Gardening: Growing the movement – National Allotments Week

Allotments and gardening can help people keep fit.
Allotments and gardening can help people keep fit.

It’s National Allotments Week and the theme is Growing the Movement, paying tribute to the voluntary association management committees, plot-holder volunteers and councils managing, creating, developing and safeguarding sites.

Allotments and volunteers go hand in hand, especially now, as increasing numbers of voluntary allotment associations have taken on devolved management of their sites.

Even the smallest greenhouse can widen your range of crops.

Even the smallest greenhouse can widen your range of crops.

However, some sites have been managing themselves for decades and it’s basically running a fully fledged busines unpaid – managing finances, maintaining and developing sites, monitoring plot cultivation, recruiting and supporting new plot-holders, arranging events and liaising with the allotment authority or landlord.

The National Allotment Society (NAS) aims to protect, promote and preserve allotments and every level of the society has a role to play:

Allotment associations: Protect your site, register as a community asset.

Allotment federations: Keep allotments in the public eye. Make sure they are mentioned in the Local Plan and lobby councillors and MPs.

Calendula (pot marigolds) are suitable to sow now and overwinter.

Calendula (pot marigolds) are suitable to sow now and overwinter.

Councils: Preserve and value your allotment service – they have the potential to deliver public health targets.

Plot holders: Join the NAS and support your regional allotment network.

Aspiring plot holders: Don’t be put off by a long wait – sign up now. Without waiting lists, allotment authorities can’t assess demand.

The NAS president-elect, Phil Gomersall, said: “We need all our P’s in one basket, People Power from Plots to help Preserve and Promote the nations’ allotments.”

Despite the pressure on land to build new houses and the effect on allotment services of council cuts, allotments are still thriving, the NAS claims.

To mark the week, which runs until tomorrow, allotment groups are hosting a variety of events.

To find out more, visit


l For more information, plus cook what you grow, recipes, environmental news and more, log on to (now smartphone friendly),, follow me on Twitter @MandyCanUDigIt or you can like me on Facebook at Mandycanudigit


Sow hardy annuals directly into borders. They will overwinter and flower next summer.

Propagate perennials by dividing once they have finished flowering, but only in areas with some rain and duller weather, to avoid drying out problems.

Don’t be worried by bright green, heavily-armoured looking insects on your plants - these are harmless shieldbugs which do not require control.

Get in qualified tree surgeons to remove large shrubs and trees that were casualties of winter waterlogging and summer drought. Remove stumps wherever possible, as rots could spread to other plants.

Ventilate conservatories to their maximum to prevent soaring temperatures. Use shading if necessary. Damp down greenhouses on hot days to maintain humidity.

Clearing out fallen leaves and debris regularly from ponds will help to keep down algal growth, as there will be fewer nutrients available from rotting organic matter. Barley straw pads or extract may also be beneficial.

Don’t cut off the flowerheads of ornamental grasses. These will provide winter interest.

Remove and destroy any Nicotiana showing signs of downy mildew. This shows up as yellowish blotches on the upper surface of the leaves.

Earwigs can make dahlia blooms ragged. Set traps to reduce damage.

Keep harvesting courgettes before they become too big.

Take cuttings of herbs such as rosemary, sage or mint now to bulk up supplies. Put cuttings in moist, well-drained potting compost (one part grit to one part compost) and place in a cold frame.

Established clumps of chives can be divided now.