Whilst many allotment sites have a waiting list, some have the opposite problem, vacant allotment plots standing forlorn and empty. In this article I explore some options for what to do with vacant allotment plots apart from growing weeds.
The obvious solution to vacant allotment plots is to get them occupied and working but many people will be put off taking on a plot full of weeds. Worse still, if a plot full of weeds goes to seed it will cause problems for all the neighbouring plotholders and may even be the last straw that causes someone to abandon their allotment.
Some Ideas to Fill the Vacant Allotment Plots
It’s no good just sitting there and expecting something to happen. To get those plots filled you need to make sure people know they are available and perhaps give them an incentive to take them on. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Put a sign up on the gates of the site simply saying “Vacant Plots to Rent, Contact XXX on (Telephone Number)”.
- Try and interest the local press in the site so they write an article mentioning there are vacant plots. You’ll need to give them a story, perhaps a donation from the site of fresh fruit and vegetables to a food bank or charity.
- If you can’t get a story in the press, you could buy a classified advert cheaply.
- Contact other allotment sites in your area – perhaps they have a waiting list and would be able to point some of those people to your site.
- Contact local horticultural societies and make them aware of the vacant plots.
- Perhaps some people on your site would actually like a second plot.
- Consider breaking some plots up into smaller ‘starter plots’ so people with little time or who are scared of taking on a large plot will be tempted into having a go.
- Consider the disabled – perhaps split a plot into high raised beds with wheelchair access. You may even be able to get a grant to help pay for this.
- Make sure your local council staff, especially receptionists are aware you have vacant plots and the contact number.
- Contact local schools – perhaps they would like a school allotment.
- Consider an incentive to take on an overgrown plot like 6 months free rental for the first year.
Ideas for Using Vacant Allotment Plots Productively
Hopefully you can fill those vacant plots but if you have plots standing for some time there are some things you can do better than letting them become overgrown.
- Use a plot as a communal plot – perhaps an orchard or even a large polytunnel that site members can use to get out of season crops in.
- Sow with green manures like mustard and allow members to cut for their own compost bins.
- Turn a plot into a wildlife sanctuary – sow with a mix of bee and insect attracting plants and flowers. Or a wildflower meadow mix. It may need cutting twice a year but that’s only a few hours work for someone with a strimmer.
- Turn a plot into a children’s play area so plotholders can bring their children with them and let them play. Check with the council in case there are legal and insurance issues.
Plots Already Overgrown & Weedy
If you can’t rent them out or make other use of them then your only option is to clear them. This has three options.
- Spray off the weeds. Not an organic or ecological solution but certainly labour saving.
- Cover the plot in plastic sheets or weed suppressant mats. This does the job but looks pretty awful.
- Dig over and weed by hand – expensive in terms of time and money if you pay someone to do it.
What Not to Do
Do not – I mean DO NOT just rotavate a weedy plot. It will make the weed problem 10 times worse when all those weeds appear from the cut perennial roots like dock and dandelions.