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Life On The Allotment

Tim Brooks

06 Apr 2022

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From the early 19th century, there was sustained growth in the creation of allotments, sites created by rural landowners and the church. Urban allotments rented out to the working classes also appeared in this period, with plot numbers increasing from 243,000 in 1873, to 445,000 in 1890. To around 600, 000 in 1913. Food shortages after WW1 lead to even more being created. By 1914 there were 1,500,000 plots made, on land designated for growing food crops.

Sadly after WW2 things changed, as lifestyles altered and land was required for housing, industrial buildings and less interest. So many were lost to redevelopment of the land.

Today around 330,000 allotments exist in Britain. Many have long waiting lists, due to a lack of space for growing vegetables at home, as gardens are much smaller and folk have busier lifestyles generally. I myself am secretary and treasurer at our Bradmore Road Allotment site in Burton and not often do we have many vacant plots available.

We grow many crops ourselves, much is frozen too, for winter soups and stews. Things like runner beans, squashes, leeks, swedes, carrots, broad beans, parsnips, are all useful for winter use. We store squashes and pumpkins in our house as they make great soups and pies.

One thing allotments are good for is exercise and fresh air. You don’t need a gym membership! Plus you meet interesting folk and its a great place to escape the daily stresses in life.

You could of course buy everything from a supermarket, but chances are your shop bought veggies and fruit have been sprayed with insecticides. I never use sprays, preferring growing without any chemicals at all. Even avoiding slug pellets, which are a big contributor to killing many hedgehogs in the UK. We grow enough for ourselves and rarely lose much to bugs.

We need a balance of wildlife and insects to help in a garden. Bees are lower in numbers now, so we grow sunflowers on our Allotment. The Bees love them and later on the birds eat the seeds. Its always a good idea to grow flowers among your vegetable beds. For instance, growing Calendula (marigolds) planted next to runner beans, help deter black fly aphids. We need Bees for pollination, so plenty of flowers can only be a good thing.

We find a polytunnel invaluable too, as you can grow crops that need a warmer climate, like tomatoes, chillies and peppers, plus aubergines.

As secretary of our Allotment association, I recently decided to apply for a community lottery grant, as we needed a few new sheds. We were delighted to be successful with our application. So now this spring this project should take shape. Its important for the community to have these places to enjoy the outdoors and experience growing their own food, along with their families, bringing their children along and they can all get involved and maybe the children will get a passion for growing things too. This way, allotments will thrive for future generations as well, protecting vital green areas.

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