Allotment vs garden

by Lila Das Gupta

People with allotments always lament the fact that their gardens at home suffer terrible neglect - if only it were possible to serve two masters at once.

Garden in February with greenhouse and empty raised bedsPeople with allotments always lament the fact that their gardens at home suffer terrible neglect - if only it were possible to serve two masters at once.

After years of frowning at my own back garden, I could take it no longer. The whole area was depressing to see from the window, especially remembering what a pretty garden it had once been.

So, last season I decided to take a few short cuts on the allotment in order to give myself more time to change things at home. I cadged spare plants from friends and used shop-bought ones to fill in any gaps. I also used garden centre manure rather than collect it myself from the stables and planted more potatoes than usual, since they're relatively trouble-free.

I'm so glad that I did. A long term commitment to having an allotment will inevitably mean a reappraisal of your garden at home. 

The most sensible thing to do is to make the garden as low-maintenance as possible, while still keeping the whole space a pleasant place to relax with family and friends.

If you are a new allotment holder, taking these steps now as you embark on cultivating extra land, could pay dividends in the long run. It also helps to reduce the feeling that you've bitten off more than you can chew, later on.

In my case, low-maintenance meant ripping out the lawn and a whole herbaceous border - to be replaced by a gravel path, three raised beds and a greenhouse. No more mowing of the lawn (or arguments about why it hadn't been mown). 

If you're a busy person, it makes more sense to have the greenhouse at home rather than on the allotment, because in the growing season you really have to be able to attend to seedlings and plants twice a day. 

For me, it was also important to mix edible with ornamental plants at home. I wanted to have things like herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and climbing beans, which I eat every day, just a few paces away. The most convenient way is to grow them in raised beds, which are much easier to look after. I now have a happy mix of winter salads and wallflowers growing in the same bed.

Lastly, we are finishing the changes by extending the patio, which actually gives us enough room to sit comfortably without being on top of each other.

As the new season begins, I'm looking forward to putting my energies into the allotment in the knowledge that I no longer have to fret about jobs I haven't done in the garden at home.

My only regret is that I didn't reorganise my garden a few years ago.

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Gardeners' World Web User 03/10/2009 at 12:58

I took up an allotment this year, but after constant nagging from my better half i was forced to dedicate some time to my garden at home, hard work but glad i did it now i feel less horticulturaly guilty now :)

Gardeners' World Web User 04/10/2009 at 07:34

My garden is well established, big shrubs and trees, no bedding plants, small lawn and free ranging chickens, so it is fairly low maintenance. However, I'm ashamed to confess that I pay my next door neighbour (who runs a garden maintenance business) to keep it under control. I do some work and am planning a big overhaul for the late autumn, but the few hours that he has put in this year, and the lawn mowing every week, have left me guilt free about spending all my time on my allotment.

Gardeners' World Web User 05/10/2009 at 14:48

I wish I had an allotment, there's a long waiting list in this part of Yorkshire.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/10/2009 at 09:37

Well done. It'll be worth the effort.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/10/2009 at 11:41

What part of Yorkshire are you in? Kez

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