Micro allotments?

Tim Young - 25 January 2011

My garden’s pretty small, and with two young children also making regular use of it, growing space was at a premium. In practice, before we finished the two-year wait for an allotment, this meant we were trying to get a four crop rotation into a raised bed measuring 1x1.5m. Though I didn’t weigh final yields last year, it’s fair to say the tomatoes, garlic and peas/beans did pretty well all told (the less said about the brassicas though, the better).

This experience gave me a great idea for getting more people growing – micro allotments. The basic idea, in my mind, was (or is) that rather than having to wait years for an enormous patch of overwhelming land, instead you get a much smaller plot with four (or possibly six) small raised beds (each say a square meter). The beauty of the scheme, in my mind, is that the beds are much easier to maintain and clear, by their nature they encourage rotations and organic growing, and for council’s or other land owners they’re much less land hungry and (potentially) non-permanent, so they’d suit urban locations. You can imagine the attraction to a land owner, say, of hosting a ‘micro-allotment’ for a couple of years on a patch of land awaiting development, or of a local council including some micro allotment plots in a new housing development. The details need working out of course, but you get the idea.

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like Mad Men’s Pete Campbell (40seconds in), it was a great idea, but it turns out it already existed. Yesterday an email popped into my inbox from Bakewell & District Organic Gardeners (BADOG) group, about the launch next month of its Micro Bed Gardening project.

The group's Chair, Colin Shaw, has been trialling plots based on four one meter square beds, to be rotated each year (sounds familiar). The results so far have been encouraging. In 2009 the four beds (on a cool, windy site in Derbyshire) yielded over 30kgs of produce. And while last year’s unusual weather meant that yields were down somewhat, the group has obtained funding from the Peak District National Park Sustainable Development Fund, the Co-op Community Fund and Derbyshire County Council to expand the idea out, and are now looking for 50 participants to take part in a two-year trial of the techniques.

If anyone wants to join in with the trials, it will be officially launched at the next meeting of BADOG on Tuesday 15th February at 7.30pm at the Friends Meeting House, Chapel Row, Bakewell, DE45 1AA, so if you’re interested then stop by. Or, if you can’t make the meeting contact Colin direct on 01433-631685 or at crshaw@btinternet.com. Participants will be given a complete step by step guide on how to use the techniques, including how to prepare soil, sow seeds and harvest produce. There will also be an online community and optional face-to-face meetings.

This sounds like a really interesting project, and I wish Colin and BADOG luck with it. Great minds obviously think alike.

Tim is editor of the Soil Association's Living Earth magazine, and has written on food, health and consumer issues for the last ten years. When not at work Tim is normally being run ragged by his two young sons. In 2009 Tim started trying to grow vegetables, and last year he took on an allotment. Two years later he is still trying to grow vegetables, and is very hopeful that one day soon he will have some success.

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03 February 2011 11:18

Great idea – our allotment has split up a couple of plots in to smaller starter plots to get people on the waiting list started and keep up enthusiasm.

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