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How to get the perfect allotment

08 August 2022

Read our guide to choosing an allotment - including what questions you should be asking and what to look out for to find the perfect site.

Grandfather and family in allotment plot
Find out what makes a great allotment plot

Allotments have been part of British life for hundreds of years, with a particular boom in the previous century.

What was once intended as a way for the working poor to grow their own food has now become a way of life for hundreds of thousands of people, and their popularity increases during tough times (some councils reported a 300% increase in allotment requests during the 2020 pandemic). With the cost of living on the rise, increasing awareness of the benefits of growing organically and food disruptions caused by world events there’s no shortage of reasons to grab shovel and grow your own, and if you live in a flat or have a small garden an allotment may well be the best option.

Finding an allotment

If you like the idea of having an allotment the first thing to do is get in touch with your local council. They will be able to send you a list of various allotment sites near to you and advise on waiting times, which can be 18 months in some area.

While it is obviously sensible to have one as near as possible to your home it's worth looking at others as they can vary in terms of amenities and ease of access.

The council will be able to give you a map or a list telling you which plots are available but before you put your name down for a plot it's worth doing some homework before committing to a year's tenancy.

If your council has an extremely long waiting list look for other allotment options in the area. Organisations such as the Church of England and National Trust sometimes provide allotments, as do private landlords, so find your local allotment society or gardening community group to find out what else is available in your area.

Questions you should be asking

An allotment is a commitment so it’s important to consider whether you’re really prepared to put in the work required, and to know just what you’re getting yourself into, and the best people to provide the answers will be the allotmenteers at the site you're considering.

Visit the allotment on a weekend when allotment holders are likely to be there. Most will be more than willing in giving you a bit of background about the allotments and the plot you have your eye on, particularly if it's overgrown and blowing weed seeds in their direction.

These questions will help you understand what to expect:

Ask about the history of the plot. Who owned it before? What type of vegetables did they grow successfully? Did they add much by way of manure or compost? Did they grow organically?

Ask about the soil in general. Does it dry out or get waterlogged easily?

Find out about the amenities. Is there easy access to water? Is there space to park a car? Some allotments have restrictions on structures, so are you allowed to build a shed or greenhouse?

Find out about the allotment association. There might be an allotment association that sells seed, compost and pots at a discount. They may even rent out light machinery.

Find out how secure the site is. Security might also be a concern so ask about vandalism and pilfering.

Don't be shy! Allotment holders are generally very welcoming folk.

Read our guides on how to grow fruit and vegetables

Allotment considerations


Some allotments have mains water available, while others provide no water and it’s down to allotment holders to collect rainwater. This can be tricky in particularly dry summers, and whether you need mains water or not likely depends on how easy it is to transport water to the plot.

On the plus side, a plot without access to mains water is usually going to be cheaper, as the cost of water will be taken into account on a plot with mains water.


You’re likely to be hauling bags of compost and tools between your car and your plot, so find out where you can park and how far you need to walk. Having a route that’s suitable for a wheelbarrow or trolley will help.


Examine the weeds on the plot. Convolvulus, couch grass, horsetail (also known as mare’s tail) and ground elder will mean lots of digging to eradicate it.

Don't necessarily be put off by a bramble infested plot as they often block out light from other pernicious weeds and can make life much easier after the initial clearance and grubbing out of roots.

Once you've made your choice plan to start work on it in the autumn or winter. This will give you plenty of time to work at a steady pace to clear it in time for spring planting.

Don't think you have to clear it all in one season either. It can be done in stages and will be less overwhelming.


Allotment rental costs will vary from area to area, so it’s best to look on your local council website to find out what you would be expected to pay. Generally plots cost from £60-£90


Allotments are measured in ‘rods’ or ‘square rods’, an old-fashioned unit of measurement based on the length of an oxgoad (a sort of medieval cattle prod), so it’s common to see prices listed per rod. ‘Perch’ and ‘pole’ are other names for rod you might sometimes see. Allotments have shrunk over the years to enable more people to have a plot. Considering the work involved that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


It's worth knowing what the rules are around putting up greenhouses, sheds and polytunnels and the outbuildings you have will inform what you can grow and how long your growing season is.

Other plot uses

Allotments can be used for more than just growing vegetables, but this will depend on your tenancy agreement. Some allotments allow beekeeping and hens while others won’t. Some have very strict rules about only using your plot for vegetables, while others are more lenient and allow ornamental flowers and leisure space.

Petitioning for more allotment sites

If no allotment plots can be found without a long waiting list it could be worth contacting the council for more allotment sites to be created. The Small Holdings and Allotment Act of 1908 says that if there is a demand for allotments in the borough, district or parish the council shall provide a sufficient number of allotments to persons resident in the borough and desiring the same. This is only applicable outside London. In determining demand an authority must take into consideration a representation in writing by any six registered parliamentary electors.

The act goes on to say that the local authority has the power to compulsorily purchase land for allotments.

Visit the Office of Public Sector Information online to read the Small Holdings Act 1908

Use your postcode to find out who to contact for an allotment

Rent an allotment privately

If you can't find a plot in your area another option is to find a spare garden locally. AllotMe is a garden rental service hailed as the 'AirBnB of gardens' that lets people with large gardens rent out sections as allotments, although the service is still quite new so it may be a struggle to find something in your area. If going down this route read any terms and conditions carefully – you don't want to put in months of hard work only to be evicted before you even get the chance to enjoy your product.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.