It’s not exactly like The Good Life – they didn’t talk about slugs quite as much as we do – but it is quite fun.
I volunteered at a community garden project for a few years then took on a landshare, I met loads of lovely people and learned a great deal about what does and doesn’t grow well in “sunny” Manchester. When the landshare closed down myself and a gardening buddy started looking around for other options including an allotment.
Despite living within 100m of an allotment it seemed an impossible task, a 3 year wait and a load of terms and conditions. However my buddy faired better and found one not too far away from both of us that had immediate openings and was very welcoming.
So this is what I have learned so far
Shop around – if you have transport you have more options
- Manchester City Council
- National allotment society – how to get an allotment
- Stockport Council allotments
Decide what size you need. Often there are several options. Go and have a look and see what is manageable, you will be expected to maintain it.
Find out how much it costs per year. I have heard stories of very variable rates. You will normally need to pay a deposit for keys on top.
Think about access. How will you get there? Is parking available and how close can you get to your plot. Yes it really matters when you are carrying bags of manure or trays of plants.
What facilities does it have? Running water, toilets, tool sheds somewhere to shelter and make a brew? Some sites are also used by the council to dispose of wood chippings or leaves, a great resource but ask questions about where they come from before you use them, they could be full of unpleasant weeds or chemicals and only fit for making paths.
Check your site and ask questions
- What is the soil like?
- What is the drainage like?
- Does it have any weed issues like mares tail?
- Was it well maintained before?
- Check which direction it faces and any shade issues.
What are the allotment associations expectations of you?
Are you expected to volunteer to help out with maintenance?
You may find that for the cost of a few hours helping out you get access to an orchard or other perks.
How much time do I need to commit?
My friend and I have 1 small plot each side by side so a total of 14m x 14m.
We are quite keen and put in some raised beds and netting tunnels to keep birds and bugs off so it depends on what condition your plot is in and what needs doing for what you want to grow.
I would say for a small plot you need to be there about 2-4 hours / week in the peak growing season – you will be planting sowing and weeding like mad! If there are 2 of you then you can obviously get more done in the time.
It’s a great way to get exercise, fresh air and meet new people, but you don’t have to socialise a wave and a hello is enough.