Allotment Week with Tiba Tempeh

 

This week we’re celebrating National Allotment Week, from August 9th-15th.

During a time when getting more time outdoors and connecting with nature has become a bigger priority for everyone, it appears that allotments have never been in such high demand. Current waiting lists have spiked dramatically, with at least thirty additional hopefuls wanting their own slice of greenery. To learn more about these well-loved green spaces, we visited a local allotment and spoke to some of their plot-holders.

 

One plot we visited is owned by a couple who have been growing there for twenty years. They talked us through what they grow each year, showing us their crops including raspberries, cabbage, kale, sweetcorn, apples and runner beans. They also explained the crop rotation, where plots are divided into sections and grouped into crops such as:

  • Brassicas: sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish and turnips
  • Legumes: peas and broad beans
  • Onions: onion, garlic, shallot and leeks
  • Potato Family: potatoes and tomatoes
  • Roots: beetroot, carrot, celery, fennel, parsley and parsnip

 

Each section of the plot is moved a step forward each year in a rotation. This ensures soil fertility, as different crops require different nutrients, and an annual rotation reduces the chance of soil deficiencies. It also assists in pest control, as regular rotation reduces build up of damaging populations of pests’ spores and eggs.

 

What are the benefits of allotment gardening?

The benefits of plots stretch far beyond just squeezing in some outdoor time. Gardening is a great way to exercise, as it is a low-impact aerobic activity, meaning it is suitable and beneficial for all ages. In recent years, many people have become more aware of where their food comes from and the impact it has on their health. Growing your own fruit and vegetables ensures you will have access to all of the nutrients you need, and without potential pesticides. 

Owning a plot requires an element of getting creative. Another plot-holder we spoke to builds his own raised beds for his crops from reclaimed materials picked up during his gardening job. He has kept this sustainable feel throughout his plot, even re-using a glasshouse that was being given away by a customer.

 

1- For the planet

In a time where we are all more conscious of our effect on the environment, growing produce of your own contributes towards less packaging and air miles. If designed and implemented well, allotments can really benefit biodiversity. Growing food in towns and cities has been shown to improve the diversity of wildlife in urban areas, as well as protecting their habitats. A recent study by Nature Ecology & Evolution found that allotments are hotspots for pollinating insects, as they contain a wide range of fruiting and native plants. 

There are undoubtedly cost savings, too. The yearly price of a plot is a big appeal to those on waiting lists, as in the long run you will be able to save money on produce. 

 

2- For mental health

Another plot we visited is owned and maintained by the allotment’s secretary. She talked us through what she grows, showing us crops of potatoes, onions, melons, peppers, tomatoes and beetroot. 

Allotments have also had a positive impact on people’s mental health. Growing and caring for your plot is something to focus on. There also is a real sense of community to be found in an allotment.

Many people called their local allotment a ‘lifesaver’ during the last year. They were able to escape to them for much-needed outdoor time and for chatting with friends and like-minded people. Allotments are a wonderful way to meet new people and get involved in community spirit.

 

3- For everyone

No matter your age, or even your experience with gardening, allotments can be enjoyed by everyone. These spaces may be in high demand now; but if you can get access to a plot, the benefits really are endless. Growing your own fruits and vegetables undoubtedly boosts your intake of plant-based foods, which is beneficial for your health as well as the health of the planet. 

With thanks to the Walmley Ash Allotment Association.

  1. Baldock, K.C.R., Goddard, M.A., Hicks, D.M. et al. A systems approach reveals urban pollinator hotspots and conservation opportunities. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 363–373 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0769-y

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