If allotments were part of the fashion world, they would be akin to skinny jeans. Popular in the 50s, again in early 80s, made a huge comeback circa 2008 and now look set to remain permanently in the upper echelons of UK style. Column inches devoted to urban allotment gardening increase week on week. Even the Daily Mail has its own allotment blog, which it launched back in February. But is this resurgence in popularity simply a media fashion craze or are there really more young urbanites hankering after a chance to cultivate?
It would appear to be the latter. Despite the thousands of allotment sites on London – Sutton borough alone has more than 2,300 plots – there’s an average waiting time of around three years (some would argue 40 if you live in Camden) to get your hands on one. This means that anyone considering an allotment should think about the pros and cons before shelling out for supplies.
To help, ask yourself the following:
Do you have…
You don’t have to be a master gardener or gourmet cook to want to grow your own produce, but you should at least be interested in food and where it comes from. Do you like seeing seasonal vegetables on a pub menu or frequent a local food market, for example? If the answer is yes, you’re off to a good start.
Once you’re on a waiting list, there is nothing to stop you dropping by your local allotments and chatting to the gardeners. You may find that someone is struggling to maintain a whole plot and would be happy to share it. If a full size plot seems too intimidating, ask whether your council could lease mini plots as a way of encouraging beginners to the land.
After waiting several years for a vacant plot, it may be another year before your allotment reaches its full potential, especially if you’re new to growing. Preparing your plot may involve pulling up lots of weeds, and the success of your crops are can depend on all kinds of variables, including soil type, climate, and the types of seeds you use.
Being part of an allotment community is a lot of fun. Gardeners often swap advice, seeds, produce and tools with one another, which makes for a social and supportive environment. If you think solitary gardening is more your style, then an allotment might not be for you.
An allotment isn’t just about buying stylish wellies – not that there’s anything wrong with that – it really is a commitment. Considering the demand/supply ratio for vacant plots, to leave yours unused and neglected won’t go down well with your allotment community.
Find allotments in your local borough at www.london.gov.uk/allotments
To chat with likeminded allotmenteers go to www.vegetable-gardens.co.uk/forum
For more general info visit www.allotment.org.uk
Coming soon: our How To on allotment etiquette – the hitherto secret dos and don’ts of allotmenteering.