Saturday, 14 September 2013

Allotment waiting lists & community gardens

In many parts of the country there are long waiting lists for allotment plots. In some large towns and cities these waiting lists might stretch for years. People often complain that councils should "do something" about them and often mention getting groups together to demand more space for allotments. Unfortunately few councils are in the position to make new land and what property holdings they do have are now under pressure to return a decent income, especially with all the deep cuts in their budgets recently.

At the same time we have community gardens struggling to keep going due to the need for volunteers.  These shared growing spaces are often set up to provide garden beds for those with no access to their own backyards, but they can also give schools that lack their own gardens beds for the children to grow in. Community gardens should really be a place to help build community spirit & cohesion but it seems many of them struggle to recruit enough volunteers interested and/or knowledgeable in gardening to sustain their development.

So here's an idea for councils: take your allotment waiting list and point people on it to their local community garden. Folk who take up the challenge and help at the community garden get to move more rapidly up the waiting list. This has a number of benefits :

* councils are seen to be "doing something" about allotment waiting lists,

* community gardens are likely to get a steady flow of volunteer gardeners, some of whom might well stick around even after getting their own allotment plot,

* new comers to allotments & gardening get to sample what the work is like, the ups and downs of growing & pick up hints and tips before they take up their own plot. Some folk like the idea of gardening more than they like the actual work, and so this might "weed them out" before a precious allotment plot is allocated to them,

* links will be forged between the community gardens & allotment sites, which may help with things like Tool Banks, harvest festivals, In Bloom schemes, etc.

Now some people might not want to do shared gardening and just want their own private plot. That's fine - they can just stay on the council's allotment waiting list. They might be leap frogged by some more sociable, community minded folk, but they might also find some folk drop out of the list when they discover the time & effort commitment gardening imposes.