A five-minute guide to allotments

A five-minute guide to allotments
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Whether you don’t have a garden of your own or just love the thought of living off the land, keeping an allotment could fulfil your green-fingered needs.

The healthy produce, fresh air and all that digging can do wonders for your health too, with 30 minutes of gardening burning as many calories as an aerobics class. And that’s not to mention the pounds your crops will save you at the supermarket!

Taking on an allotment will also mean you become part of a community that could see you making some new friends and feeling altogether happier.

How do I find a plot?

Start by contacting your local authority to find out about your nearest site. In some areas demand for allotments is so high you may be put on a waiting list. So it might be worth looking into allotments owned by private landlords or organisations such as the Church of England.

The National Allotment Society has regional representatives who can put you in touch with these private owners, call 01536 266576 or visit www.nsalg.org.uk/about-us and click on ‘contact your regional rep’. Your local library may also have a list of private plots.

You don’t have to accept the first allotment you’re offered – consider whether you can get to it easily, if it has a convenient water supply and if there are any problems with the soil or flooding. Speak to existing allotment keepers at the site, who will be happy to answer your queries, before you say yes.

Plots can cost between £25 and £125 per year but most landlords offer a discount if you’re on a pension or low income.

What should I grow?

Start off  with a few crops of easy-to-maintain vegetables, such as beetroot, leeks, spinach and onions. Ask around what crops do well in the area.

If the soil isn’t ideal, you could set up some raised beds.  Some allotments allow you to keep bees and hens, for example, but check with your landlord first.

How can I get the most out of my allotment?

Not all allotments come with sheds so you may want to invest in one to store your tools and make a cuppa. Freecycle (www.freecycle.org) is a good place to look for an old one that won’t cost you a penny. Be sure to keep it locked up though and don’t store valuables in it, as sheds can be a target for vandals.

Setting up an Allotment Watch with the police, as well as getting to know your allotment neighbours, will also help keep yours secure and make your experience all the more fulfilling.

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