Next week is National Allotments week, and with the sun hopefully shining, it’s a great excuse to get out in nature and enjoy all that allotments have to offer. Running from the 8th of August to the 14th of August, this year’s theme is bugs, beads and broccoli. The focus is to acknowledge the importance of gardening with nature in mind. 

The National Allotment Society and National Allotment Week 2022

The National Allotment Society (NAS) is the leading national organisation supporting the interests and rights of the allotment community across the UK. They work with the government at national and local levels, other organisations and landlords to provide, promote and preserve allotments for all. For members and those interested in allotment gardening, they offer support, guidance and advice. They started the National Allotments week in 2002 as a way of raising awareness of allotments and their role in helping people live healthier lifestyles, grow their own food, develop friendships and bolster communities.  This is something ShefFood certainly supports!

How to take part in Sheffield

Sheffield city council manage over 3,000 allotment plots on over 70 sites. There is a huge variety of plot sizes and areas, including some plots designed for disabled people (wheelchair and non-wheelchair users)  with raised beds and changes to other plots where access is needed. There are also several private allotment sites throughout the city and 20+ allotment societies. However, there is currently a long waiting list for the vast majority of allotment sites in Sheffield, so here’s how to get involved if you don’t have your plot just yet.

Help out on an allotment

You may not have your own allotment, but for the thousands of people that do in the city, we are sure they’d appreciate some help. As we are in the height of summer, there will be plenty to do on allotments of all sizes, and many allotment communities would be glad of a helping hand or two. If you know friends or relatives with an allotment, ask them if you can join them next week to help out. Or, you can get in touch with any number of the allotment societies or allotment coordinators to see if you can come to help their current plot holders. You’ll be helping those in your community grow more food whilst learning, exercising and socialising with others. 

Volunteer at a community gardens

While it’s National Allotment Week, we don’t think it should be limited to the traditional allotment structure. There are many community gardens located throughout Sheffield that could also use your time or expertise during August. Community gardens provide local people with access to growing space in their local area. It helps build community wealth by providing social interactions, educational resources for those wanting to grow and fresh produce that volunteers can enjoy throughout the year. There are many to choose from, including some of our partner organisations such as The Food Works Sheffield farm at Green Estates near Manor Lodge, Lansdowne Estate Gardening Club run by Regather and several sites run by Heeley City Farm. This is an excellent opportunity to give something back to your community, and you’ll be sure to meet some fantastic people in the process.

Do a bit of gardening at home

Allotment gardening is all about the joy of growing your own, so why not celebrate National Allotment Week by getting to work on a project at home? Whether you have a large garden or even just a window sill, you can plant some seeds this August and reap the rewards with a bit of love and attention. If you’d like a really simple project, prepare a small flower bed or large container with fine compost or seed compost and sow some French Breakfast radish. This quick-growing variety will give you delicious crunchy delights in just 30 days. Salad seed mixes are another easy crop to grow and produce leaves fast in the UK, perfect for a summer BBQ. For something to harvest in the autumn, look at planting perpetual spinach, swiss chard, pak choy and turnips. 

Watch the bugs

If you’re more into enjoying the garden’s delights without getting dirty, the theme of this year’s National Allotment Week will help you get involved. It’s all about bugs this time, and the Allotment Society is asking those involved to take an easy survey on an allotment plot to contribute to monitoring all the creates that visit our veg patch (wanted or not!).  An allotment plot is a complex web of plants, micro-organisms, fungi, insects and animals that not only produces food but also supports ecosystem services such as pollination and offers a refuge for wildlife in urban areas. Insect populations have dropped in recent years, so completing a survey can help determine which populations may be struggling most. With this information, we can do something about it. Plus, you can sit back in the sun and watch for creepy crawlies, not to mention it’s an excellent activity for kids to get involved in too.

If you’re interested in taking part, visit the National Allotment Society website at https://www.nsalg.org.uk and download a survey. You can also find out lots of info on allotments and advice on growing more food this year.