Jenny Mollison on gardens: I stretch plenty as I weed and prune

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THE biggest hurdle to providing more allotments is finding suitable land. A newly published booklet from the Community Land Advisory Service called Guide for Landowners will make this much easier.

The guide reassuringly sets out comprehensive information, suggestions and background information for farmers and public landowners. It goes through some of the financial implications. There are useful case studies illustrating different aspects of the process with the emphasis on establishing good working relationships from the start. There’s advice on thorny matters such as suitable leases. It covers planning permission issues.

Alongside the obvious nutritional benefits of eating home-grown fruit and vegetables, there are the physical benefits of cultivating an allotment. Most of what I do when I am gardening involves the kind of exercise which some of my friends pay for at a gym. I indulge in plenty of bending and stretching as I weed and prune. There’s some weight-training as I hump sacks of compost around, and finally, there’s some aerobic exercise as I dig. And I do this in fresh air to the accompaniment of all the glorious sounds and smells of the great outdoors.

I realise that my particular type of cardiovascular workout is not to everyone’s taste. Devotees of raised beds will tell you how lovely it is that their plot is high enough so they don’t have to bend down. Their soil never needs digging as it doesn’t get compacted by walking on it. What’s more, they argue that if everyone on allotment waiting lists was given a raised bed or two, the demand for plots would be satisfied.

There’s no way gardening in a raised bed would give me the same satisfaction that I get from having a full-sized plot. I was pleased to note that the Guide’s definition of the size of an allotment plot as about 250sqm agrees with mine.

I appreciate having enough room to grow fruit bushes and rhubarb, rambling pumpkins, wigwams of beans, and some annual flowers for cutting. I’ve got space for compost bins and for some chairs should I want to relax with a book or share a coffee with a friend.

I do hope that those who have a surplus piece of land will take inspiration from the Community Land Advisory Service’s publication, release a plot, and make themselves very popular with all those people queuing up to grow their own food.