Allotments – By Andy Hamilton

Andy Hamilton
Andy Hamilton

Choosing a perfect site|Alternatives to allotments | top 10 tips|other allotment related websites|

If like me you live in a flat and have no garden then an allotment is an ideal way to have your own piece of land to grow vegetables, herbs or even fruit on. Evidence suggests that they were first introduced in England in 1831 after mounting public pressure. The growth of allotments happened throughout the world wars during the dig for victory campaigns. In this time much of the available land in the British Isles was turned over for growing crops. Amazingly so 1 500 000 allotments appeared.

During the 1980’s and early 1990’s many allotments fell into decline and owning one was thought to be only the pass time for old cloth capped men. This has changed in recent years, I personally think this is aided by the growth of the organic food market. On my allotment, in Bath UK, there is the fair share of old men getting away from their wives for the afternoon. (and women getting away from their husbands) However, there is also a new breed of allotment plot holder, similar to myself of young couples. As one of our selfsufficientish visitors, Jackie (who owns two allotments) has rightly said, “they are very trendy at the moment.” With the news full of food scares and obesity stories it is not surprising that this wonderful pass time is starting to have a long awaited revival. Allotments also offer an ideal opportunity for people who want to eat organic and not pay organic prices. For example, I planted some organic

Andys Allotment
Andy’s Allotment

courgette seeds at the start of spring (costing �2) and enjoyed organic courgette almost every day for 4 months.

If you are looking for a plot then please look at our two UK council lists – AJ and KY. Both pages offer links to the UK council web pages. You might also want to have a look on our map page to see if someone has listed an allotment near you. If we helped you find your allotment then please come back to our map and put in your new allotment pin.

You may have seen us on BBC Breakfast News talking about allotments? Or you may have heard us on Radio 4 talking to John Humphries. Both very nerve wracking, but our first National TV and Radio appearances – which is why I mention it here, just to show off a little.

Choosing your perfect site.

Unfortunately this is near impossible for many Londoners as in some parishes there is a 6 year waiting list. In many smaller towns and cities you might find yourself spoilt for choice. When I looked for my allotment there were many to choose from. Living in the beautiful Georgian city of Bath I plumped for the one with the best view. In hindsight I should have chosen one a bit closer to home as mine is a good half an hour walk away up hill. On days that the weather is not being too kind, a cup of tea and the television seem a much better option.

My allotment is also in the middle of a housing estate and so we suffer from one of the hardest pests to deal with, teenagers. There are signs of arson and we have had our pumpkins used as footballs. Someone, a few years ago, also had their whole shed and contents stolen. Don’t let this put you off though, I have never had anything stolen and it was only my pumpkins that were damaged. I suggest that, when choosing your plot, you ask some of the people already there about their experiences.

Caroline Foley (The allotment Handbook) talks of allotments I can only dream of, where cheap tools and seeds are sold, there compost toilet is on site and sheds are provided. We just got a standpipe. This is something to look out for as not all allotments offer running water. If there is no running water this can be catered for by collecting rain water; exactly what a group of people in Bristol did and they have never run out.

Top 10 tips for allotments (sent to us by Jackie)

1.Contact your local council to get a plot during the winter, this is the right time of the year as people are renewing subscriptions. (or not)

2.Don’t be disheartened if the plot you take looks a bit over run ..Have vision.

3.Don’t expect to do it all at once .

4.Dig or clear a small bit at a time.

5.Try and get something planted even if it’s inspires .

6.Use as much recyled bits to make compost bins and boxes etc, it keeps costs down.

7. Keep a chair up there. It’s not all digging and weeding. Sit and read a good book, you might also want to bring a little gas stove as there is nothing like cooking vegetables straight from the ground. (more nutritious too)

8.During the winter months dig and then cover with carpet or black plastic to keep the weeds down .

9.Only grow what you enjoy eating (not like me about 5 rows of chard which we all dislike.)

10. Most important…It is not a slog unless you want it to be…relax, have fun and enjoy.

Alternatives to Allotments

As far as I have been able to work out Allotments are very much a British thing. However, I have heard of people asking their friends, family and neighbours if they could use parts of their gardens. You may consider doing this. I am sure that there are many people out there with spare land who would not mind having someone use it in return for organic vegetables. You never know until you ask.

What you have sent –

While I agree with you that “Allotments are very much a British thing”, they
are very popular here in British Columbia, Canada where we have a long
growing season. The one I have had since last May; I only had to wait three
months for one to be vacated, is a half plot 20’X26′. I turned down the
other half because I have limited time. Whole plots usually measure 50’X20′
and some people manage two, such as early retirees. There are 130 plots
altogether in this private one that I was lucky enough to hear about.
Gardening is huge in Canada especially in BC where the climate is similar to
the North of France. I came across your site while trying to find plans for
a gardening box. I’m still looking. Allotments are very popular in Germany,
so I’m told, where gardens attached to houses are limited in size or not at

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1 Comment on Allotments – By Andy Hamilton

  1. Channel 4 and High Fernley-Whittingstall (love him or hate him….personally I love him) have set up Landshare. This is a forum by which people who want to grow and people who have land but don’t use it can contact each other and getting gardenning. I have recently found a plot of land in London very near my home that I and a friend are going to manage. If it hadn’t been for this, I would probably be waiting for 20 years for an allotment to come free!

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