It was inevitable that at some point I’d talk about money and the allotment at some point and I feel I need to start this post with saying that I am completely aware that I’m not poor, like a lot of people at the moment, money is tight. Some of that is down to the circumstances I find myself in and some of it is my own damn fault. I’m not in a terrible position, provided I keep my job, my landlord doesn’t put the rent up and I continue to be careful, I’m alright. I don’t want for food or heat and I have a roof over my head. So right there, I’m doing better than a lot of people, and this isn’t a moan about money or not having it, I’m very lucky.
Having said that, the allotment eats money. Last year, I was very lucky. I had enough money in savings to pay the allotment rent and Ma gave me some money at Christmas, which I hadn’t spent. Mike and Christelle took me to a garden centre and gifted me a bunch of weed fabric, compost and plants, they also gave me money for my birthday that paid for a the raised beds. Ma paid for some stuff too and I was given tools and plants by friends and other people on the allotments. Still I’m pretty sure that we spent about £400 and would have spent more if I’d had to buy all the tools I have.This year, Ma and I are both contributing £20 a month for allotment things (which is £240 for those of you counting) On top of that Ma has paid the rent for this year and gave me £250 for the shed (which does not go as far as you think).
For those of you still interested in the numbers that’s £575 already for the year and it doesn’t include car hire, which I’m not going to count to keep my sanity. I’m going to have absolutely no trouble spending £40 a month on the plot, that’ll barely keep me in compost! So far this year we’ve spent just under £70, most of it on seed and things for sowing seed!I could spend more, I could spend less. Some of the most obvious costs were because I made the decision to have beds, instead of planting across the whole plot. I knew that this was the best way to motivate me and to keep the maintinance managable. We will in the next couple of years add a couple of other beds, I’m thinking two more long ones and another square, but maybe a couple at the top of the plot, in front of the raspberries but we’ll see how we do this year before I make any decisions. That my plot had been dug over in the autumn before I got it and wasn’t completely overgrown really helped me make progress. In fact, it was a bit daunting because I started in May and it was a race to get things in and it didn’t take long for the weeds to try and take over the plot. At some point, I realised I wasn’t going to win this one and covered up the weedy bits. There are cheaper ways of keeping the weeds down but weed fabric was the quickest and easiest and in terms of being able to work the soil when it was up, the weed fabric that is water permeable was better but more expensive than plastic. We did both and the difference was clear. That earth under the black plastic was a nightmare and the square beds on now it are not level, in part because digging it over was so hard!All that to say that it’s not only about the money. What you spend will be determined by many of other things, how much time you have, whether you want to be organic, what’s already growing on the plot, when you take over the plot, what state it’s in when you get it, what you want the plot to look like, what you want to grow, whether you want to be wholly or partially organic, what equipment you already have and how much you already know about growing food. There are tons of variables, so the choices you make about how you are going to grow will impact how much you spend. Overall though, money helps things go quicker, but then so does time.
So the things that I chose that were expensive, raised beds and weed fabric, buying compost and grow bags, this year buying expensive seed from real seeds, I could have just bought it all in Lidl or Wilko. However, those are some of the things that motivate me to work on the plot. I want to grow different types of veg, having defined areas that need tending mean that I don’t feel overwhelmed and it doesn’t take too long to get everything orderly and weed free. I know that having the beds has reduced the amount of earth I have to grow things on, but I’m better able to cope and that encourages me to be at the plot. Aside from the compost and seeds, most of the costs are one off and I won’t have to buy raised beds again (well not for 15 or so years!) and the weed fabric is mostly underneath the woodchip now!
Which leads to me onto where I’ve saved money.
Woodchip. The allotment gets deliveries of woodchip and I’ve been able to cover the paths, which is good for my knees (and those of my chief weeder!). It helped make me feel that the allotment was under control and tidy. I’ve also used it on the raspberries, to help keep the weeds down.Friends. Ma discovered a love of weeding that she didn’t know about and I have reaped the rewards. Jonny gave me plants he had going spare (cucumber and courgettes), Ian at the allotments gave me 5 cherry tomato plants, which produced loads. Dennis and Joe at the allotments gave me advice, encouragement and rhubarb and potatoes! Kathy, Adam, Mike, Sue, Richard, Sarah and Justin gave me equipment and lifts to garden centres. Christelle did all of the above and a spent a couple of afternoons weeding with me. I was given books about allotments by Jo and Lois. You can do it all on your own but if you don’t have too, it’s marvellous. It also means that when Ma’s friend at KCAH got an allotment, we passed on tools and advice and when the time comes spare plants, because all of those things encouraged me and I’d like to be able to do the same.
Wilkinsons. I can’t tell you how handy and cheap that shop has been. I’ve bought watering cans, seeds, gloves, weed fabric, compost, canes, slug bait and all manner of gardening things from that shop, if they didn’t have it in store, I could order it and have it delivered to the store. If you don’t have a car but do have a wilkinsons nearby, you can get lots of what you need there.There are many ways to allotment, this is how I did it and like almost everything else I do, it’s been both frugal and expensive, but it has been worth it….