Taking on a new allotment is an exciting and life-changing experience. It’s your own patch of land to nurture, grow food and connect with wildlife. However, it’s also a communal space, and to get the best from your allotment it pays to consider the site rules, as well as the (often unmentioned) expectations of fellow plot holders.
Find out more about allotment etiquette, below.
Observe the tenancy rules
Each allotment tenancy agreement will be different. Some ban the erecting of sheds or greenhouses while others insist on new plot holders erecting a shed if there isn’t already one in place. There will be rules on when (if at all) you can have bonfires, and whether they need to be contained in an incinerator at certain months of the year. To avoid falling foul of the rules and potentially upsetting your neighbours, check your tenancy rules carefully to learn what you can and can’t do.
Get to know your neighbours
Experienced allotment neighbours can be a source of advice, spare seeds and plants and even physical help if you need it. Most allotments have a good community spirit and people are happy to help one another. However, while many allotment holders are happy to be social when they head to the plot, others enjoy peace and quiet. Compromise on this – always give time to chat to your neighbours, but avoid playing loud music or using a noisy strimmer or hedge trimmer if they want peace. You never know when you might need to call on them for help or advice.
Keep weeds under control
If you let weeds get out of control on your plot, they’ll spread or seed into other plots. This can cause huge problems with neighbours, who may employ a much stricter weeding routine than you do. While you could argue that certain weeds are important for wildlife, you need to achieve a balance that works for everyone. If you do let some weeds flourish, such as nettles and dandelions, then show your consideration for neighbours by cutting them back before they set seed. It’s especially important to keep borders free from weeds.
However, if you use weedkiller, it’s worth knowing if your neighbours grow their food organically, as they may object to you using chemicals near their plot. Don’t spray weedkiller near the border or on a windy day, as it could drift on to neighbouring plots.
Keep your dog tethered
If you have a dog, don’t let it run amok on neighbouring plots and certainly don’t let it defecate anywhere other than your plot. This is guaranteed to upset your neighbours.
Take care when lighting fires
Don’t light a bonfire on a windy afternoon, and ask your neighbours before you light it – they might not appreciate working alongside your bonfire all day. It’s also worth checking to see if windows of neighbouring houses are open or if you can spot washing hanging in neighbouring gardens.
Be water wise
Many allotment sites have access to communal water, but it pays to conserve your own by using water butts and mulching where possible. If you do use the communal water tap, try to limit your use as much as possible and don’t keep others waiting for long. At some plots, water pressure can decrease when too many people are using the tap – bear this in mind and try to water at different times of day.
Be considerate when planting
Avoid planting tall trees that block light from neighbouring plots. If grown near the border, rampant or invasive plants, such as strawberries, squash and sweet potatoes, can take nutrients from neighbouring soil and compete with crops your neighbours have grown. It’s therefore important to consider where you grow certain crops and perhaps use pots, such as strawberry planters and containers, instead.
Share your crops
Sharing crops, seed, tools and knowledge is a sure-fire way to make lasting allotment friends who will return your kindness.