ALLOTMENTS have gained in popularity recently and it can often take years to secure your plot.

Your local town or parish council are usually responsible for managing allotment sites and should be able to supply you with a list of potential plots if you are planning to put your name down for one.

But Caroline Foley, a garden designer and author of books including The Allotment Handbook, says taking on an allotment is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Here are her tips for finding the right site.
  • Make sure it’s close to home. You will not want to catch a bus carrying tools or get in a car after a long, hard day at work, to get there.

  • Choose a site which has fences, hedges and locked gates at night to deter vandals.

  • Check water arrangements. Councils should supply mains water at a convenient distance for plot holders. A mains water supply in the form of tanks and standpipes is essential.

  • Check out the land, examining the plot which is offered to you. Work out if you have plenty of sun or if the plot is going to be in shadow, which isn’t good for a lot of vegetables. Large trees may cast shade and sap the soil of nutrients.

  • Study the neighbours’ plots. If they are neglected and dominated by tough, perennial weeds such as ground elder, you may be facing a losing battle.

  • It’s important to feel comfortable there. Some sites have a clubhouse for meetings or a trading shed where you can buy gardening goods at more or less trade prices. Others will have tools or machinery for the use of members.

  • It’s worth befriending the committee or manager, showing them you’re really keen, to try to fast- track the waiting list.

  • See how the site is run before committing yourself. In two-thirds of council sites, local authority officers deal with the day-to-day management and any disputes. The remaining third of sites are run by allotment societies who manage the site on a lease scheme. Good leadership makes a difference. The committee may buy goods in bulk to sell cheaply to plot holders, bring in manure from local stables and old carpet for smothering weeds.

  • Check the rules. Some allotments are run on near-military lines, with penalties dished out for late payment of rent or neglect of plot. Others are strict about what you may or may not grow, some insisting on mostly vegetables.

  • Many councils provide sheds. But check that you haven’t inherited a rickety structure made from bits out of skips.

For more information on allotments, contact the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG), the nationally recognised body for the allotment movement, at, or phone (01536) 266 576.