Friday, 10 May 2013

A question to you: are allotments worth it?

I spent a sunny day at my friend's allotment last weekend. It was hard graft, but it was rewarding and a cold drink in the afternoon sun felt heavenly! It got me pondering the post-recession allotment craze.

In 2012, the average waiting waiting time for an allotment was 3 years (or up to 40 years in Camden, London!). Tens of thousands of people are signing up to the waiting lists, hoping to cut their grocery bills, take up a new hobby or grow organic food.

My question to you is, are allotments worth the time and money involved?

Check out any frugal living blog and they'll rave about how wonderfully cheap it is to grow your own veg, but ask a seasoned allotmenteer and they usually smile and shake their head. An allotment costs up to £80 a year in rent, but newbies have to factor in the cost of seeds, compost, seed trays, tools, fertiliser, eventual shed/greenhouse replacement, etc. etc. There's a huge start up cost involved. Despite this, a survey by LV in 2009 found that allotmenteers save an average of £950 a year!

Of course, there are ways to cut the costs of owning an allotment. Find yourself some second hand tools, make your own compost and free fertiliser, and Allotment Underground even suggests making pots from newspaper!

I read recently that you should aim to spend 8 hours a week on your allotment, which is a massive time commitment for someone with a full time job. On the other hand, that's 8 hours that most people would spend sat on their bum otherwise! Digging burns around 340 calories per hour, twice as much as walking, and you build muscle too! My friend was having backache though so make sure you follow advice on how to dig safely.

An allotment is a social place where neighbours exchange tips and friendly competition. (I get the feeling that this might be why the costs start mounting up!). It is also great for teaching children where their food comes from and how plants grow. (Frugal Down Under has got this nailed!)

As for the harvest, everyone knows that food you've grown yourself tastes AMAZING! I think it's a combination of pride and the super freshness of the crop. People say that they waste a lot less food too, because of the effort they put into growing it! 

You might've guessed that I'm pretty tempted to get an allotment (students get half price plots in Bristol!). The thing holding me back is that I am not sure how much free time I'll have during my PhD. I could rope in a minion volunteer (the Boyfriend) to help out at weekends I guess! Anyway, let me know what you think, especially all you aspiring self-sufficient types out there!


Anonymous said...

I would love to have an allotment but there is no such thing here in Hong Kong unless you move out to the wilds of the New Territories (HK's version of the suburbs) and even there they aren't common - I'd do alright with my balcony if only I liked heights! - Jo

Sarah said...

I have an allotment. It costs £50 a year it has a brick shed included in cost of the rent.

I love the allotment however the children are not as taken with it. It takes up a lot of our free time so I don't have as much to take the chn to parks etc as they like. I am considering giving it up and just growing as much as we can in the garden. As although I love it for the children it has become a chore and I want them to enjoy our weekends together :-(

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frantic's Antics said...

Hi, we grow the stuff that costs a small fortune in the shops. Living in the Fens, we get plentiful and reasonably priced carrots, potatoes and onions at the local farm shop by the sack full for a few quid. We do grow asparagus, rhubarb, berries, salad leaves, green beans, courgettes, cucumbers and a load of stuff that seems to cost the earth at the shops. Yes, it is a big commitment in terms of time, but once you have broken the back of the cultivation (in terms of removing stones and perennial weeks- it has taken us about 5years) it is not too onerous. We are lucky in that we have a large garden, half of which is fruit and vegetables, but before this we have always had an allotment and it has saved us a packet over the years. It is also fantastic exercise. Go for it, you won't regret it xx

Frantic's Antics said...

Some allotments also let you keep hens as well. Our hens keep us in eggs and I cannot believe how much they cost in the shops. Right, I will stop going on now!!! xx

Kearnygirl said...

Hi! I live in the Northeast part of USA. I don't have an allotment but I do have a small back garden. The problem with it is that every year it feels like we have to start from scratch with so many weeds and roots that have to be pulled out or roto tilled out.
It's a lot of work and also a short growing season. If you want organic veggies, then you have to put down organic soil. It's not cheap and also the cost of maintaining the garden isn't cheap either. I have never actually figured out how much we spent on the garden but it feels like we put so much effort and money into it and sometimes we get very little out of it. We have squirrels and other small animals around and they sometimes bite into the tomatoes and just leave the tomato there to shrivel up. I wait all year for fresh jersey tomatoes (we are known for our tomatoes) and yet I don't get a lot of them because of the animals. I think we have to start covering the garden plot with chicken wire or something to keep out animals. Now this year we have a ground hog (wood chuck) and I read they tunnel underneath the ground so they can come right up inside the garden and destroy it. Hope you have more luck than us if you decide to get your allotment. I love fresh veggies from the garden and wish ours was more enjoyable.

Sol said...

We had an allotment that had been left to get over grown and had brambles and cooch grass. it took 2 years to get it all clear.

We also had to get there, it was quite far from our house. So we either had to drive or get the bus.

in the end it cost more than it did to get the veg organic from the market.

We are now extremely lucky to have a large garden. I can now do a little in the morning before work and before it gets too warm. and then a little whilst dinner is cooking. the trick seems to be to keep on top of it all the time.

We don't grow carrots or onions any more. all the veg we grow is the stuff that is SUPER expensive in the shops.

Good luck with having one

Brittanygirl said...

I don't have an allotment but I have bought a half acre field 200 metres up the road from my house, in Brittany, for €600. I've spent lots on fencing and buildings but to me it's been worth every pound/euro. I have a polytunnel, raised veggie beds, five pallet compost bins, five baths, old dairy containers and six IBCs in which to collect water as there is no mains water on site. A small barn - where two goats sleep - has been built and the water is collected via the guttering from that. Three hen and duck sheds and a duck pond complete the area - oh and an old caravan stores my hay, straw and animal feed. The animal house cleanings go into the compost bins along with a few grass clippings, weedings, kitchen veggie waste and a neighbour's horse manure. I don't think I save money necessarily but I love doing it all and having fresh veggies and some fruit on tap, along with free range eggs. The exercise must do me good and I have loads of stuff to give to friends and neighbours too. The polytunnel means I have salad, parsley etc. all winter and somewhere to overwinter my terrace pot plants and I never have to worry whether I have enough veggies for lunch or supper - I know I do. Allotments are brilliant!


Rachel said...

I love my allotment ! Fresh air, good company, lovely organic veg, fruit and flowers ~ and it saves me in the region of £600 in annual gym membership, what's not to love :-)

Valeriia Babiichuk said...

Hi guys.I also going to buy allotment.I have a little garden already and wonder if it won't cost me more to keep allotment and grow organic veggies than just buy veg organic from the market.

cambazola said...

Is it worth it? I'm not sure, I've spent a small fortune getting my plot up to scratch, 2 years on, (I had a plot for 3 years prior) I find that it's not worth the effort, it takes up all my free time, of which I don't have much, and, as I'm not using any chemicals, unlike most of my fellow plot holders, most of the produce gets eaten by something or other before it gets going, I've tried to be as organic as possible, even no dig, but it just gets me down when I think of the input.