Allotments are often used to grow fruit and vegetables. A private plot means that you can choose to grow varieties that aren’t available in the shops, so you can put flavour before shelf life and harvest what you need at the peak of ripeness and freshness. There’s great value in home-grown produce: the price of seeds or plants is small when you take into account the possible returns and the fact that you only need to invest as much labour as you wish, when you wish, to get an edible result. When it’s your own harvest, too, you know exactly how it has been grown.
Body and soul
Those weeds won’t dig themselves! Even a minimal-intervention approach such as no-dig or permaculture provides plenty of steady exercise and fresh air, with a variety of lifting, stretching and gentle cardiovascular exertion. Time spent outdoors among growing things is good for mental as well as physical health, with all kinds of beneficial effects on life beyond the allotment plot—especially when other activities and interests may have been restricted.
Working with others should be so much more than sitting at a nearby desk. The sharing of hopes and struggles on an allotment site is a powerful social bond, and the individual style of each plot and its owners remind us of the human patchwork. Not everyone agrees all the time, but there’s enough space outdoors, and enough in common, for a bit of perspective, and for the similarities between us to outweigh the differences.
An allotment is, almost by definition, a green space. The range of plants cultivated on the plots and the surrounding undeveloped land contribute to a micro-environment for all kinds of living things that the built environment of streets and houses cannot support in the same way. A diversity of plants and animals is good for the Earth, and equally for any little corner of it. Our allotments are organically run, and composting, recycling and the sharing and saving of resources come as second nature.
We no longer have to rely wholly on our own efforts to keep ourselves in fresh produce, but there’s no harm at all in moving towards more sustainable methods. There’s a good feeling about dining on the fruits (and veg.) of your own labours, and seed saving and sharing is both a social and a political act.