Join the local “growing” community and become an allotmenteer!
Renewed interest in allotments has really been on the rise in the last 10 years. But they are not a new phenomenon, evidence of these minute ‘smallholdings’ can be traced back almost 1000 years. It was probably in the last century that they really became established and governing bodies were put in place. The National Allotment Society (NAS) was one such establishment which has promoted, protected and preserved allotments for the last 100 years. Of course there are rules and regulations, red tape and paperwork but at the end of the day having your own bit of land to tend at will will make those hurdles worth it.
The land is rented from private landlords and therefore a rent is payable. These can be anything from pence to £100, but on average you are looking at around £75 a year. This money covers utilities and maintenance and probably managed by a committee.
Forget pricey gym membership
The benefits of owning an allotment are numerous and obvious. Both physical and mental health benefits are often at the top of the list. Being in the fresh air throughout the year is one of the best free medicines there is. Just 30 minutes of gardening can burn at least 150 calories and comes at a much lower cost than a fancy gym membership. Not to mention the lack of fellow sweaty gym buddies. Allotment buddies are more likely to offer you a brew and a digestive rather than a chai seed smoothie. Now that’s my kind of post workout snack!
And this just demonstrates the community spirit that can be found on a local allotment. They may all come from diverse backgrounds and in all ages and shapes and sizes. But you all have a common interest in trying to grow fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables.
No plastic waste
How rewarding must it be to grow your own vegetables and fruit to take home for the family and friends. No plastic wrapping, low food miles, and knowing exactly how and when it was grown. That’s priceless!
It’s not just fruit and vegetables you can grow on your allotment. Sow some easy to grow flowering annuals and you can have cut flowers for your home all year round. Or the perfect gift for friends and families.
Chickens are also allowed on allotments. Of course you need adequate fox prevention measures, but imagine fresh eggs for breakfast alongside your own grown tomatoes. Some allotments will also allow bee hives – but check with your allotment committee first – so add homemade honey to the list of produce.
Friends for life
Allotments are now vibrant communities that welcome a wide cross section of people who benefit from the healthy exercise, contact with nature and homegrown food that allotments provide. Swap notes on what’s best to grow with the old schoolers, add your own flair and vibrancy with new varieties, barter gluts of your own crops for those you have not grown. Don’t forget all those recipe ideas that must be floating around. Your new found friends will have countless years of tips, ideas and experience all willing to be shared on the plot.
Don’t just take my word for the benefits of allotments. Launchpad – Reading’s leading charity for the homeless and vulnerable people believe the magic of the outdoors has many beneficial qualities. Their allotment is a crucial place where people can meet, mix and get to know each other informally, building crucial social skills and confidence in a supportive environment.
Running an allotment is healthy for their clients too. They feel the satisfaction of growing and eating their own food, and they benefit from regular outdoor exercise and activity.
Using food grown on the allotment, Launchpad’s clients learn how to cook healthy meals on a budget – improving their diet and developing life skills.
Read more about Launchpad’s Horticulture and Healthy Living project
If your name’s not on the list….
Getting an allotment can take time as waiting lists can be lengthy. But if you are prepared to travel or clear an overgrown plot you may be lucky and not have to wait too long. In the first instance you should contact your local council. And get your name on that list.
Reading currently has 20 allotment sites spread throughout the borough. There are waiting lists for each of the sites ranging from currently vacant up to 10 years, depending on which site you request. When checking the list in March 2018, eight of the sites either had vacant plots or waiting lists of less than three months.
Start small – dream big
Whilst you’re waiting you can hone your horticultural skills at home. Grow what you like to eat and do some reading to find a gardening style to suit your lifestyle.
Container grown fruit and veg can look very attractive and can be a great stop gap whilst you’re waiting and dreaming of that larger plot.
Spades at the ready……..