Reducing allotment plot sizes

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KG Emma
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Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby KG Emma » Tue Nov 19, 2019 11:17 am

We have been having a debate at KG on allotment sizes. We have a feature going in the February issue on a site that turned two large overgrown sites into tiny starter plots for people, complete with mini coloured sheds containing a few colour co-ordinated tools. A complete starter kit for growing your own. Their concept is actually quite strict in that you are only allowed to work the plot for a year then you move on to the waiting list to take a larger plot if you want. So far they have had an enormous amount of interest.
I am secretary of some allotments in my village and none of the plots are large. Half and quarter size but we are still finding people taking them on and giving up after a year as they are 'too busy' to cope with the size of them. We are considering turning a half plot into some smaller sections. They would be taster plots. Just a way to get people into growing a few edibles on a plot size they can manage better. Just wondering what our forum users think? If you have an allotment are you seeing this idea happening on your own sites?
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Stephen
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Stephen » Tue Nov 19, 2019 11:44 am

Hi Emma
For the gardens where the undergardener & I have a plot, you may have a whole or a half. I think newcomers are generally offered a half. This was the case when we started in 2006 but I know of an example where a whole plot was allocated to a family who were transfering from another set of gardens in Berkhamsted (from Sunnyside to Butts Meadow) and this probably was a special case.
We were lucky in that the adjacent half came up after a year and we were able to consolidate to a whole plot.
There is certainly a problem with uncultivated plots (BTW: interesting discussion on GQT from Calne about "untidy" plots.)
Any encouragement for starters is to be welcomed but my initial thoughts would be that with only a quarter the problem would be that unless you plant fast growing things such as salad leaves, they will lose interest waiting for their beans to develop.
If I was going to encorage newcomers (I don't have that responsibility thank goodness), I would think hard about when you start people on the plot and give them a few young plants ready to plant out rather than tools and small sheds.
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby oldherbaceous » Tue Nov 19, 2019 3:49 pm

I think the tiny starter plots are quite a good idea but, then having to give that up after a year and then going on a waiting list is not so good...especially if the waiting list is for a few years. I also think, they will still have the same problem when the people step up to a larger plot and realise it is a completey different amount of work. Being brought up on good quality tools, that have proved themselves over many years, the thought of colour co-ordinated tools, makes me cringe a little.... :)
On our allotments, we have started doing quarter plots...some people do a year and pack up, while others move onto a bigger plot.
We also do a little bit of plot sharing and this seems to work very well.
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Monika » Tue Nov 19, 2019 7:08 pm

The allotments in our village were re-opened up 36 years ago as eight (large) full size plots. None of those remain at that size, they have all been halved or quartered. The system seems to work very well: the elderly can move to a smaller size when the work gets too hard, people busy with jobs and family can move to a larger plot when they retire and the very novices can start with a mini patch. There are also some plot sharers.
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Westi » Tue Nov 19, 2019 7:39 pm

Give them no treats to entice! It is a great hobby but there is a cost with tools, sheds & stuff. I got my plot on an unused back row with nothing & had to save & buy the extras like a shed & fencing. That made it more mine & more valuable & precious. Some of my neighbours who had to do the same have since left & the new people walk in with a shed, fencing & even greenhouses. The turnover of them makes me a bit dizzy. There is a cost to gardening & the previous committee made them pay £50 for a greenhouse if on the site, but the new committee gives it as is with the plot for nothing extra.

Emma your post may make me rant, the neighbour on the side that is their responsibility to fence asked me when I am replacing the posts? They walked onto a plot with mature fruit trees, an expensive shed & raised beds! I say count your blessings & fix the fence as I'm sick of propping up your rotted fence! (Soz that is a rant)!
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby robo » Tue Nov 19, 2019 8:33 pm

We tried it on our allotment ,we agreed that new plotters could only have half plots the idea was to reduce the waiting list for plots after a few months all help broke out as some off the new plotters insisted they where entitled to a full plot
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Stephen » Tue Nov 19, 2019 10:20 pm

Emma, you certainly have a great variety of views already! I hope it is helpful.
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Primrose » Wed Nov 20, 2019 10:15 am

It,s a long time since I had an allotment but I confess it was certainly an eye opener in terms of realising what a time and effort commitment it was and I think making it too easy for newcomers does not necessarily encourage the commitment needed to keep people on board so half plots if left untended, or badly cared for, are probably better than whole plots which deny more people a chance to grow if there is a long waiting list.

Sheds and greenhouses are luxuries which perhaps ought to be rewarded to those committed plotters who have stood the step of time and know how to use them to the full, rather than newbies who are embarking on the experience for the first time.

Neighbours of ours with a tiny garden were on the waiting list for a local allotment for about three years before one became available. They set off to tackle a grossly overgrown plot with a spade and a hand trowel between them. Having acquired some extra tools they decided after about three months that the only way they could keep it up was to abandon all the other free time activities in their life and gave it up. I think they were totally unaware of the reality of the time commitment involved, including the wasted travelling involved travelling to and from the plot.
Last edited by Primrose on Wed Nov 20, 2019 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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KG Emma
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby KG Emma » Wed Nov 20, 2019 11:09 am

Thank you for all your replies. A variety of opinions there.
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Muddyboot68 » Wed Nov 20, 2019 6:51 pm

Full size plots, half plots, quarter plots???? Can anyone tell me a size in square feet a full size plot is. Mine is 2000 sq feet, with shed is this a full, half or quarter plot.
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LittlePottyPlotter
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby LittlePottyPlotter » Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:13 pm

As one of the architects of the starter plot initiative on our site I thought I’d explain it and the thought process behind it. Every year, as with all sites, people come and go for a wide variety of reasons but it’s heartbreaking when new people take on a plot (full and half sizes) all enthusiastic and yet fail to get to grips with it because they have failed to appreciate the time, energy and commitment involved. They often leave after a year feeling disillusioned and disappointed by their allotment experience, the association is also left with an overgrown plot!

The starter plots were created to give beginners a gentler introduction into plotting. People who have had plots before or who chose not to go down the starter plot route do not have to do so. Our starter plots are let good to grow, so the soil is turned, a small shed and tools are provided and they have a space in the community poly tunnel to grow tomatoes, etc. The starter plot is rented to them for 1 year at a enhanced rent, they then get priority on our waiting list. Our site has a healthy waiting plist but normal annual turnover means a plot is likely to become available for them at the end of their year. We are a large site and are also moving towards halving and quartering plots, these seem to better suit the demands of modern life. The demand for starter plots is very high and our age demographic has reduced considerably, which is essential for site sustainability.

The starter plots are a try before you buy option. They are a learning space and the quantity and quality of produce so far has been amazing. For us the most important thing is that they have had a positive experience, so even if they decide it’s not the right time or thing for them, they have enjoyed it and we are not left with a mess! When they move onto their 2nd year plot they are more realistic about what to expect and are better prepared.

Oh and although they do get colour coded tools, they can bring their own :)
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Shallot Man » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:12 pm

I feel the problem might be watching Monty Don& other gardening programmes, they probable think he does all that on his own. Take on a plot without out realising the amont of work involved. One thing watching it on the box, doing the work is another thing. :wink: :wink:
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Westi » Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:51 pm

I'm not sure tbh LittlePottyPlotter. (Welcome as well)! But good you give an option of size. Our biggest fails are those who want their children involved got 1 or 2 who succeeded but most don't! The distraction of IT being available is not helpful & like Shallot Man thinking they will think Monty can so we can! You have to have the passion, accept the fails, the changes with the climate. When you are new & excited you just shove in seeds & don't factor in the obstacles! If I had the opportunity I'd give them a how to for the area your in. Not just the small space but what can you grow & how can you succeed in the small space. Gonna have to help them not just give it to them!
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Colin2016 » Fri Nov 22, 2019 8:11 am

Wonder if a prepared raised bed,with seeds & instructions for the coming season would be a entry level benefit.

Perhaps have list of books/videos to help, maybe even have an allotment library?

If they get the bug great they can upgrade next year, if they fail no unsightly plots gone to seed or covered in carpet/plastic/weeds for committee to clear.
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Stephen
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Re: Reducing allotment plot sizes

Postby Stephen » Fri Nov 22, 2019 11:21 am

Welcome LittlePottyPlotter
That is a great post.
The idea that succeeding on your starter plot helps people along the waiting list is good, and if your waiting list is long then offering halves is excellent. For myself, I wonder if a quarter is enough to produce enough to maintain interest. I wonder if interest is maintained by produce being available.
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