Great reasons for having an allotment
by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Allotment sites are managed in two ways, but it also depends on the local borough; on some sites the plot-holders rent direct from the council and on others there is an association of allotment plot holders that manage the site. And depending on the “rules” set by the associations – the councils may have different ones – not only can you grow fruit, vegetables and flowers, but you can even keep chickens. Whether you would want to do the latter on an allotment that may not be near your home is a questions that only you can answer. I, for one, would not.
So and here are some of the reasons for having an allotment:
Any way you can increase the amount of exercise you do will benefit your physical and mental health. A few hours spent digging, hoeing, bending and straightening is more satisfying than slogging away on an indoor gym cross-trainer, especially when you end up with something you can eat! In addition to that science has discovered – oh dear, have they now – that dirt is actually good for you. Not necessarily ingested, though a little of that does not hurt either, the opposite rather, but handling it apparently releases stress and such.
Taking time away from your PC to work on your pak choi and swapping your BlackBerry for a blackberry is an excellent way to combat stress. Gardening is often repetitive, offering a quiet space for contemplation and allows a space for your brain to take a break. You may feel more clear-headed after time spent in the allotment, even if you haven't been thinking about anything of importance.
You are what you eat It's a lot easier to feel inclined to munch down on your five-a- day if you've grown some of them yourself. You can pick and eat your crops within hours and you can decide whether to grow organic and know exactly what you are eating, reducing you and your family's exposure to pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
It's not in the supermarket
Yes, you can grow spuds and French beans (and why not if you like spuds and French beans) but one of the joys of having an allotment is growing the produce you just cannot pick up easily in most supermarkets. Whether it's an exotic crop like strawberry spinach, a forgotten classic like skirret, something the supermarket never seems to have enough of like Swiss chard or simply a more flavorsome variety of carrot, it's your domain to grow what you want.
The comradeship between allotment holders is tangible and yet you can be as social or as self-contained as you like. Swapping seeds, offering surplus plug plants and sage advice (pun intended) is all part of the allotment experience. And someone is always around who will commiserate when the blackfly get to your broad beans before you do and help celebrate when your first tomatillo is harvested!
If you have a backyard then you can make your allotment there instead of renting one from the council. That way you do not have to deal with any rules that some allotment sites and -associations have and you can grow what you like without interference. However, you do not get the help and advice that you will find on an allotment site.
Or do both. Have a home allotment and a plot on an allotment site. Then at home you grow the things that some association frown upon, like Jerusalem Artichokes or wild edibles, aka (edible) weeds.
If you don't have space for a garden at home where to grow food then, obviously, an allotment is the only option really if you want to, somehow, life the “good life”. But, depending on the area, there may or may not be a waiting lift for allotment plots.
Happy digging, growing and harvesting...