire crop of young lettuces! When you need advice, there’s usually someone on hand to offer it and most people love being asked.
Running an allotment – what it really involves
The truth is, allotment gardening involves a degree of hard work and a surprising number of people take on a plot without considering what is really required in terms of time and energy. Many tasks are repetitive and there are few short cuts. The best advice I was given when I first started came from a wise old gardener who strolled over one day and stood watching while I worked up a sweat, digging up a mass of couch grass and bindweed roots in an attempt to clear a bed. After a few minutes, he nodded and said quietly: ‘Little by little and you’ll soon have it done.’
Guidance suggests you need to spend a minimum of ten hours a week on your plot during the growing season and it’s best to do a little and often, rather than let things go for a few weeks and then turn up with the intention of having a blitz, only to find that weeds have smothered your precious seedlings and the grass paths are knee-high.
Getting an allotment of your own
If the waiting lists for allotment sites across Bristol are anything to go by, the interest in allotment gardening in this part of the country is at an all-time high. The allotment association which manages the site on which I have my plot has recently suspended its waiting list as demand has risen steadily at the very time as fewer plots have become available. There are even rumours of a seven year waiting for some of Bristol City Council’s more popular sites! That aside, if you have ever given serious thought to managing an allotment, get your name onto a list; you can always turn a plot down if your circumstances have changed when your name finally reaches the top of the list. Frustrating though it may be to have to wait for a plot, waiting lists serve a useful purpose in that they enable councils to assess demand and make more land available where possible.
National Allotments Week
Monday 14 August is the start of National Allotments Week, an initiative organised by the National Allotment Society. This year’s theme is ‘Growing the Movement’ with a focus on the work of independent allotment associations, plot-holder volunteers and councils in managing, creating, developing and safeguarding allotment sites. Stories about allotments under threat from development are not uncommon and a row of much-neglected plots are likely to attract attention. You can find out more by visiting the NAS website, but the underlying message is – if you are lucky enough to have an allotment, make good use of it and give whatever support you can to the organisation which manages the site. Above all, enjoy your plot!