As demand for allotment space rockets, AG celebrates National Allotment Week with a series of blog posts about allotmenteering, the benefits, the wildlife and why we need spaces for growing fruit and veg more than ever
If you think it’s hard to find any positives so far in 2020, pop down to your local allotment and see what’s happening there.
As supermarket shopping turned into a game of Russian roulette and people suddenly had more time on their hands, many turned to growing their own fruit and veg.
Gardens played a large part in this but our nation’s allotments is where it really happened.
Demand for spaces to grow fruit and veg has been on the rise for some time, peaking in the first half of this year.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough allotments to go round, especially as many local authorities are under pressure to build houses on suitable sites.
Allotment land has declined by 65% from its peak between the 1940s and 1960s to 2016, according to a study by the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield.
The most deprived urban areas have seen the biggest cuts in food-growing space, with eight times more allotment closures than the wealthiest areas.
Research shows that 47% of the land once used as allotments has now been built on and 25% is other forms of urban green space.
During the Second World War, the Dig for Victory campaign ensured that 18% of the nation’s fruit and vegetables were grown in gardens and allotments. In 2017/18 that figure had fallen to 3%.
The My Harvest research team at Sheffield University have been working for the past five years to better understand the role of allotment gardens in improving household food security. Their preliminary findings have shown that the yields of fruit and vegetable crops achieved by allotment gardeners in the UK were often as good or exceeded those of commercial horticulture.
AG has been a long-standing champion of allotments and at the turn of the Millennium we launched our Allotments 2000 campaign under the editorship of Graham Clarke.
The campaign aim was to get the future of British allotment gardening discussed in Parliament, with the long-term goal of halting decline and growing the movement.
Although it was successful at the time, Graham is now concerned about the future of these precious plots.
He said: “Allotments, in their various guises, have played a huge role in UK gardening for hundreds of years. But it is only in the past 50 years or so that we have realised just how important they are, not just as a healthy hobby, but as a vital way that many households eke out their food, helping to make ends meet.
Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex appreciates the importance of the grow-your-own movement and has urged the government to buy up land to help provide more allotments that could be part of a local, sustainable, nature friendly food production system.
He argues that competent allotmenteers can produce the equivalent of about 35 tons of food per hectare, which compares more than favourably to farm productivity.
Prof Goulson said: “ Allotments produce is zero food miles, zero packaging, healthy fruit and veg, often produced with minimal or no pesticides. Allotment soils tend to be healthier than farmland soils, with more worms and higher carbon content, helping to tackle climate change.”
And there is evidence it will work.
Salford Council has worked with Salford Allotments Federation to create 3 new sites and regenerate 10 areas of allotment land that had fallen into disuse, including one site that had not been used for 30 years.
In 2019 Rochdale Council committed to creating 100 new plots a year, every year, for the next five years.
A spokesman for the National Allotment Society said: “With one in eight of the UK population having no access to a garden (1 in 5 in London) and a rise in awareness of the fragility of our food systems perhaps now is the time for central government to reassess the potential of allotments to support public health and make a significant contribution to food security.
“We believe that new allotment sites can be created, there is evidence it can be done, even in urban areas where competition for land is fierce. So, let’s Dig for Recovery and grow the allotment movement.”
Let’s keep gardening!
One of the great things about lockdown was that more people discovered the joy of gardening and growing things and we greatly hope that this won’t wear off now that ‘normal’ life has resumed.
This blog is an insight into what the AG team is up in their gardens, what we like to grow, what we pick and harvest, what’s worked for us and what hasn’t – because like everyone, things go wrong for us too!
Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer within 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We already have thriving Facebook page but are also on Twitter and Instagram. These sites are a brilliant way of chatting to people, sharing news, information, pictures and just saying hello –we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.
You can find us at:
So please drop by, follow us, ‘like’ our posts and say hello –we will reply as soon as we can. Happy gardening!