Allotments: Are They Worth The Money And Time?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Allotment gardening has become quite the post-recession craze in Britain. For the benefit of those who have been hiding under a rock for the past few years and aren’t sure exactly what we’re talking about, an allotment garden [generally known as a community garden in North America] is simply a plot of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening. In other words, it’s an opportunity for thousands of Britons to grow their own food.

The allotment gardening movement is actually part of a worldwide movement to promote sustainable, responsible agriculture – all in the cause of advancing healthy lifestyles and self-sufficient local economies. Instead of relying on governments or foreign providers to meet their needs, more people are taking matters into their own hands.

Apart from the independence factor, allotment gardening can be a good way to save money at the supermarket, while ensuring that you’re feeding your family wholesome, healthy food. After all, you know exactly where that food came from.

Allotments have become so popular in the UK that, depending upon where you are, there can be a waiting period of several years. Many thousands of folks are signing up for these waiting lists. Assuming you’re fortunate enough to have access to an allotment, should you join the craze? Is allotment gardening worth the time and money involved? Here are a few things to consider.

1. It’s not that cheap… at first.

Many of the frugal living folks speak of allotments in glowing terms, talking about how cheap it is to grow your own veggies and herbs and fruits. But it’s not necessarily cheap on the front end.  Currently in the UK, an allotment costs up to £80 or more a year in rent, but you also have to consider the cost of seeds, seed trays, fertiliser, compost, and the cost of maintaining and eventually replacing a shed or greenhouse. In other words, there’s a significant startup cost. A Payday Loan could help you fund the initial cost of setting up your allotment, allowing you to go on to save money over the coming years.

2. But it gets cheaper.

Despite the not-to-be-sneezed-at startup costs, surveys in recent years have found that on average, established allotment gardeners – or “allotmenteers,” as some like to call themselves – can save upwards of £1000 pounds a year. In researching this issue, The National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners discovered that every year, allotment holders spend an average of £202 growing vegetables and fruit that would sell for £1,564 in shops. That’s a pretty impressive savings.

Moreover there are several ways to cut the costs of owning an allotment. You can buy secondhand tools, for instance. You can make your own compost and fertiliser. The Allotment Underground blog has even suggested that you can make your own plant pots out of newspaper. []
Also, some areas offer discounts on allotments for students and seniors, so if you fall into one or more of those categories, be sure to look into that.

3. It takes time.

Some allotment veterans have said that you should try to spend at least eight hours a week on your allotment. If you have a full time job and and/or are going to school full-time, that may seem like an almost extravagant investment in time. But if you’re really passionate about your commitment you will find the time. Also consider this: What would you be doing with those eight hours if not tending to your allotment? Watching TV? Playing Papa Pear Saga on Facebook? Think about it – you could be growing your own fruits and veggies instead of wasting your time on cartoon produce.

4. But for many folks, it’s worth the time.

The rewards of allotment gardening can go beyond the growing of healthy food. An allotment is also a place to teach kids where their food comes from and how it grows, and to socialize with friends and neighbors. And then there’s the sense of pride that comes from knowing that you grew this glorious food yourself. Another bonus: many allotmenteers claim that they are less likely to waste the food that they’ve put so much time and effort into growing.

5. Garden pests come in many varieties.

There’s trouble in allotment paradise – an inevitable development, as land is a limited resource, and different people have different ideas about land use. Recently, for instance, a group of allotment gardeners in Watford, Hertfordshire entered into a battle with a developer who wants to build a health campus on their allotment. Although an alternative site was offered for the allotment, the gardeners insist it falls short of the “like-for-like” stipulation in the 1908 Smallholdings and Allotments Act. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, approved those plans just before Christmas 2013 and now faces a protracted legal battle.

Land-use battles notwithstanding, it appears that allotment gardening is here to stay – well, at least until the next trend comes along. But this is one healthy trend that many folks are hoping will stick around for the duration.

Helpful resources:
National Society of Allotment & Leisure Gardeners, 01536 266 576,
Royal Horticultural Society, 0845 260 5000,
Allotments Regeneration Initiative,
Garden Organic, 0247 630 3517,

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