Real Men Sow

How to Get an Allotment


If you’re considering applying for an allotment plot, now’s a good time to get your name down.

As allotment holders begin the annual ritual of putting the plot to bed in time for winter, many allotment committees choose Autumn to start renewing tenant leases and requesting rent for the forthcoming year.

Unfortunately, previous research has suggested that over 100,000 wannabe plotholders are currently on waiting lists, but this number is thought to be reducing as committees put more effort into passing on abandoned allotments and offering more half size plots.

Waiting lists in towns and cities are generally higher, but if you’re keen to get started it is always worthwhile to get your name down as soon as possible.

Identifying Your Local Plots
The first step is finding your nearest allotments. This will normally be run by the local council (city, borough, town, district or parish) and although you are likely to know your closest option, there may be other alternatives if you live in a town or city. Privately run allotments are also popping up in a few places, but these tend to be more expensive.

If you live in England or Wales, the government allotment website is a good place to find out who runs your local allotment.

Asking the Right Questions
When you make the call to the committee or pop by to register your interest, remember to ask important questions like how much your rent will be per annum, whether you are permitted to plant trees and erect sheds, if water is included and is equipment such as lawnmowers available to rent on site.

Getting Up the List Quicker
Have a think about the size of the plot you want too, as this may get you up the list quicker. Like most people, I automatically decided to take on a full size allotment first time around, but found with my second allotment that half is plenty big enough (especially if you’re a beginner). You might be in the minority wanting a smaller plot, and you can always take another one later on.

Let the committee know if you’re happy to take on a neglected plot, as this too could find you a plot faster. Not everyone wants to spend the first summer fighting with brambles and weeds, but there are ways and means of growing veg around your clearance tasks.

You might also find that the Council or committee rotovate unkempt plots before handover too. It doesn’t banish the weeds long term, but it is a quick and dirty way of returning an allotment to a state where seeds can be sown.

Getting to Know the Plotholders
Another useful (and very pleasant) thing to do is take a stroll around the allotments at the weekend. There’s a lot to see of course, but from my experience people are happy to chat too. Be polite and friendly and word can often get around that someone is looking for a plot. This happened to me with my first allotment – an existing plotholder had two allotments, and had been thinking of winding down and giving one up. When they found out I was looking to rent a plot, this made their mind up and I didn’t have to go on the waiting list.

Asking the Council to Provide Allotments
And if there are no allotments in your area, you can always ask the Council to provide some. Section 23 of the 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act state that local authorities are legally obliged to provide allotments where none exist. Smashing eh?

Well, not quite. You need to submit six formal letters from registered local council tax payers, and then wait. There is no timescale associated with this process either, so unfortunately you might need to be prepared to wait some more.

And then some more. :)

If you’re about to put your name down for a plot, good luck! In the meantime, here are 8 things to ponder before taking on an allotment.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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