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Growing vegetables

How to get an allotment

By Ceri Thomas

Article 1 of 3

Find out how to find an allotment and what to look for in the perfect plot

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In most parts of the country there should be an allotment site within easy reach of your home. If you don't know where your local allotment site is, contact your local council. If you live in a rural area, contact your parish council.

In many areas allotments are so popular that you may have to go on a waiting list. Depending on where you live, this could be a few months to several years. Though this is frustrating, it means you should eventually take over a recently worked plot on a well-cared for site.

A standard plot is about 250sqm, though many sites now offer half or smaller plots, especially if demand is high. Expect to pay around £30-50 a year for a full plot.

What to look for in an allotment

If you're lucky enough to be offered a vacant plot, ask the site secretary or council allotment officer about the following:

Access and parking

Even if you're within walking distance of the allotment, you'll need to drop off heavy or bulky things occassionally.

Location of taps and rules about watering

Many sites don't allow hosepipes except to fill a tank or water butt on your plot. The distance between the tap and the plot becomes a critical factor in a summer heatwave!

Horticultural supplies

Some sites operate a handy shop for horticultural supplies or arrange bulk orders of seed.

Local sources of manure

Some sites arrange for deliveries or have designated spots for manure, composted green waste etc.

Communal lawnmowers

You'll be expected to keep the paths around your plot neat and tidy, and there are sites that organise working parties for communal areas. Some sites provide communal lawn mowers, otherwise you'll have to bring one, or a strimmer, yourself.

Sheds and greenhouses

It may be tempting to put up a shed or greenhouse but your investment can often be destroyed by vandals or thieves. Often it's far better to invest your time and money in caring for your crops instead. A lot of plotholders just bring their tools when they visit, while some sites provide a communal shed for tools. Sometimes the site rules don't allow any buildings so check before you buy one. 

Previous tenants

If you have a choice of plots, one that's been worked recently will save a lot of back-breaking work initially. You may inherit soft fruit bushes or a compost heap as a bonus.

Security

Ask neighbouring plotholders about things like theft, vandalism, and flooding; also about major pests - rabbits, deer and pigeons can cause havoc if you're unprepared. Talking to them will help you learn about local soil and weather conditions and which crops grow well.

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