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Making friends over the cabbages - the friendship value of an allotment

As we are in the gardening season, I thought it would be good to have a blog about friendship between allotment holders.  My daughter Bethan has an allotment, so I asked her a few questions about her allotment and the friends she has made along the way. 

How long have you had your allotment?

I’ve had an allotment with my partner for a year, it’s been a labour of love and I have definitely had my ups and downs with it, but we’re now living the allotment dream daily and wouldn’t change it for the world!  We took the plot on in April 2021, after 2 years on a waiting list and a year of lockdowns and staring at the same four walls! We were shown a few different plots and decided on the most overgrown one of all because we’re crazy… and we love a project!

At the time of taking on the plot we had a lot of free time on our hands so were able to be up there frequently, which was ideal because the damage was far deeper than we could ever have imagined!

The plot hadn’t been used for 6 years and in the meantime had been a dumping ground for rubbish - resulting in layer upon layer of plastic under earth!

We spent the following 8 months focussing on litter picking, getting the plot into ship shape and preparing it for planting. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears but we persevered and were able to get it to a useable space within a few months.

What do you grow?

We are now growing an abundance of fruit and veg! We were very lucky that the plot had already established plum trees and raspberry/ blackberry bushes, so we were able to cut those back and get them looking healthier while digging up the rest of the plot.

We now also have onions, garlic, peas, lettuce, blueberries, rhubarb, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, radishes, beetroot and a large herb garden too, already thriving!

Do you chat to other allotment holders and have you made friends?

Joining a community of likeminded people was one of the main reasons I wanted an allotment in the first place. Having only lived in our town for a few years, it took a while to feel at ‘home’ in our community. Having an allotment is like being part of a secret little party! It’s like a whole other town, where community and nature is at the heart.

Everybody knows everybody, there is always somebody on hand for help or to share a flask of tea with, and there are often allotment holder events, too.

Up there it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, where you’ve come from - the only thing that matters is that you look out for each other, for nature and for the planet! It’s a really beautiful thing to witness, and it allows you to take a step back from the everyday hustle and bustle of busy life and step into a slower, more grounded space.

I have built some incredibly close friendships through taking on an allotment, with people of all ages! It’s a real bonding experience.

Do you share produce?

People regularly share produce - it’s almost expected that if you have excess you share it with others. We have monthly seed and plant swaps, and people are always offering up eggs from chickens, too!

Would you recommend an allotment?

I would recommend an allotment to anyone. They’re hard work and take time and effort but the positives outweigh the negatives x 1000!  I never feel more calm, grounded or part of a community than I do when I’m up at our plot, surrounded by birds singing, nature and friendly ‘hello’s'! It’s not for the faint hearted but it’s been incredible. I would go so far as to say it’s changed my life - you really do get a new perspective on what it is to exist when you start to understand the ecosystem of the world, and how every tiny little living thing has a purpose and feeds into the purpose of another. 

The main bit of advice I would give to anyone starting out with an allotment is: “Chuck it in’t ground and see if it grows”! Just give it a go! There’s lots of conflicting information out there that can feel a little overwhelming to begin with, if you’re completely new to gardening. Your best bet is to take it step by step, day by day, and enjoy the process as much as the outcome! You’ll find your way of doing things. Also, ask for advice! If there’s one thing allotment-eers enjoy, it’s talking about allotments! No question is too small, and people are always happy to help.