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!


  1. I'd vouch for having an allotment any day - it's my daily therapy :D

    I do agree with you though - I keep mine going pretty well on half an hour a day, but I do go every day pretty much without fail (apart from the weekends). You need to put the hours in to make it successful.

    Glad you put in the stuff about alternative ways of getting hold of land - the National Trust are weighing in offering loads of their un-used land for allotments and community gardens, and also if you look at the Totnes transition towns website there's loads of useful stuff there about setting up gardenshare schemes:

    Personally I think these alternative schemes are going to gradually take over from allotments - especially in urban-ish areas...

    Even my relatively rural allotment site has grown a 30-strong waiting list in the 6 years I've been there (I walked onto my allotment when the site was half-empty: I like to say I was into allotmenting before it got fashionable ;D). But these days you have to wait years. If I needed to do that now I'd probably give up.

  2. CG - good points. I believe the NT plots are also advertised via Landshare. Thanks for the extra tranition town link - the one I've given is run by the guy who set up Totnes TT

    I agree with you re these schemes probably taking over from allotments - that's what I was hinting at when I said about thinking flexibly. The need for more land to do everything in this country means the masses of 10 pole plot of old won't be feasible, but I'm sure there'll be pockets of smaller land will be ripe for cultivation (in fact we'll have to if my concerns about how we're going to feed ourselves in the future) and that's where projects like Incredible Edible Todmorden show us the way forward.

    I understand the new government is aiming to enshrine the inclusion of adequate public open space in planning law. I believe they need to do the same with public land for cultivation. After all, the obligations re allotment provision aren't being met at the moment are they?

  3. As you know you are preaching to the converted
    here VP :) Would echo your advice about getting name down asap - new lottie neighbour had her name on list for four years. Five years ago I waited six months - sign of the times.

  4. Anna - interesting. That's about the same time as when Chippenham's waiting list really got going.


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