How to Get An Allotment
Written by John Harrison on 14th Aug 2015.
“How can I get an allotment?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. The first thing to do is to find out where your local allotments are. Often sites aren't obvious from the road, being set behind houses and accessible from a nondescript lane. Many sites prefer to remain, if not hidden, then not obvious as this helps avoid problems from vandals and thieves.
Your local council offices can usually help although not all allotments are owned and managed by councils and they may only have a list of their own allotments. Most often they will know about self-managed sites and sites owned by the church or charitable trusts.
Local libraries are a good source of information, librarians are happy to help you find information so don't be afraid to ask. A large scale map of your area will show the location of allotments and often libraries have these available.
Check out the Site
Make a note of sites within easy reach of you and then visit them in turn. Different sites have different facilities. Is water easily available? Are there toilets on the site? Is there a communal hut or shed? Is the site in good order or does it look neglected and more like a tip? Is there enough space for an allotment greenhouse?
Try to talk to a plot-holder who can give you the low-down. Ask about the soil, is it heavy or light? Well worked and in good heart or impoverished and poor? Does it drain well or flood? You'll be surprised how soil and sites can differ, even those near to each other. Even plots on the same site can differ, sites on the edge of a tall hedge can be shaded or in rain shadow, for example.
The million dollar question is, of course, “Are there any vacant plots?”. In some areas, particularly the London area, vacant allotment plots are like hen's teeth; rather rare! Often you'll find that some sites are full with a waiting list but a less attractive site a mile away has a number of vacant plots.
In that case I'd urge you to take a plot on the site with problems and work with the other plot-holders to overcome them. If there's a lot of rubbish lying about, get the council to provide a skip or a wagon and organise a rubbish day with the other tenants.
Allotment Waiting Lists
If the local sites all have waiting lists, then approach the site manager to be placed on the list. Now you'll need to use some diplomatic skills here to help you get up the ladder. Don't forget the site manager is most likely to be an excellent and knowledgeable grower. They won't mind guiding and mentoring you but teaching grandmother to suck eggs is not advised.
Organic growing is very much in the main stream nowadays, some allotment sites insist on only using organic methods. However, telling the site manager you believe in making friends with your weeds is unlikely to make him keen on seeing you set up with a plot!
Keep in touch with site managers, telephoning or better still dropping in and asking if any vacancies have come up will help as he or she will realise you're keen.
In most areas outside of London, it's possible to find a plot in reasonable time if you persevere. The pressure for allotments in some London boroughs is such that you may be best looking at alternatives such as garden sharing rather than a plot.
Copyright © John Harrison 2014