Fancy Getting an Allotment?
Today sees the start of National Allotments week (9-15 August), an initiative held in the second full week of August each year and jointly promoted by the National Allotment Gardens Trust and the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners. It aims to promote awareness of allotments, both locally and nationally, so there's probably an event near you.
There's also a strong likelihood there'll be TV and other media coverage this week to tempt you into thinking about becoming an allotmenteer yourself. After all gardening programmes make it look so easy don't they? It is very easy to start growing your own and I'll be the first to encourage you to do so but I'd also like to urge caution. Allotments can be very hard work, especially if the one you're assigned has been overgrown for a while. If you're already growing some of your own at home and would like to do much more, or are the kind of person who having decided on doing something you'll see it through, then having an allotment is a fantastic idea!
You'll need to contact your local allotment society (you can find out who and where they are via your town hall or parish council) to find out what's available in your area. At this point you're highly likely to meet the first test of your resolve as most allotment societies have a long waiting list. Chippenham's is currently over 130 people and stretches back to 2007. This means that only people who signed up 3 years ago, plus some of 2008's batch of wannabes are likely to be offered an allotment here in Chippenham later this month. You may be lucky in your area and get one straight away, but if not and you're not put off by the length of the list, do please get your name down straight away. Not only does that mean you'll get your allotment sooner, it also means your local allotment society gets the best possible idea of demand and can mount an effective campaign for increased allotment provision in your area.
In the meantime, do be flexible in your approach to growing your own. All kinds of herbs and vegetables can be incorporated into your borders, or maybe part of your garden could be converted into a mini veg patch. For the former, thyme, strawberries or lettuces can be used as edging plants and beans or peas grown up wigwams instead of sweet peas or clematis. This approach particularly works well in cottage style gardens. Then there's good old pot gardening: for instance I grow winter salads in pots in my cold frame as they're well protected there and it's not too far to go and pick some fresh salad for tea when the weather's cold. Herbs grown on windowsills can also work well, as can tomatoes: we grew them in the office when I worked in Oxford :)
It's also worth exploring other potential sources of land as well as via your local allotment society. Sign up with Landshare (who've already been a source of a small number of new allotments here in Chippenham): for example someone locally offered their back garden recently for fruit and vegetable growing. Keep your eyes peeled too for community garden schemes with a vegetable growing bias or for a potential site where such a project could be kicked off. If you live in a town or village which is interested in achieving Transition Town status or has a similar strong community initiative in place, then it's likely this kind of project has already started or is in the pipeline. Have a look at the Incredible Edible Todmorden website for further inspiration and ideas.
In the meantime, good luck and let me know how you get on!