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In the U.K., allotments—community gardens—are trendy.

An allotment is a piece of land owned by local government and rented out at a nominal annual sum to local residents so they can grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The allotment system began in the 18th century, and over the years, allotments have waxed and waned in popularity. During World War II, the “Dig for Victory”campaign encouraged interest in allotments and provided an important supplementary source of food for Britons living with food rationing. (For example, 4 oz butter, 2 oz cheese, and 1 egg per person per week, and similar rationing of meat, milk, and other staples—interesting to note, for those of us who eat far more, rationing improved the nation’s health.) People continued to cultivate allotments for a while after the war, but by the sixties and seventies, many allotments had been abandoned and were overgrown.

Gradually, in the nineties, interest awakened, and now many people—including D., the friend I stayed with in London—have taken up allotment gardening. I helped D. pick, and later enjoyed, redcurrants, raspberries, spinach, snow peas/mange-tout, and courgettes. There’s much more to come, but alas, I won’t be there to enjoy it.

I asked the purpose of the jars and things atop the stakes, expecting something very scientific. The answer, however, was pragmatic: “So that you don’t lurch into them and poke your eye out,” said D.


3 Responses to Allotments

  1. Elisabeth says:

    When I lived in Wilmington, Delaware, we had neighbors (husband and wife) who rented a huge plot of land from a local landowner, on which they grew a garden every summer. For the landowner, it was a huge tax break, because that land was considered farm land and, thus, taxed at a much lower rate than regular real estate.

    The funniest thing that happened with that garden is that, one year, the husband decided to grow every single variety of tomato that he could get his hands on on his plot (he and his wife each had their own plot, which they all tended to separately.) He ended up growing some 120 tomato plants – you can imagine how many tomatoes that represented… But those folks also canned most of what they grew, and they were also excellent cooks.

  2. Passante says:

    There were allotments behind the house I lived in as a child, and the neighborhood children (me included) used to steal peas and young carrots and the occasional lettuce leaf, a practice that was called “scrumping.” None of us took a lot, but there were quite a few kids, so it all added up and must have been really annoying for the owners of the allotments!

  3. transall says:


    Sauf erreur, il me semble que nous avons une notion assez similaire en France, connue sous le nom de “jardins ouvriers”.

    Par simple curiosité, et pour de plus d’informations sur ce sujet, vous pouvez faire un petit tour sur l’article qui traite de ces jardins (encyclopédie en ligne Wikipédia).


    Didier (photo blog)–>

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