Benefits of an allotment

Everyone knows the value of fresh vegetables and many think that nothing compares to fresh home grown produce.   Working an allotment and growing your own vegetables can also provide you with plenty of healthy exercise which can be important for improving both physical and mental well-being.   Many new allotment holders find that they quickly develop new skills and knowledge and see the development of their allotment as part of a positive lifestyle choice.   Young children are also very enthusiastic about growing things and allotments can be a great place for children to learn.

As food is not farmed on a large scale or transported over a distance, there is also evidence to suggest that it’s also better for the environment too!

However, taking on an allotment is a considerable commitment both in time and effort which is also challenging and rewarding.

Taking up a tenancy on an allotment

When new tenants take on a plot it may be following a lengthy process of removing the previous tenant before the plot is offered out to someone on the waiting list.  This can mean that the plot has been left un-worked over several months – and particularly in the summer months this can mean that the site seems overgrown!

You should therefore be prepared for lots of hard work clearing the plot before you even consider planting anything.  With an overgrown plot, you might expect it to take around a year to get 75% of the plot cultivated or prepared for cultivation!

Having an allotment therefore is definitely an activity for the patient, however, maintaining motivation and commitment, especially during the first year, will definitely pay off.   Therefore, before you rush into cultivating your first plot there are some things which you need to think about.

Preparing the plot – and yourself!

Whilst you are on the waiting list, think about what you plan to do once you have been offered and have taken up the tenancy on an allotment as the preparation required to get started on an allotment can sometimes appear to be overwhelming and is often underestimated.  The key is organisation and planning, so think about how you are going to tackle the work required and what it is you are planning to grow.

(a) Preparing yourself

You need to think about when and how much time you can commit each week to your plot.  If you work full time or have other commitments, be realistic about the amount of time you have available and the distance you need to travel to your allotment site.

It is recommended that allotment plots are visited at least twice a week to stay on top of weeding and other jobs, however, the number of visits you make during the growing season, for example to water and harvest crops, may be considerably more!

(b) Preparing the plot

Plots may have been left un-worked for a while before being re-let and it may be that the plot will need considerable preparation before you can even start to plant.

It is important to clear all unwanted weeds and debris from the plot.   All plants, given the right conditions, will want to grow and weeds are no exception!  There are ways of making clearing a plot easier, for example using weed matting to cover areas which are not being worked on.

It takes time to prepare the ground and it is unrealistic to expect to get a whole season’s worth of perfect vegetables during the first year on your plot.   As time goes on, you will learn more about what grows where and when and in what conditions and the ground will be improved, all of which will increase your chances of success.

If you have not grown vegetables before, then you will probably need to learn as you go along.  There is a lot of advice available from books and the website and also from other tenants, who are often very willing to give their advice.

In order to maintain your enthusiasm, it is recommended that you prepare a small area and plant some crops as soon as you can after taking on the allotment – after all, there’s nothing like seeing the results of all your hard work and being able to brag about your achievement!

A guide for allotment tenants