I am lucky enough to have an allotment at a very well run site called The Paddock. I’ll be honest, for the first couple of years, when I was trying to cope with it on my own, it was really too much. An allotment takes time and energy and the tiny bit of each that I was able to dedicate to my plot meant that come harvest time I was pulling weeds not vegetables.
So about a year ago I asked a friend if she’d like to share it with me –and the difference has been astounding.
I’d always enjoyed working on the plot, but now, with a friend to chat to and to be able to share the successes and failures, I don’t just like it, I love it.
And I am no longer harvesting weeds. Instead we’ve had (and are still having) punnets of raspberries, handfuls of giant courgettes, delicious French beans, onions, cabbages, sweet golden tomatoes, rhubarb and crunchy carrots, with the promise of corn on the cob, pumpkins, beetroot, spinach, and leeks still to come.
Have I saved money? Overall, probably not.
Does the food taste better than supermarket fare? Most definitely yes.
Do I feel I’ve spent my time well? Yes, I’ve loved every minute, even weeding in a downpour. And not much can match the joy of harvesting your own veg and then eating them that night, while they are still super fresh and full of flavour and goodness.
Have I made friends? Yes and by being part of an allotment group I feel part of a community; something that seems to be increasingly difficult in the modern age and especially in a big city like London.
Will I be keeping my allotment next year? A huge and resounding; yes, yes, yes.
So what advice do I have?
1) If you haven’t already got an allotment and it appeals to you – put your name down now, most places do have a waiting list, fortunately it’s not generally 40 years, but be prepared to wait a year to 18 months.
2) Be prepared to work hard. But also be prepared to enjoy fresh air, the sound of birds singing, a connection with the land and strange conversations about blight and pruning and “how come yours are huge and mine are tiny?”
3) Share it with a friend; it’s more fun, less work, the yields tend to be higher, the highs and lows are shared and it can be great planning what to grow together and trying out each other’s favourite fruit and veg.To find out about allotments in your area you’ll need to call your local council. A good book to get you started is “The Essential Allotment Guide”
About the Author: Chantal Cooke is a professional journalist, author and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET