Yesterday, the Guardian ran a comment piece discussing the reported fall in popularity of allotments. Although the decrease is small, I know of a fair few who have given up their plots.
The author of the piece, Julian Baggini talks of bad weather, graft, and pests as possible reasons, and I can relate to all those. Time is another big factor, especially for those with families.
If you’re thinking of taking on an allotment, here are 8 things that I reckon are worth pondering.
Decide why you want to run an allotment.
This is possibly the most important thing to think about, as you’ll need this drive. Allotments are wonderful, but they do need to become part of your life rather than something you live around.
Are you taking on your allotment to reduce your food miles or gain more control over what you eat? Are you trying to save money, or is it something to do to relax you?
Allotments are a commitment, and you’ll require a focus when you’re struggling for the motivation to get down there.
Ease yourself in
Take your time and assess what’s in front of you. It is okay to have empty beds! If you’re worried about time and commitment, just grow a few things in your first year and go from there. Be realistic and you won’t find yourself chasing your tail all the time.
Work out how much time you can spare
Are you generally busy Saturday mornings? When can you make the time to get down to your plot?
If you’re short on time, can you work the plot with a friend? When I first took mine on, I had my mum’s help, and a friend of mine works her plot with both her mum and her auntie.
Another friend has a whole plot but has given half over to a work colleague.
Could you grow just as effectively in your garden?
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, could you make use of the space you have there? Is there a corner that you could turn over to a designated veg space?
Growing in your garden means that you have the chance to just pop and do the small jobs as and when you can. Getting up half an hour early is worth the effort as there is no travelling time, and you’d be surprised how much can be crammed into a small space.
Having your veg on the doorstep is worth its weight in gold when trying to maximise time.
What do you want to grow?
Don’t worry about the things you don’t eat many of. There’s no pressure to grow loads of cauliflowers or sprouts just because you suddenly have the space.
Treat yourself to the fruit and veg you really love. A neighbour at my local plots grows only soft fruit in summer, and then put the patch to bed for the winter.
If you’re really excited about the crops you’re growing, you’ll find the time to do the work you need to.
Read blogs and join Twitter
TV programmes are great for fuelling the passion, but they are entertainment. Blogs are realistic and show crops dying, untidy plots, and what happens when you go on holiday.
It’s also worth watching some films on the Horticultural Channel. Again, these show real plotholders, working allotments alongside all the other stuff we have going on in life.
How accessible is your plot?
The key to a well-run allotment is little and often. Can you get there quickly and easily? Falling behind means long days catching up, and this can turn the plot into a chore and get you down.
Don’t take things too seriously, it’s meant to be fun!
If you’re not enjoying yourself, give up and look at growing another way. There is nothing wrong with this!
Growing veg is a truly marvellous hobby, but to get the most from it you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing. A small, manageable and successful patch is much more satisfying than a scruffy allotment plot that you haven’t time to look after.