The Shed

I think we should start our tour of the allotments with the communal shed.

Our allotments are self-managed which means that we lease the land from the council and have a management committee run the site.

Day to day jobs are handled by the committee and volunteers. It runs on a shoestring, a heap of good will and some strategically placed string to hold it all together.

The shop is stocked with a few basics, from canes and butterfly netting, said string and a few bits which I’ve yet to work out what they are for. Tools you can borrow or hire, lawnmowers so we can keep the communal paths at least vaguely presentable.

The committee is made up of the likes of me, someone who loves the place for what it is and understands that we need a few people around to give a small amount of time for the benefit of having such a fabulous place at our disposal in return for a small sum in rent.

We manage the waiting lists, the tenancy agreements, get the council to sort out the fences every now and then, hold the odd fundraiser, and around we go. We sort out minor problems and try and ignore the moans and groans. Celebrate the generosity of fellow gardeners – be it with cuttings and spare seedlings or long earned knowledge.

The shop is a place to meet a few people, catch up on some news, swap some horror stories of how badly your broad beans are doing, and generally smile.

Hopefully next time I go to the allotments the sun will be out, I will have the right camera lens with me and we’ll manage to get beyond the shed. I’ll also try to explain a bit more about the allotments and their history, their purpose, their ups and downs. In the meantime how about a view as you walk up the path from the shed?

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61 thoughts on “The Shed

  1. I wish we had a community shed. They wont do it, but on the odd occasion we will have a few friends around and have a barbeque. We have 2 people as site reps who once a month will go around with their clip boards and report plots that are not being worked to the council. This doesn’t go down well with the plot holders. It wouldnt be so bad if their plots were up to scratch, and they never seem to be put on the list – I wonder why.
    Once the council get the report then the tenant is sent a letter giving them 28 days to tidy up or get off. Harsh really with all the rain we have been getting but necessary with some plots.
    People watch programmes on tv and think it would be great to have an allotment so they apply and wait for one to become available and all enthusiastic they start to dig, realise just how much hard work is involved and give up, but that plot has been paid up for a year and nature takes over because they have had enough of back breaking hard work. The vision of nice neat rows of veg growing is only seen on tv but hardly in the real world.

    • I know exactly what you mean about the idea and the actual reality of gardening on an allotment. We often see people a couple of times, so enthusiastic and then they leave it for a while and of course while their back are turned the weeds have grown. I realise it is hard for people with busy lives, everyone seems to want to have everything right now. It’s tough, we always give people lots of time and even help, but eventually the notices do go out.
      But having a barbeque sounds a great way to enjoy your plot :)

      • Allot of people work long hours and really dont realise just how many hours are needed to maintain a nice neat and tidy allotment, especially on our site with the marestail. I think this puts allot of people off and so they never return. We will be having allot more barbeques this summer if the weather stays nice.

  2. What a fantastic way it is run – and it saves space for each of you not having to put lots of indivudual sheds on the allotments. From what I understand right now in the UK, waiting lists for allotments are years long, is that true?

    • Hi Tanya, sorry I didn’t make myself clear, we also have our own sheds :) this is the one that has the big lawnmowers in, most people have a small shed with thei rtools in, or in my case…… humph, better not go back there!
      You are right about the waiting lists, they are long – ours is about 1 year to eighteen months, which is short in comparision to other areas like London. I had to wait about 6 months for mine, and had a choice too!

      • Oh well, still a great system (apart from those dreadful thieves). And yes, I have heard of 4 year waiting lists, such a shame for those who want to have a space of their own.

        • I know it’s so tough, space is at a premium, councils don’t have any money, and people need to be outside and exercising and eating their own food!! It makes me realise how fortunate I am

    • Thanks Marie, they are part of the urban landscape here, with a long history, but they have waxed and waned in popularity, at the moment there is a huge demand for them, so many people want a little patch of green of their own

    • Thanks Mandy, I’m finding it interesting to hear which countries have them and those that don’t. They are all across Europe, in various shapes and sizes. I nee dto sort out the next batch of photos now!

  3. Loved the inside “peek” to the shed and all of the “stuff” that looks well used. Some of the larger American cities like Boston have a long history of community gardens. There is less of that in Pittsburgh as the city is less dense and most people have enough space for their own garden. Still, fascinating to hear about it, looking forward to the next installment :-)

    • Thanks, as I’ve said I’m enjoying hearing about what other types of community gardens there are around the world. And yes the “stuff” in the shed is well worn and used, in a good kind of compfy way

  4. OO.. cool shed, love the scales and the bell! what is the bell for! Smoko Time!? I have always adored allotments. i have never been in one though, i used to see them from the train when i was travelling in england.. such a shame I did not know you then! I would have come by for a tour.

    • Smoko Time – you take the NZ girl out of NZ…. but she’s still an NZ girl!
      The bell, I’ve been wondering who would ask about that?! It’s for days when one of the key holders is on site but is working on their plot, they lock the shed up, put a blackboard outside with their name and plot number on it and then the bell is left by the side of it, so you can ring for service! My plot is too far away for the bell …..
      And did you know Celi that a lot of the allotments were originally built on railway owned land, land that was seen as not particularly good for development, but would be ok for allotments. I just love train journeys where I spot allotments

  5. Thanks, Claire, for taking the time to explain a bit of how the allotment works. There’s a public garden just down the street and the “plots” are about 4 feet square. I’ve no idea how many a person is allowed or how one applies for it/them. This one is in its 2nd year but there are others a bit farther away that have been in place for years. I think the idea is a good one, giving people with no access to land a chance to dig and feel earth between their fingers.

    • hi John, and thanks for your input, loving hearing about what goes on in your part of the world. 4 feet square, hmmm that would be a herb bed for me :) But what the heck, it is better than nothing!
      And that is exactly what allotments are about – growing fruit, veg and flowers, exercise and health benefits, and YES to feeling the earth between your fingers

  6. Thanks for the post, we didn’t know how it works in the UK. I think the public garden / allotments are fantastic. I wish we had more people trying to garden here. A good way to work in the community.

    • The allotments was one of the ways I got to know many more people in my area, but in an easy relaxed kind of way, gradually getting to know some faces and names. The trouble is when you walk past someone in the street they look so different out of their gardening clothes and in their normal everyday wear, I often don’t recognise people!

  7. I was just wondering if your tools had been nicked from the communal shed, but now you have explained that. If I wanted to garden again I’d either have to put pots on our lower deck, or cut down some trees. This year I only have mint and chives and that one tomato from last year, which probably should be composted…

    • Cutting down trees is always a big decision isn’t it. They are such beautiful things and house so many birds and insects, I’m always unwilling to do it, I guess it depends on what kind of garden and gardener you are :)

  8. A most fantastic post! There are no community gardens here in Salinas, so I relished reading everything, including the comments.

  9. I love the idea of allottments–I just use a big portion in the middle of my backyard (for the sun), which looks really bad–but provides lots of goodies. Actually, my eldest son “farms” it, but he shares it

  10. I’ve never appreciated the luxury of having a backyard garden … which SHOULD be used by someone who can actually garden until I started reading your allotment posts. I’m glad to see that generous people like you are willing to help organize/keep track of things for the rest. And boo to those who abuse the system.

    • Boo hiss indeed! But to be honest I really don’t give a lot of my time – a few meetings, helping run the shop a few times a year, attending the AGM, and a few other random jobs. Not much really when I look at the pleasure it gives me. Others are far more involved and have great skills whether it is legal, organisational or mechanical. All are welcome :)

    • Hi Carl, and sorry I haven’t been very clear, they are a type of community garden that is common across England and Europe. My next post goes into a bit more detail, their history and the like. I decided to split the posts up as they were getting rather large! Hope this helps for the meantime :)

  11. Such great photos.. I laughed when I got to the last one, I was imagining an ever so huge shack, not shed.. It’s amazingly stocked and organized! What a privilege to be a part of this… maybe this year I’ll find a community garden I can work in:)

  12. We’ve just started with such a project here in Jerusalem. It hasn’t really got going yet, but there are a few enthusiasts. I will be following this with great interest. Liked the pictures on this post.

    • Hi Shimon, and thanks for commenting, I’ve enjoyed the comments so much and now hearing about how similar projects are happening in Jerusalem is fascinating for me. And thanks for the thumbs up, as ever it’s appreciated!

  13. Wonderful photographs! This is a great informative post, and answered many things I’ve been curious about. I look forward to reading more! I’ll be wishing for you lots of sun-shiny days. Thanks, Claire!

  14. Communal gardening seems to be a well received concept as many of us do not have space or proper environs for our own garden. I love the idea of growing things, both to eat and relationships, together. In Maine, several of us garden together, and there is much bounty!

    • One of the big things I’ve expereinced from gardening in a community and not privately in my own garden has been the knowledge and ideas I’ve picked up from other gardeners – it’s been invaluable to wander around and see how some of the experienced growers do things. And besides the company is fun. I imagine you and your friends have a great time together!

  15. I am so interested, Claire. This is great. When I first started reading your blog I actually had to “look up” allotments. I understood the overall concept, but I wasn’t entirely sure and so over time I’ve grown quite fascinated. And this shed must be where you keep your tools…and someone walked off with your best! Scene of the crime photos. Be sure to include a little info on how and when you got started…I do want to know more :-) Debra

    • Hi Debra, and thanks so much for your thoughts. I did wonder about using the term allotments and what it would mean to others, so it’s been wonderful to have you along for the ride!
      I should have said about the shed and THE GRAND theft, but that was from my own shed on my plot, this one is the communal shed and has more locks on it that frankly I think the locks are actually holding it all together!! I’ll take you to my plot and wee shed soon ;) Hope you are having a fabulous week Debra

  16. Fascinating, Claire. I know nothing about this subject so I look forward to all you have to say and show. All joy on your little plot! HF

  17. I think if I was going to make my garden over I would have more vegetable growing spaces. How many hours a week do you reckon it needs to keep an allotment going? I visited a friend’s and watered for her for a week last summer and it seems like a lot of work, though very rewarding.

    • Hi Joanna, and thanks for popping in. Hmmm how long? I guess it depends on what you grow and how much of it you are growing. If you grow lots of fruit and do permanent type plants (like artichokes or herbs) then it is low maintenance and less time. If you grow lots of things from seed and transplant them, do the weeding and watering then it’s much more.

      I guess it would also depend on how big the area is and what condition it is in when you get it, plus how precious you are about things like weeds!

      I have a large plot – about 200 – 250 sq metres and it’s taken me a few years to get it to work for me. So in the summer I spend a lot more time there, the minimum would be about 3 times a week for about 2 to 3 hours each time – lots of planting, watering and weeding work. In winter it is a lot less – in fact I went away this winter and left it all covered up so I wouldn’t come back to a field of weeds.

      But remember some of that time is spent sitting staring out to sea drinking tea or picking fruit and veg! I think the answer is, as long as you can give. And as you say, the bonus is in the rewards you literally get to pick or dig!

      And if anyone else reads this reply I’d love to hear how long other people spend!

  18. Allotments are brilliant aren’t they? Our neighbour has one but we have enough to manage with our own (small) plot! It’s brilliant to belong to the Allotment Association anyway as then you can take advantage of the bulk buying and the advice of those who’ve been at it longer than you. Have fun and I love the communal shed! :)

  19. I found this a really interesting post and a good insight into how you run your allotments. I gasped when I saw the size of your allotment 200-250 square metres. We have a number of community gardens in Brisbane with individual allotments of approx 8 square metres. I have managed to rent two of them side-by-side so that I can devote some of my plot to the veggies that take longer to mature – garlic, potatoes, swede, parsnips. However, being in a sub-tropical area it does mean that we can grow things like lettuces in no time at all and have a number of plantings a year. Because our plots are so small we have communal sheds to store tools, wheelbarrows, hoses etc. Committee members open these sheds every Wednesday morning and Sunday afternoon for the general use of allotment holders and volunteers who want to work on the community garden area. The boot of my car is my “shed” as I like to work my allotment on a whim and need to keep my own tools – I line the boot with a big waterproof sheet for protection. I go two or three times a week and spend a couple of hours there. My allotment is at Beelarong Community Farm and can be found at beelarong.org.au. It’s a great place, a peaceful setting and a great community spirit amongst members.

    • Hi Jean, lovely to hear about your set up. I like the idea of community gardens – where you work on a shared part for the greater benefit, my allotments are all individual plots. And I know what you mean about the boot of the car being a shed, ours seems to permanently have whisps of straw in it! An dnow I need to pop along and see the website you mentioned, I love seeing how other places are organised. what they do and of course lovely photos.
      My mind boggles at the thought of more than one growing season!!

    • Growing your own food certainly has made me much more appreciative of the effort that goes into it all.
      And there’s nothing like taking some kids along and getting them to help you dig for gold, aka dig for potatoes. Their faces are a wonder, it’s like a treasure hunt as I turn the soil over lots of small hands diving in to the soil to pull the potatoes out. Magic!

  20. Pingback: A wander around an English allotment | Promenade Plantings

  21. I’m rather hoping that since we haven’t the communal allotment setup here and I’m about to revamp my home property, perhaps I’ll be able to share a little with the immediate neighbors once this place gets underway, like a very small-scale Celi over at the Kitchen’s Garden. I don’t yet know whether a tiny Texan plot will actually *produce* anything, so that’ll have to be sorted out first! ;) Meanwhile, it’s lovely to be able to enjoy your real allotment vicariously and see its inner workings. :)

    • Oh Kathryn, this is sounding so exciting – some extra land, all that potential. And I’m sure with your artist’s eye it will be a bountiful and beautiful place to be. There are many times I wished I had a bigger garden, the convenience of the allotment is not it’s best attribute. But then I have to say to myself you are lucky to have one! And now I am genuinely looking forwar dto reading about your progress and seeing the artistic results

  22. Pingback: Pottering and pootling and photographing the allotment | Promenade Plantings

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