Television gardening shows are being blamed for a hike in allotment eviction notices due to misleading amateur gardeners about the hard work involved in running a plot.
Famous faces like Alan Titchmarsh and Monty Don make it look 'too easy', according to gardening experts, leading many people to take on plots without understanding the amount of work involved.
The popularity of shows such as Gardener's World has lead to a surge in applications for allotments, with waiting lists running to over a decade in some areas of the UK.
Consumers are attracted to a romantic ideal of growing and cooking their own produce, but are often unaware of the long hours and hard labour required to create a successful plot.
Steve Johnson, an allotment representative at Beverley town council, in East Yorkshire, told the Daily Telegraph: "People see these gardening programmes that make it look easy. It's not like that. They get very depressed when they see the weeds and they abandon it."
Now local councils are under pressure to crack down on unkempt allotments by issuing warning letters to neglectful owners. An unofficial 'use it or lose it' campaign is underway to tackle long waiting lists up and down the country.
The estimated nationwide waiting list for allotment plots runs to approximately 90,000 gardeners, according to The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, although as this does not include the numbers held by Parish or Town Councils, the real figure could be nearer 200,000.
The average waiting time for a council allotment is about three years.
Take it seriously
So what should gardeners consider before taking on and running an allotment? The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners shares this advice:
- Always consider how much free time you have available and if you've only really got weekends to spare, perhaps ask your landlord for a half plot (125 square metres) instead of a full sized one. It will be cheaper too.
- When deciding what to plant, consider what fruit and vegetables to grow in relation to the time you've got. For example, some plants, such as squashes, require very regular watering and so you'll need to be on onsite often.
- Do jobs little and often to ensure they don't become a chore.
- Read your tenancy agreement carefully before signing – it is a legal contract and must be adhered to once signed.
- If for some reason you are not able to cultivate your plot, such as due to illness or injury, inform your landlord and ask them to take this into account during site visits.