Is an allotment for me?

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If you decide to grow your own vegetables the following information should help you to work out the best way to get the maximum benefit from your new lifestyle.

Taking on an allotment can be both challenging and rewarding, and there are a few things you need to consider before you start.

What are the benefits of managing an allotment?

We all know the value of fresh vegetables and many people think that nothing compares to the taste and texture of fresh home grown produce.

As a bonus producing your own food can also provide you with plenty of healthy exercise.

In addition, because the food isn't farmed on a large scale or transported over distances, there is evidence to suggest that it’s better for the environment as well – even more so when you grow organically.

10 points to consider before applying

New allotment holders find they quickly develop new skills and knowledge, and many plot holders see the development of their allotment as part of a positive lifestyle choice.

However, before you rush into getting your first plot, here's a few things to think about and potential challenges ahead:

1. Clearing a plot

Be prepared for lots of work clearing the plot. In general our plots are not too bad but you may will almost certainly need to clear it of weeds and old plants.

We recommend getting some crops into at least a small area at an early stage as it's encouraging to see the fruits of your labours. There are ways of making clearing a plot easier, for example, using weed matting (but not carpet) to cover areas you aren't working on yet.

Ultimately, you would need to bring at least 75% of the plot into cultivation. Depending on the time of year you get the plot this can take up to a year. e.g. If you get a plot before the start of March you will, with a lot of hard work in March, be able to get 75% of the plot into cultivation for the summer. If you get the plot after the start of October you will be able to clear the plot and dig it over but you will only be able to plant a few things.

2. Health and physical ability

Considering the above, if you feel you may not be able to meet the physical demands of a plot on your own then you may want to consider sharing with someone you know. Please consider your health very carefully as it is can be very disheartening for tenants to take on more than they can actually manage.

3. Managing weeds

Weeds are also plants. There is plenty that you can do to try and reduce the number of weeds on your plot, such as digging over the ground and removing roots or by using weed matting (NOT CARPET) to cover areas of the surface such as paths. But weeds are a persistent problem and will require physical effort and patience to remove.

To keep on top of weeds you need to ensure that you can make regular visits to a plot, especially during the main growing season.

4. Time Commitment

You do need to think about whether you have a regular amount of time that you can commit each week to work a plot.

We recommend visiting plots at least twice a week to stay on top of weeding and other jobs. The number of visits you make during the growing season, to water and harvest crops for example, may be considerably more than this. If you don’t have an effective watering system you may find during very hot or dry weather that you will need to visit daily.

If you work full time or have other commitments, be realistic about the amount of time you have available and the distance you need to travel to your plot.

5. Tools and equipment

You will need some tools and equipment to work your plot and if you are buying new there will be a cost involved. Please note that your tools are NOT covered by the Allotment Society's insurance.

6. Children

Many young children are very enthusiastic about growing things and allotments can be a great place for children to learn.

However there are things you need to consider; an allotment plot has many safety issues such as broken glass, sharp cane ends, weeds such as bramble or stinging nettles, etc.

Please bear in mind that although you may be very committed, a young child may lose interest very quickly; you need to consider what you can do if your child is not as interested as you.

7. Learning what to do and when

If you haven't grown vegetables before, then you'll probably need to learn as you go along. There is lots of advice available from books and web sites and also from other tenants who are often very willing to give advice.

While you are waiting to be offered a plot you could try researching books and web sites or attending a vegetable growing course.

8. Crop failures

If you are new (or old) to vegetable growing it's inevitable that you'll have the occasional crop failure and you'll need to be prepared for this. Successful tenants see this as a learning opportunity but it can be very disheartening after all the effort you have put in.

It takes time to prepare the ground and it is unrealistic to expect to get a whole season’s worth of perfect veg during the first year on your plot. As time goes on you will learn more about what grows where and when, and in what conditions. All of which will increase your chances of success.

9. Maintaining motivation

Having an allotment is definitely an activity for the patient. Maintaining motivation, especially during the first year or so, can be difficult.

A tip; when you have a plot, take plenty of photos so you can see how your plot improves and keep referring to your plan to see what you’ve achieved.

10. Dogs

Please note that at our allotments, due to health reasons, dogs are not allowed on the allotment site.

Tenancy agreement

Before you can rent an allotment you will be required to sign a tenancy agreement, which explains the conditions that you and we must follow during the tenancy.

You should not sign the tenancy agreement unless you understand and agree to these conditions.

How can I apply for an allotment?

Please see our "My application" page for details on how to apply and what happens after you have applied.