Birmingham & District Allotment Cooperative

Representing Allotment Gardeners & Associations Across Birmingham

Thinking About Getting a Plot?

What is my next step?

Taking on a plot can be rewarding but it’s challenging, tiring and fun. We hope that this information will help you decide if becoming a tenant is for you!

What are the benefits?

Growing your own food can be rewarding in lots of ways – watching your seeds grow through its many stages and ending up as fresh veg on your table is a very satisfying feeling. In addition, you can be confident that your food hasn’t chalked up any air miles, has been grown organically (if this is what you have chosen to do) and is exactly what you want to eat. Not only is having an allotment good for your physical health, it is good for mental health.

This article in the People’s Friend Online suggests 7 Good Reasons to Keep an Allotment

What are the Challenges?

Challenge 1 – Clearing your Plot

The plot you take on may not have been well cultivated by the previous tenant or have been vacant for a number of years. You will need to be prepared to put in some hard work to get the site into a good condition for planting. Often the best strategy is to cover part of the plot whilst you concentrate on another section. Some plotholders will recommend digging it over but a technique known as “No Dig” is becoming increasingly popular especially if you decide to use raised beds.

Challenge 2 – Keeping Those Weeds at Bay

You are required to keep your plot tidy and weed free and you will need to decide how to manage your weeds.  You may decide to try a variety of methods. Some sites may ban the use of weedkillers. Whatever method you choose it is likely to require physical effort!  Weeds are persistent so you will need to make regular visits to your plot to keep them at bay, especially during the growing season.

The first year and Spring is the busiest time and you should estimate that you will need to spend at least 5 hours per week on the plot. Smaller or half-plots obviously require less time

Tennant are responsible for clearing their plot and responsible for removing all rubbish and waste materials they may find. Bonefires are only allowed in November but you are allowed to build compost bins where vegetable matter will rot down ready to use next year.

Challenge 3 – Time Management!

Allotments need regular visits. Little and often is the best advice. in hot weather you might need to water your crops every day. Have a think about how you would realistically fit this into your routine, or rope your family into helping.

Challenge 4 – Tools and Equipment

Basic tools include: a spade, a fork, a trowel and a rake. You may inherit a shed or put one on your plot but allotment sheds are often the target for thieves and vandals. Sites do not have cover for individuals’ tools and it is unlikely that your household insurance will cover them.

Challenge 5 – How Do I choose what to plant? And where to plant it? And all the rest??

Start by planting the things you know you or your family will enjoy eating. At one time plotholders were encouraged to grow potatoes as this meant the ground was dug repeatedly. More people are now growing potatoes in buckets using compost or woodchip. Fruit bushes will often give fruit in the first year if planted early enough.

The first year of your plot may not provide large quantities of fruit and veg as you may find your plot needs a lot of planning and preparation. As time goes on you will learn about your plot – what grows well, where it goes, how much watering, fertiliser or mulching is needed and so on. If you are realistic about what you can achieve, plan well and act with patience, you are sure to reap all the rewards of being an allotment holder in the fullness of time!

What do I do next?

Check out page on how to find a plot, some sites have long waiting lists but on others you may get on straightaway if you are willing to take on a challenge.  In the meantime, start reading about the subject and deciding how you would manage your dream plot!