What Can You Grow on Your Allotment?

The Michael Rock allotment case in Hastings

There’s a case that hit the mainstream press about a man being evicted from his allotment because he’s not using it as the council wish. Michael Rock, who lives in a tower block in Hastings has taken his council to court and lost but is now saying he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

He took his plot on in October 2007 and started be growing potatoes, leeks and onions but, as happens, over-produced and produce was going to waste. So he decided to grow fruit instead. His plot appears to be grass with a number of saplings.

In April this year Hastings council imposed new rules saying that “the soil underneath trees must be planted with productive crops or other plants” and served notice on him. Mr Rock reacted by going legal.

Allotment Cultivation Questions

Now this brings up some questions about allotments in general. To me, it is obvious the first rule for any allotment holder is that the plot is cultivated and not allowed to become a mass of weeds shedding their seeds onto adjacent plots. That’s pretty simple and clear cut.

But, should the site management be able to specify how the plot is used and what is grown? I’ve always felt the purpose of an allotment is to grow food crops for the benefit of the plot-holder and the plot-holder’s family. A miniature farm if you will.

Fruit is a food crop, but trees are pretty permanent things and can grow quite large. I don’t know what trees and more importantly what rootstocks Mr Rock’s trees have but I hope they’re small dwarf varieties. At some point he will give up his plot and the new tenant doesn’t want to have to grub up a full size apple tree or worst still a cherry (which can grow huge unless on dwarf rootstocks)

Is it fair, when there is a waiting list, for someone to grass over their plot – keeping it in good order and not a nuisance to neighbours – when others want to grow fruit and vegetables to feed their family

Animals on Allotments

I’ve lobbied my council and won the right to keep poultry on allotments but what about other animals? On a visit to one site there were people actually keeping horses on a plot. I don’t think they were thinking of eating the horses, well I hope not. We’re not French after all!

Goats on a plot do produce milk and pigs pork but many sites would not allow you to keep them.

Leisure Garden Allotments

What about someone turning a plot into a leisure garden, grassed over with flower borders etc? This is pretty common in some European countries. I’ve seen a plot half grassed over with a swing and slide on it for the children. I thought it a great resource for the site, Mums & Dads could work away and the kids had a whale of a time. But what if everyone did that?

Organic Allotments

And then we have the organic allotments. Some sites insist that organic methods are used. So no sprays or non-organic fertilisers, no matter what the plot-holder wants to do. Yet, remember the temporary nature of allotments, does the next organic tenant want to take on a plot polluted with chemicals?

The Michael Rock case in Hastings seems to show a complete lack of common sense, if he didn’t want to over produce why not share his plot with someone or move onto a half plot, instead of expensive legal actions. It strikes me that some he’s generated a lot of publicity and I wonder if that might be impinging here.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary

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