Is an allotment for you? Whether it's the government's urgings for us to all eat more fresh fruit and veg and get more exercise, a growing awareness that the taste of supermarket-bought products cannot compare with that of just-picked, home-grown produce, or there's something in the soil, more and more of us want to join the grow-your-own club. But if you don't have a garden, where do you grow? There hasn't been such a demand for allotments since the days of Victory Gardens in and just after WWII. So how do you go about getting one?
The first step is to contact your local council. The majority of allotments are run by the local authority, which allocates plots and manages the waiting list. They should provide a list of sites and an idea of how long the waiting list is - for believe me, you will almost certainly have to wait. Some urban sites have so many people wanting for a plot that by the time you are offered a few poles (a standard, full allotment being 10 poles, or around 6 x 60 metres), you'll be tottering around with a Zimmer frame as you water the tomatoes.
A standard, full allotment = 10 poles, or around 6 x 60 metres
Some councils will refer you to a neighbouring local authority which has more sites. Others will provide contact details of chairmen or secretaries of allotment associations (for nearly all allotments are an association or a society) which allocate plots themselves.
Ways around it
But if the waiting list is too long and you want to get digging,.. There are a few other things you can do. Contact some secretaries of nearby allotment sites and ask if they knew of any plot-holder who is finding it difficult to keep up. it often happens due to age or infirmity. Offer to help in return for a share of the crop. The person you help will be eternally grateful, because anyone who does not keep their plot up to scratch will almost certainly be asked to leave. Age Concern has initiated a similar scheme matching would-be grow-your-owners with elderly people who can't manage their gardens, which could be the next best thing to an allotment.
Age Concern has initiated a scheme matching would-be grow-your-owners with elderly people who can't manage their gardens
An awful lot of community growing initiatives are springing up around the country, too. The council should know of any in your area. These usually involve shared growing spaces on derelict or otherwise unused land; everyone working the 'plot' shares the results. It's not the same as an allotment. But it will give you a chance to learn a little about growing your own. It will also let you find out if you actually like it.
And the time waiting for your own plot can be well-spent learning as much as you can about successful home growing. From books, television shows, Gardener's Question Time and magazines, not least Your Allotment!
Marcia MacLeod is the, Editor for 'Your Allotment' Magazine. Your Allotment covers allotments in north London, but offers practical advice and information for allotmenteers everywhere. Check out www.yourallotmentmagazine.com for more details.