Q.I am an allotment holder and wondered whether there are any schemes whereby the Council can provide pesticide free compost/manure in bulk to our site.
(Mr John Cockram, 24 December 2008)
A.There are a number of schemes that can help allotment holders but they are likely to vary from county to county. The best idea is to consult the Parks Department of your local council and seek their advice. Pesticide‐free compost in large amounts is, we would think, unlikely to be available from the council though. Your best bet would be to make friends with the owners of riding stables; they’re usually only too happy for someone to relieve them of the mountains of manure!
But perhaps the first thing to do is find out if your allotment has its own association. Most allotments are council‐owned and it’s possible that the council employs an allotment manager. Alternatively the council may have handed over responsibility to a local committee or association, in which case they’ll be the people to consult first about plans, ideas, or concerns you have.
Many local allotment associations have their own websites, which, as long as they’re kept updated, can provide helpful and topical advice. And, of course, longstanding allotment holders will be able to offer plenty of advice about everything from the best place to get manure or compost, to the most productive varieties of plants. Most allotment holders are very generous with their time and expertise and are happy to encourage new‐comers, so get chatting!
Some allotment associations will be members of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG). This organisation represents allotment holders nationwide and, according to its website, its aim is to protect, promote and preserve allotments for future generations. It runs a seed scheme through which seeds can be bought at discount prices and it also offers insurance for allotment holders. To find out more about what the society can do for you, visit its website: nsalg.org.uk
A newer organisation offering the same sort of seed and insurance schemes is the SWCAA. The non‐profit‐making South West Counties Allotment Association, although based in the south of England, aims to represent allotment holders throughout the country. As a Friend of the SWCAA, you can get allotment insurance for just £2 a year. Check out their website for more details on this and their discounted seed scheme: allotmentssouthwest.org.uk