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UK/Scotland: Allotments/Community Gardens are now very chic

  • Subject: [cg] UK/Scotland: Allotments/Community Gardens are now very chic
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 25 May 2004 07:28:37 EDT


This column came from the "Scotsman." Please note that unlike US news chain articles, this one leads off with Allotment/Community Gardens and talks about them as a way to avoid eating GM crops.

Hopefully this will catch on in the States like the Beatles "British Invasion" of the 1960s. Also the BBC Worldwide gardening show is great to catch on the web or via shortwave.

Adam Honigman]
Clinton Community Garden 
Tue 25 May 2004
10:37am (UK)
Gardening Column

By Hannah Stephenson, PA Features


We used to think of allotments as being the preserve of the older generation, working out their retirement on their vegetable plot or just sitting and contemplating, rather like TV EastEnder Arthur Fowler.

But now allotments have had an image change and become the must-have addition for organic-minded people and families who want to grow their own produce and steer away from GM crops.

Allotment expert and garden designer Caroline Foley explains: "In this traditionally cloth-cap, male preserve, there has been a remarkable new uptake by women, young couples and professional people. Food scares have made growing organic food in season seem ever more attractive."

There is now an allotment plot holder living in every 16th house throughout England and Wales, she notes in her new book, The Allotment Handbook (New Holland, £12.99).

So, how do you go about getting a suitable plot and what should you look for?

Most allotments are owned by local authorities, so that's the first place to start to find out where your nearest allotment is. Some councils advertise vacant plots, prepare them for newcomers and even put on courses for beginners.

Once you have found a site, you need to look at the practicalities:

Is it near to your home? You probably won't fancy catching a bus loaded with gardening tools on a regular basis.

Is there a mains water supply such as tanks and standpipes? This is vital, but isn't always supplied.

Find out about the local crime rate. If the site has been frequently vandalised, it may be worth thinking again.

An excellent site will have a clubhouse and a trading shed.

Many councils provide sheds, but always check the state of them first. You may inherit an old rickety structure made from bits and pieces, or end up hanging your tools in a rusty old corrugated hut.

It's worth checking to see who manages the site. Some are run by local councils but others are self-managed. Foley believes the latter may be a better option.

"By taking responsibility for the site into their own hands, plot holders generally develop a greater sense of community and become more committed to making things work," she says.

Allotments are normally 10 poles, which is 250 sq m (303 sq yd), which is thought to be the right size to supply a family of four with vegetables throughout the year. You may be able to have a half or even a quarter plot if you think a whole plot is going to be too big for you.

Talk to neighbouring plot holders about the soil type and the pros and cons of the site, the most prevalent weeds and which way it is facing.

Once you've chosen your plot, it's time to plan the layout...


If the Chelsea Flower Show is anything to go by, the must-have plants for next year are foxgloves, irises and arum lilies.

These feature in many of this year's show gardens, along with grasses including Stipa, Miscanthus and Carex.

Blue is again predominant at this year's show, most notably in Bunny Guinness's Stonemarket Boat Race Anniversary Garden, which features drifts of both light and dark blue planting.

Trends are still veering towards natural planting, although it has been done this year in a slightly more organised-looking way and, thankfully, fewer of the show gardens look like meadows than in previous years.

This year has seen plenty of fiery colours, exotic-looking plants including lilies, bamboo, yucca and black grasses and terrific foliage contrasts using deep red Japanese maples and lighter leaved cornus.

Grey slate and stone are much in evidence and if you want water, again many designers are going for gentle waterfalls over natural materials rather than state-of-the-art steel.

All in all, Chelsea offered us a better balance this year as designers created the natural look with a more organised feel and many offered ideas which seem achievable at home.


These beautiful herbaceous border perennials produce colourful, blowsy blooms in shades from deep red to white and everything in-between. Vast bowls of petals emerge from thick stalks above the pretty foliage, but make sure you support them with a stake or frame, otherwise they will break in the wind. The best advice for successful peonies is to leave them alone. They hate being moved and may take several years to recover. Plant them in an open sunny spot, enrich them every year with a good mulch of organic matter and watch them grow.

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT... Easy salad leaves

Rocket is so expensive in the shops, yet it is the quickest real crop you can grow, apart from mustard and cress. Sow it successively every week if you want supplies throughout the summer. It needs picking young and frequently as it does tend to go to seed quickly in hot weather. Snip leaves when plants are 7-10cm (3-4in) high, leaving some leaf behind, and they'll regrow.

There is a huge range of cut-and-come-again lettuces, which can be sown at two-week intervals. Harvest small quantities of leaves such as 'Lollo Rossa', 'Mesclun', 'Saladin' and 'Misticanza', using scissors, leaving the stump. Apply a high nitrogen liquid feed, water well and within a few weeks a flush of new leaves will appear. You should get at least two, and up to four, pickings from one sowing.

THREE WAYS TO ... Cut down summer watering of pots.

1. Spread a layer of water-retaining gel crystals on to a piece of capillary matting and then put it on the gravel or crocks in the base of the pot, before planting.

2. Use drought-resistant shrubs and Mediterranean-style plants rather then bedding plants.

3. Use larger pots. These greatly reduce the required frequency of watering.


Hoe regularly on dry days to prevent weed seedlings becoming established.

In the greenhouse, pinch out the tips of side shoots of cucumbers two leaves beyond developing fruits.

Apply lawn feed. Liquid feeds can be applied with a watering can, or slow-release granular feeds with a wheeled lawn spreader.

Cover gooseberries, currants, strawberries and soft fruits with netting to keep birds at bay.

Complete planting out of tender bedding plants.

Plant out chrysanthemums and dahlias raised from cuttings.

Prune late-spring and early-summer-flowering shrubs like philadelphus, weigela, ceanothus, escallonia and kerria immediately after flowering.

Lift and divide water lilies.


Plant mint in an old bucket with drainage holes punched into the base, to stop it becoming invasive. Sink the container into the ground, so the rim sticks out at least 2.5cm (1in) above ground level to prevent the runners spreading.


Jun 16-20: BBC Gardeners' World Live, The NEC, Birmingham. See the best of gardening, with 40 inspiring show gardens and advice from the experts including Alan Titchmarsh and Monty Don. Book on 0870 902 0555

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