Is it worth having an allotment

First off, if you are asking the question “does it make financial sense to have an allotment?” then you have missed the point. Yes, sure you can have an allotment and figure out; “OK I spent 30 on seeds, 40 on tools, 30 on this that and the other and saved myself about 120 on the equivalent supermarket prices so I made a profit of 20.” and that's a reasonable question to ask if you are doing this because you want or need to save that money and you can show quite easily that, given a couple of conditions, yes it really is worth having an allotment but that really misses the point of the allotment and we'll come back to that real point in a while because the economics are much easier to answer.

The economics of an allotment, that simple dollars and cents argument that says do it or don't do really depend on a few key conditions. The first is very simple; how much time can you devote to it? Like anything really worthwhile it is hard work. Particularly if you take over a plot that hasn't been worked for a while and you have an awful lot of strenuous effort to put in before that ground is going to look like a productive plot. Yes there are shortcuts but they either don't work or are very expensive. I knew one allotment holder, who was a neurosurgeon at a London hospital and every year he would pay someone to come and dig over a prepare his allotment plot. He was seriously not worried about the costs and he probably had the most expensive veg of anyone. The second is where is the allotment? The moment you need to get in a car to go to an allotment then that journey is probably so expensive that it won't be worth it. The third is what do you grow? There are some easy crops to grow; potatoes, onions, leeks and so on but you can buy them in a farm shop for a pittance for a huge sack. The amount you need to grow to make a simple profit is huge, forget it.

Allotments become profitable when you can walk to them, spend time on them and grow expensive produce. Of course the last two go together because expensive produce is expensive precisely because it is labour intensive. If you can grow aspargus, artichokes, pak choi, blueberries or pretty much anything that is high cost in the supermarket for a small quantity then it makes a profit. Of course that in turn means that you have to eat them so if the only vegetables that you eat carrots and potatoes it's never going to be worth it.

Which is where the argument for allotments gets to the real point. The real point of an allotment is that it grounds you in reality. It shows you just how capricious and hard work nature can be and, remember our London neurosurgeon?, that reality is something that we all need from time to time in our modern world. The monetary savings and eating different veg are a bonus and for most of us not the real point of an allotment. Get an allotment, get some dirt on your hands and learn what nature does.