What can we do to ensure that our allotments are getting the love that they deserve? Locally to me in Hertfordshire, there are some sites which have been threatened with closure, due to planned developments – the people who grow on the sites are understandably battling hard to try to keep their beloved allotments, and it made me think about what it is that we love about our allotments, and why some sites are now struggling to fill plots, or why councils are trying to close them down for development.
I had an allotment a few years ago – I was like many allotmenteers – very excited to have the plot – full of enthusiasm when the days were long and sunny, and when I had time to get out and clear the plot – which was completely overgrown when I got it, and after I had carefully planned what I wanted to grow, and bought myself a brand new allotment diary, I thought that I was all set. The one thing I hadn’t planned for, was the amount of time that I would want to spend at the allotment, and when I would fit that into my already busy life. For many people – they can share their allotment with their spouse or partner, or they can take the kids along to help them out, and make a bit of a day out every weekend – but for me, there were my long suffering parents, who couldn’t bear to see the plot go untended in the weeks when I didn’t get a chance to get down there. Soon the plot had become their job, rather than mine, and without getting time to spend on it myself, I soon lost interest. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have the plot, and it wasn’t that I didn’t absolutely love the gardening – any kind of gardening is pretty close to heaven in my eyes, but I found that I started to get annoyed with myself, because I couldn’t give it the time that it deserved, at least not as well as tending my own garden at home, which was also suffering neglect with me trying to split my free time between the two.
Things have changed now, and I find that I want to spend even more time, rather than less in my garden, and I’m wishing that I still had space to grow my own food. Having spoken to various people locally, I know that there are some sites that are struggling to fill all of the plots that they have – maybe people, like me, have found that they don’t have the time to keep them up, or that after last year’s bad weather, they don’t want to bother with their plot again this year. I was really surprised to hear that there were some places with free spaces though, as I have always thought that there were full waiting lists everywhere. Luckily, my parents have got space in their garden to let me have a little veg patch, so last night I put in my potatoes and onions, and I’m going to grow some cutting flowers – probably sweet peas, which I adore! I wonder what can be done though, to fill up the empty spaces in the council run allotments? I wonder if there is any way that the plots can go onto a centralised website for each council – I know that this is already done in some areas, and it makes it much easier for people to look on a map and see if there are any available plots.
For anyone who has ever grown their own fruit and vegetables, they won’t need telling how great a feeling it is; to eat food that you have grown from seed, is incredibly satisfying – add to that the sense of community that grows between people on allotment sites – all sharing their left over seed, or coming over to lean on an old fork and chat about what they’ve put in, and whether it’s early, or late, and whether there might be a frost. The health benefits are untold – spending time outside, digging, not to mention eating food that you know exactly where it has come from.
If you ask me – it’s a no-brainer – if there are any local allotment sites with plots available – bite their hand off!
You can read more on my blog: theenglishrose.blog.com
I’m a 30 year old, writer, photographer, gardener, and sweetpea obsessive! I did a degree in English Literature at The University of Liverpool, and when I am not writing I’m often found in my garden.
Deborah has also written gardening articles for The Herts Advertiser