Finding an allotment plot needs just a little planing before you set out on your great grow your own adventure.
Where are the sites
Word of mouth is usually the best place to start, ask friends, neighbours if they know of any allotment sites and if they know of any one with a plot,
This may seem very simplistic but once you’ve made contact with an established plot holder they can give you better understanding of what is going on in the allotment scene in your area.
Another approach would be to contact your local council. The vast majority of allotment sites are owned by them, even if they are not directly run by them.
Allotment sites are quite often the responsibility of the local parks and gardens department but this varies, a lot!
A good place to start your search is on the Direct.gov web site at this link
Go and take a look
Once you’ve found a few sites in your area take the time to visit them all. The standards of allotment sites vary enormously and you’ll want to weigh up all the pros and cons of each one before committing yourself.
The best time to visit these sites is on a Sunday morning, you’ll have more chance for meeting plot holders who are happy to talk about their site on a dry Sunday morning than you would on a cold wet Tuesday afternoon. Once you’ve engaged them in conversation try and get as much information about the site as you can.
Things you’ll want to take in to consideration.
- Is the site run directly buy the local council or an on site committee.
- What restrictions are there regarding what can be grown, is livestock allowed (chickens,ducks or geese).
- What a arrangements are there for watering (self filling mains fed tanks, taps etc)
- Are there facilities were drinking water and toilets can be readily accessed.
- What is the yearly rent and is there an extra charge for water.
- Is there a waiting list for plots and if so how long is it.
- Does the site suffer from vandalism.
- Are there restrictions regarding sheds/greenhouses (most allow these but some sites like to keep them to a minimum).
- What rules are there and how rigidly are they enforced.
- What are the soil conditions like, are there any specific problems for certain crops.
View any vacant plots that may be available, ideally these would be as flat as possible, little or no shading with a southerly aspect, but compromises must be expected and most situations can be over come.
Most vacant allotment gardens will look like weed infested jungles to the the first time allotmenteer, don’t be put off.
A lot of councils will actually help with the weed clearance for the first time plot holder and you would be amazed at the difference one weekends strimming can do to the appearance.
Have a good look around the site, take note of the general appearance of the area, a site with well kept communal paths, hedges and fences is a good indication that the site is well run and this will make all the difference to the experience of allotment ownership.
The pros and cons.
Now you’ve seen what is on offer its time to weigh up the pluses and minuses of what there is and take a few things into consideration.
- Even the most ideal plot will soon become a chore if it is an hours car journey away, unless you have supreme dedication. Similarly if the nearest vacant garden is on the steepest of slopes with few facilities, your enthusiasm may soon be dampened. So distance from home has to be taken into account but not to the detriment of your continued enjoyment.
- Site security needs to be addressed, it is a sad fact but remote allotment gardens attract thieves and vandals. Whilst no site is total exempt from these acts its worth considering before you start to put in hours of work to your plot.
- Consider whats around the edges of you intended plot and its orientation. Try to avoid large overhanging trees as these create what amounts to dead space on an allotment in the form of large water sapping roots, shade and rain shadows.
- Whats the local weather conditions like, is the site exposed or the area prone to flooding
Once you’ve made your decision don’t hang about before renting the plot, as the weather warms up in the spring so does the competition for vacant plots. The earlier you get your land the sooner you’ll be harvesting tasty own grow produce.