Over the years, allotments have become hugely popular; with housing plots getting smaller, agricultural land being snapped up by developers and with the ever increasing gardening programs making it look so easy and fun, more and more people are looking at allotments as a way to grow their own food and benefit from not only being self-sufficient but also the social, health and well-being benefits of allotment gardening.
Although the main purpose of an allotment is to grow food, they also help the environment in a number of ways. When you grow your own food, you reduce your carbon footprint as locally grown food does not have to be transported long distances. This all helps reduce pollution and road congestion. Also, you are buying less packaged food so will have less household waste.
And let’s not forget our beautiful wildlife that we need to protect. Allotments can create essential habitats for bees and other wildlife. Who would have thought that our ‘garden enemy’, the stinging nettle, would be one of the most important plants for wildlife! It actually supports over 40 species of insects and provides both plant food and breeding areas for butterflies. It really is worth encouraging wildlife to your allotment and helping protect nature.
Still remembering the Magic!
I can still remember in my ‘not so distance younger days’ (clearing my throat!) my friends dad had an allotment where he grew vegetables, rhubarb and kept chickens. We spent many a day over the school holidays at the allotment. We would put on our old clothes, pack some paste sandwiches in our rucksacks and head off for the day, feeling like we were going on an adventure. It was a place that we felt we could escape to and I still remember feeling the excitement of being there. Not that we did any gardening, apart from picking the rhubarb! Taking it home, we would wash it and dip it in sugar eating it raw. Feeding the chickens was our main job! It was fun to run around making the chickens chase us as we threw their food; mind you we did get into trouble one day as we used all the chicken food up in one go!
Remembering the alluring magic of an allotment as a child, it was a carefree place to be. Children love to be outdoors with nature and what better way to teach them about plants, vegetables and wildlife than having a ‘day out’ on the allotment. An allotment gives you the opportunity to do this if you don’t have a garden at home.
A rewarding Hobby!
Horticulture has long been used as a therapy in both physical and mental illness and in rehabilitation. Experts suggest that gardening could play a crucial part in living a long and healthy life and help prevent and improve diseases including heart disease, arthritis and obesity. It only takes 30 minutes of gardening to burn off 150 calories. Working an allotment helps you enjoy the satisfying challenge of working in the fresh air growing the kinds of fresh, healthy food you love to eat.
So how can I get an allotment?
First of all, the land is generally owned by your local council, so contact them to find out where the nearest allotment sites are in your area. Chances are you will put on a waiting list if there is no availability. Don’t give up though as you could also try the following options;
*Check out your local garden centres; many garden centres have joined the trend and are offering allotment plots to rent.
*Visit the National Allotment Society to see if there are sites vacant in your area
*Check out your local Parish council; some parishes are giving over parts of their churchyards or neglected land around their buildings
*Have a word with your friendly farmer who may allocate you some land
*Have a look around and see if there is any vacant land suitable for an allotment. Find out who owns the land and simply ask. You just never know!
*See if there is a community allotment project in your area where like-minded people work together. Your local council may help.
The cost of renting an allotment depends on the size of plot and area. It can be as little as £30 per year. If you have access to water, there would be a water charge too. There are rules and regulations with renting allotments so you would need to check with your local council what these are.
It’s safe to say that allotments are magical places to be…whatever age you are and now as an adult, I can fully appreciate that among many other reasons, allotments are important recreational assets for people without gardens.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says - “Life begins the day you start a garden” … So what are you waiting for!