Allotments are old.
The arrangement of allotments we recognise today has its roots in the 19th Century, when land was provided to the poor for the provision of growing food. Despite this fact, they are incredibly valuable for our modern life.
Luckily, we are not having to dig for victory as our grandparents did during World War 2. However, the value of having allotment today is not only similar, but can provide our busy lives with even more.
Guest blogger Richard Chivers is a grow-your-own enthusiast living in Cardiff. As a result of his love of gardening, he can usually be found on his family allotment with his six-year-old daughter. Additionally, he enjoys reading kitchen gardening books. He is also keen on engaging with the gardening community via his blog, Sharpen Your Spades.
Here are Richard’s 5 benefits for taking on an allotment in 2018:
1. Growing space for a small price
Today, garden space comes at a premium. The cost of homes with a large garden is costly and for many, simply unaffordable. Furthermore, if you live in the city, having a garden has become even more of a luxury.
However, allotments are incredibly generous in the size of gardening space you can access. Also, in many cases, they come at a relatively small price.
A standard allotment plot is 10 perches. In modern measurement, that’s 250 square metres or roughly the size of a doubles tennis court. Although there can be significant variation in allotment rents across local authorities, with one piece of research reporting a range from one penny per square metre to 55p/sqm, they are still an affordable annual cost which provides great value for money.
2. Variety of vegetables
Instagram-savvy millennials are looking for variety and interesting ingredients when it comes to the food they put on their plates. This is where taking on an allotment can definitely feed the need. When it comes to growing your own fruit and vegetables, one of the key benefits is variety.
When you remove yourself from the shelves in the supermarkets and instead to seed packets on sale in garden centres and the catalogues of seed merchants, the selection of crops is incredible. Even those staples like potatoes and onions we drop into our shopping baskets every week come in multiple sizes, colours and importantly, taste.
3. Family activity
Gone are the days of allotments tended by old men standing on their spades in flat caps, shirt and tie and pipes in the mouths. Plots are now dug, weeded and watered by all the members of the modern family. This is another important benefit of having an allotment.
Gardening together and growing a variety of fruit and veg for the family kitchen is not only exciting, it’s a cheap and a valuable way to spend time together outside. Additionally, you’re engaging in something that nurtures an appetite for wholesome food and an understanding of where it comes from.
I see allotment sites as a sample of the population in the cities in which we live in. A melting pot of ethnicity, race and cultural diversity. Therefore, a benefit of allotments is that they bring together this multiplicity with a shared interest – growing veg.
Inside the boundaries of the allotment site, this community of gardeners share wisdom and provide support for one another. Plus, they offer insight into the variety of crops we can grow here in the UK and the ways in which we can enjoy them in our kitchens.
Many allotment sites host summer parties and barbecues where these micro communities come together and celebrate our differences and our shared passion too. All through the power of grow-your-own gardening.
5. Connection to environment
In gardening, understanding our environment and, more importantly, how to protect and work with it, is essential. Therefore, to achieve success in growing a bounty of fruit and vegetables, we have to enable our environment to thrive.
The simple act of allotment gardening forces us to embrace environmental processes and work with (not to the detriment of) them. Trust me, if you go with the workings of nature rather than try and tame or reinvent it, you will reap the benefits and have a clear understanding of the environment in which we live and ultimately depend upon.
Richard Chivers is passionate about growing fruit and vegetables on his family allotment garden. As a result, his blog, Sharpen your Spades aims to inspire anyone to pull on their wellies and join in the movement to grow their own. You can also follow Richard on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.