Think you'd like an allotment?

Before you decide - read this...

Jack Latimer

Working an allotment can be an incredibly rewarding hobby, but it can also be hard work.  If you are wondering whether an allotment is right for you, read on...

Why you SHOULD get an allotment

  • You know where your food has come from and what went into it - and it tastes better when you grow it yourself
  • You can grow odd varieties you can't easily get in the shops
  • Worried about your food miles?  On a summer's evening your dinner can travel a matter of yards from ground to tap to barbecue to stomach!  Even when it goes the long way round via your fridge you will know that's as short as it can get. 
  • Its great exercise - the ultimate green gym
  • Its great for your mental health - an hour of digging and contemplating can make the world seem a better place
  • Its very rewarding and quite magical (whether you are 9 or 90!) nurturing a tiny seed to something as huge as a pumpkin or sweetcorn plant.
  • Gardeners are friendly people and will be happy to give advice, support and share their produce, recipes and stories of success and failure. 
  • Allotments are great places for kids to learn about nature and wildlife.  And its great for us grown ups too.  Have a chat to a friendly robin, waiting for you to turn him up a worm.  Go eye to eye with a fox.  Marvel at a slow worm.  Show your kids how frogspawn changes into tadpoles and frogs. Get a ladybird house and watch them gobble up your aphids.  Encourage birds with nesting boxes.
  • You don't have to be rich, you don't have to be young, you don't have to study for years to do it.  All you need is a willingness to put the effort in and a lot of patience.
  • Brighton and Hove has some limited moblity plots and is planning more, so if you have always thought you couldn't manage an allotment due to a disability - why not check them out. 

Why you should THINK CAREFULLY before applying for an allotment

  • Its time consuming.  If you can't manage 4-5 hours work a week minimum (and for work take the amount of time you plan to BE at your plot and divide by two to take into account resting, chatting, barbecuing, nosing at other plots, having a cuppa....), then you should consider either taking on a co-worker (who is willing to work too - not just pop up randomly when the weather is nice!), or joining a community plot
  • You need to make it a regular event.  Not just when the weather is nice, or when you feel like some fresh air, but every single week.  Make it a part of your routine, or it will become a chore. 
  • Going away for the weekend?  then you'll need to pop up a couple of evenings in the week.  Going away for a fortnight (DON'T between April and September!) - if you must, then arrange for someone to water (or else you could come back to a frazzled desert) and harvest for you (some plants will stop producing if you stop picking)
  • You will very likely not inherit a perfect plot, but a weed infested jungle.  The first year will be really hard work!
  • Talking of hard work, be prepared for regular, HARD work.  Not just in the first year but every year.  If you have a bad back then find a co-worker who is prepared to do the digging for you, or join a community plot.  If someone has told you about this fantastic new method of gardening called "no dig", then don't think it means "no work"!  To get your plot to a good state for real no dig gardening can take years and lots of backbreaking work!
  • Allotments are full of wildlife.  Not all of it is lovely.  If you are seriously scared of spiders and rats you won't like being on an allotment.
  • Weeds are relentless.  Some people are suprised to find that spending a whole weekend weeding your plot doesnt mean its clear of weeds next time they come up!  If you don't like weeding, you won't like gardening!
  • It can be frustrating.  Even the most experienced gardeners have failures.  You need to be able to pick yourself up and start again (and again!)
  • You can't control the weather.  If you don't like being outside unless the weather is perfect you probably won't go to your plot enough.  Weeds won't wait!
  • Allotments aren't playgrounds.  They have lots of dangerous items and situations. If your kids are respectful of other tenants, independent and safety conscious enough they will enjoy the freedom of being there.  If you can get them tending their own little patch they may be the next Alan Titchmarsh. But not all kids are keen gardeners.  If you have a young family you may find you spend more time rescuing them from doing themselves (or others) an injury or dealing with "I'm bored" than gardening.
  • Dogs don't all like being tied up.  If you have a dog and think that an allotment is an ideal way to give them exercise without having to take them for a walk - it isn't.  Dogs are not allowed to roam on allotments sites - they must be tethered or on a lead at all times. 

Still keen?  What to do next....

Then...be patient!

Waiting lists can be long so in the meantime why not help a friend with their garden, join a community plot or do a horticultural course just to build up your experience and give you a head start when you get your plot.

This page was added by Jack Latimer on 30/08/2006.