Protecting the Allotment – Help Someone!

Housing Threat to Allotments

Here in the UK, our food prices may have fallen in the last thirty years but our housing costs have risen incredibly. The government has said it intends to build millions of houses, which should cool the market and bring housing costs back into line a bit. But where are they going to get the land from?

There are a limited number of ‘brown field sites’ and I expect every encroachment onto the green belt will be fought. Even some of the brown field sites are fought as they now have rare flowers or newts living there.

Yes, our allotments are going to come under more threat. Our own site would make ideal building land. Instead of providing a hobby for 40 people it could provide housing for 60 families, not to mention a tidy profit for the land owners and developers.

Now an allotment site that is under occupied and where plots are just a weedy mess (I’m talking in general now) are going to be far easier targets than fully utilised and productive sites.

So, one of the best things we can do to protect our allotments is to ensure they are fully occupied and productive.

You may have noticed, as I have, a pattern in recent years. Vegetable growing and allotments have become popular again and even trendy. People take on a plot with great enthusiasm but after six months or a year they’re giving up. Defeated by the weeds, crops that just don’t compare with the perfect specimens they see on the supermarket shelf they give up the fad.

Organic Growing Misunderstood

Well I’m convinced a lot of this is down to them not having a clue about how to grow. I also think the organic movement has become counter productive in some ways. People hear the word ‘organic’ and think it means you grow crops with no chemicals, no input at all. They take on a plot covered in perennial weeds and cover it with plastic or carpets and expect the soil to have miraculously become wonderful and productive when they take them away.

Organic growing is perfectly viable and can be just as productive, if not more so, than chemical growing but it requires more work and more knowledge. It also requires the acceptance that a little pest damage is preferable to eating pesticide residues.

I’d much rather see a plot sprayed initially with glyphosate and then brought into production a month later than covered with plastic for a year. Digging out a mass of bindweed is just too time consuming for many people.

I’d also rather see a good dose of Growmore go onto the soil than watch people wonder why nothing is growing on their plot. Although fish, blood and bone would be better if marginally dearer and a decent load of manure better still.

Helping New Vegetable Growers

Anyway, my forthcoming book is aimed at the novice and gives both organic and non-organic options. I really hope it will help new growers get results that will encourage them to carry on.

The plan for the winter months is to increase the amount of basic knowledge on this web site. I’ve put some very personal articles up in the past but always assumed that most of my visitors would be growing already so I’ve not put any particularly formal guides online.

The forums have shown me that we have a lot of new growers visiting and some searching around on the web has shown me that decent information is not as easily found as I assumed.

Help New Growers

Now useful as this may turn out to be, a little plea to the good growers out there on allotments. Talk to the new plot holders. If you see them doing something wrong, offer advice. Now people hate being told, I do, so a useful phrase is “You might find it easier” or “You might get better results if you”.

That person floundering on the plot might just need some guidance to end up with a hobby for a lifetime rather than just a season. And your advice might just save your plot from the housing developers.

Posted in Rants and Raves
6 comments on “Protecting the Allotment – Help Someone!
  1. caroline says:

    The allotment site nearest my home is super and has little huts, sheds and other shakier structures some of which are human. A lot of these are old men and women who just want to pop down to their allotment and keep doing what they’ve done for years. It has full occupancy despite prospective allotment keepers having to battle the most obnoxious council official to secure a tenancy on any rarely available plot. I fear that these allotment keepers are short-changed by the council who secretly intend to oust them if a better offer comes along. This is because they get a new contract of tenancy to sign each year. Is that normal?

  2. John says:

    Not normal on our site – different councils have their own methods.

    I’m certain that allotments are considered a waste of valuable building land by many officials – my point is that a half empty site is more at risk than a full site.

  3. ali says:

    I do agree we need to keep everything fully occupied and productive for our own sake. But I do object to some of the old geezers on my site – they might grow some stuff better than me but many of them seem obsessed with burning stuff, spraying with goodness knows what, using their petrol burning machines instead of a fork, and building ever more complex and large structures. I may be a relative novive and battling with weeds but I do at least have a passion for the actual plants! All the advice I seem to get is…. you want to spray that with xxxx.

  4. John says:

    Ali – all us boyz love our toyz. There’s only one thing better than a petrol powered rotovator, that’s a diesel machine!

    Seriously though, I know what you mean. Perhaps you’ll be advising them next year. Try ‘you could save money by doing this instead of spraying with that’ Us old geezers love saving money.

    And if you’re after advice – try the allotment chat forums, there’s some really good growers on there. We do try and help.

  5. compostqueen says:

    I covered much of my plot cos dint fancy glyphos. Don’t regret it cos my plot is clearing while I pootle away doing a bed at a time. At my own pace.

    Our plots are in the process of being flogged off to a developer but not if the lotty folks have their way. There’s a war on! We hope we’re winning!

  6. John says:

    Well if they do win, bury some asbestos on the plot, wait until they build on it then tip off the environment people. Shh, I never said that!

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