Got an allotment? Why we all want a plot to grow our own

·4-min read
Demand for allotment plots has surged during coronavirus pandemic, pictured Moncrieffe Island Allotments, Perth. (SWNS)
Demand for allotment plots has surged during coronavirus pandemic, pictured Moncrieffe Island Allotments, Perth. (SWNS)

An island allotment has been inundated with demand for plots during the pandemic, and now has a lengthy queue of eager gardeners.

Gordon Hynd, 69, the secretary of allotments on Moncreiffe Island, Perth, says there is a 40 strong waiting list to hire a plot.

But the demand for an allotment is a recent trend back in the early '00s, enthusiasm was so low he struggled to fill the plots. Hynd thinks the interest may have spiked more recently as people are looking to pursue more outdoor activities due to COVID. 

The allotment, which contains 71 plots, has attracted interest from a wide range of people, including the young, retirees and families.

"Twenty years ago you couldn't give them away, but they've become very fashionable now," the retired information officer explains. 

Read more: The weeds you need to remove from your garden right now

Established in 1896, now run by the Perth Working Men's Garden Association, the site has 58 full plots (each of around 250 square yards) and 13 half plots. (SWNS)
Established in 1896, now run by the Perth Working Men's Garden Association, the site has 58 full plots (each of around 250 square yards) and 13 half plots. (SWNS)

As well as a desire to spend more time outside, Hynd also believes people have become more interested in where their food comes from. 

"A full plot would be sufficient to feed a family for a full year," he explains. 

"Back in the more traditional days, people would grow pretty basic stuff, such as potatoes and leeks.

"Now people grow a wide range of things - peas, beetroot, green beans, you name it, most folk will grow it.

"A full plot for a year is £45.

"It's absolutely wonderful seeing people's interest ignite."

Read more: 'Vegetable King’, 72, whose oversized produce went viral, shares advice for novice gardeners

Why has demand for allotments increased?

Designed for individual, non-commercial gardening, an allotment is a piece of land divided up into separate sections where locals can create their own small garden.

Allotments have seen a surge in popularity since the first lockdown began in the UK, with the National Allotment Society reporting an uplift of more than 300% last year and waiting lists for them doubling in some areas

With many forced to spend more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, people have been seeking solace in nature and outside spice, which is one explanation for newfound interest. 

Watch: Here's how to grow your own pineapples from a section of the fruit. 

The health benefits, both physical and mental, of both gardening and spending time in nature are a further reason for the spike in allotment demand. 

A recent study by academics at the University of Sheffield outlined the wellbeing benefits of allotment gardening including physical exercise, stress relief, friendship, connection with nature and a sense of tangible accomplishment.

The 163 volunteers taking part in the research recorded “high levels of social and community activities, including the sharing of surplus food produce, knowledge exchange, awareness and interaction with wildlife, emotional connection to their allotment, appreciation of time spent outside and aesthetic delight in the natural world”.

“Having a space that’s semi-private, outside, doesn’t conflict with social distancing rules and offers the chance to do a bit of practical work, grow some food, burn off some energy and anxiety, and maybe even socialise a little bit — that’s proving important,” Miriam Dobson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield studying the resurgence of allotment life told NBC.

Meanwhile a previous Dutch study found that allotment gardeners were healthier, had lower BMIs and visited their doctors less frequently than their non-gardening neighbours. 

Read more: Campaign encourages people to grow 'vulgar' geraniums

Plot 36 belonging to Rosemary and Alan Telfer who have held the plot for three years. (SWNS)
Plot 36 belonging to Rosemary and Alan Telfer who have held the plot for three years. (SWNS)

How to get an allotment in the UK

There are an estimated 330,000 allotment plots in England. 

The average waiting time for an allotment plot is around 6-18 months according to data from the Association of Public Sector Excellence (APSE), with only 12% of authorities able to guarantee a plot within six months.

The government site recommends contacting your local council to apply for an allotment near you. 

They will either allocate you a plot or, in many cases, add your name to a waiting list.

Prices tend to sit somewhere between £50 and £100 per year making them an affordable option for many who don't have their own outside space for growing. 

Many allotments are oversubscribed at the moment, but if you’re feeling frustrated about being stuck on a waiting list you can petition your local council to make space for more allotments.

You can find more information about petitions your local community might already have in place, or how to start your own, via the campaign website, Allot More Allotments.

Additional reporting SWNS.

Watch: Drone shows an allotment turned into a car graveyard. 

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