The popularity of having an allotment increases every year with demand from urban dwellers without access to a decent sized garden. An allotment provides an outdoor activity, fresh air, exercise and if you get the growing sorted out fresh organically grown fruit and vegetables. People have a lot more spare time today than in the past and as urban development expands the countryside seems further away. Most foodstuffs are cheap and available from supermarkets, so fewer and fewer people see how crops are grown. Berry picking and tattie howking are distant memories of the older generation as machines now do most of this work. The allotment today is now the means of getting back to nature, learning how things are grown then appreciating new found tastes when you learn how to use and cook your home grown produce.
In my childhood most new housing estates built in the fifties had gardens as people needed to grow some food to keep the household bills down. Everyone had a wee patch of ground to grow their potatoes, peas, swedes, cabbages, onions and every garden had some rhubarb. Knowledge of gardening was passed on from one person to another.
Today few people want a garden, and the kids are happier at home with a computer, television and the mobile phone or other modern gadget. Nobody plays outdoors any more. Kids are growing up with very little knowledge of outdoor life.
However as most people have more leisure time there is a move back into getting involved with nature. Allotments are now seen as a place for stress busting activities with hands on experience sorting out the land to grow some organic fruit and vegetables. It provides us with plenty exercise and fresh air, plus the benefits of very healthy produce all year round once you come up with a growing plan.
Most allotment sites have a healthy waiting list which continually grows, but turnover can be quite brisk as some newcomers with romantic notions of outdoor living get quite a fright when the weeds grow faster than they can dig them out. Then there is fence, shed and greenhouse repairs every year as nothing is permanent. When one season ends in late autumn the ground will need digging. In spring it will need raking, cultivating and sowing and planting. Then just when all the land is planted up and you think about relaxing those weeds appear and are determined to take over, so out comes the hoe. This can be more exercise than you will get in the gym and an awful lot cheaper.
Once the crops mature and you taste fresh grown produce grown from your own efforts you will reap the rewards and realise no supermarket produce can compare for flavour and freshness. Your crops are all very healthy as they are all organically grown apart from a wee bit of growmore fertiliser. There is no need for chemicals to improve their shelf life and it does not matter if the size is uneven or the lettuce has a couple of slugs in it.
Most allotments today will have a small patio area to relax in once the work is complete. To cut back on the workload ground under continual cultivation can be reduced as permanent fruit bushes are planted with a ten year life or so.
Growing some flowers is now part of the modern allotment to create an attractive garden and provide cut flowers for the home.
Plant of the week
Potentilla fruticosa Elizabeth is a yellow flowering deciduous shrub frequently used in urban landscaping as it is easy to grow, covers the ground to keep weeds down and is in flower from early summer till autumn. It will grow up to four feet tall and is happy on most soils but flowers better on moist soils that are well drained. It is easy to propagate from cuttings taken in summer.