It’s National Allotments Week from Monday 4th to Sunday 10th August, so hurrah for allotments, allotmenteers and home-grown producers of all kinds!
Allotments are the perfect way to add some variety, independence, health and interest to your family life; as well as an invaluable tool for educating kids about how and why to grow your own produce. When I had an allotment (before I promoted myself to 2.5 acres!), it was brilliant, really family friendly, and most weekends there were kids of all ages buzzing about. Many of course enjoyed the picking and eating side of it (especially strawberries and raspberries!), but most also enjoyed helping out, frolicking around with the watering cans, digging away, finding wildlife, making friends with the other kids, sowing seeds, and planting out transplants. We had an allotment group which was great for socialising and swapping stories of pigeon and slug woe, as well as sampling strange gin mixes. Many of us had a shed (I love seeing allotments with lots of different sizes and colours of sheds, shelters and random contraptions) which we could shelter in if spring weather lashed us with a hailstorm, and we could natter with other allotmenteers over a flask of tea and some biscuits while we kept dry.
The long waiting lists for some council-run allotments has also meant that enterprising farmers and land-owners are getting involved too, offering up a field for division into community allotments – a swell idea. These kind of plots also usually offer the advantage of not have the restrictions of some council plots when it comes to selling your surplus. While swapping your surplus with your allotment neighbors is a grand idea, more often than not they’ll be growing the same kind of produce as you, so it’s well worth considering selling your extras to a local shop, pub or café. Plus, if you really get the growing bug, then you could find that your surpluses turn into a nice little part-time business – and you’re feeding your local community with fresh, local veg too!
Growing veg is a perfect part-time business that you can fit into childcare or around other part-time work – the weeds don’t care when you take them out, so no matter if you’re running a bit late – plus the outdoor exercise means that you won’t need to visit the gym! If this appeals, check out Gardening For Profit for some ideas on how to get your veg business started.
To All Veg The Growers
Hurrah for all the gardeners,
Who grow such lovely veg
Yes yes to the allotmenteers
With chard-based edible hedge.
We salute your early mornings,
Endless workings of the soil
To make mouthfuls more flavourful
Your hip-flasks rewarding toil.
Three cheers for muddy peasantry,
Who fill our plates with life
Whose hands make food from nothing,
And keep us all from strife.
May your marrows prosper and vines be full of vigour.
Kate Collyns is author of Gardening for Profit, which she wrote after making a career change to start her own market garden business, and sells to farm shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants. She is a founder member of a local growers’ group and contributes to The Organic Grower magazine.