Grow Your Own

allotment york strawberries
Allotment York University

There are loads of different student-led grow your own projects across the county. Getting your hands dirty can be a great way to get a sustainable project going, but what is the best way to fit the growing year around the student calendar? Read on for top tips from those already doing it.

Positives

  • Gives people an opportunity to learn gardening skills.
  • Relaxing.
  • Tasty food fresh from the ground.
  • Can hold permaculture workshops.
  • Fun bringing produce to meetings to distribute.
  • Nice social space.
  • A space to experiment with sustainable buildings?

Challenges

  • Turnover of students each year makes consistent care for the allotment challenging, and much produce is ready to be harvested in the summer, when no one is around!
  • Lots of planting needs to be done when students have revision for exams.
  • If you have less people involved one year space can become over grown.
  • Not enough produce to make a significant impact on anyone’s food consumption, depending on size.

Solutions

  • Plant as many perennials as possible, maybe even a permaculture forest garden. Both of these will reduce the amount of work needed to produce loads of grub.
  • Plant stuff that will be ready to harvest at the right times.
  • Extend your growing season with a polytunnel.
  • Share space with local charity or community group who will have people there all year round.
  • Get staff or postgraduates involved.

Top tips:

  • Get funding from the student union or through your CO¬£2 Fund to help set up an allotment
  • Ask the university to set aside allotment plots on campus grounds
  • Link your growing projects to existing composting, food co-op and box schemes for halls of residence or catering outlets

Case studies

York allotment 2009

York students enjoy the fruits of their labour on the allotment

York P&P

York People & Planet group runs a small allotment, and members have so far had successful harvests of lettuces, onions, beans and strawberries. As part of the ongoing educational aspect of the project, local experts come in to give practical workshops on composting techniques and share knowledge with students. And it’s a lot of fun, the allotment space is frequently used by the group as a meeting space during the summer and as an alternative venue for socials.

University of Gloucester allotment

Run by students, for students, the SU Allotment Society, cultivates Cheltenham Borough Council land at the Midwinter Allotment site. The idea is simple. Students work together to cultivate communal plots, and then share the resulting produce. Thanks to the hard work of society members and university Estates staff, brambles, old baths and broken glass have been cleared away and the transformation is a work in progress. Currently a committee of four members co-ordinate design, planting regimes and source most of the equipment and seeds. Check out our interview with the project’s founder, Sarah.

Durham University Allotments Association

Durham University Allotment Society is a group of friendly people looking after a patch of land near Trevelyan College, growing their own fruit and vegetables. Meeting every Sunday afternoon, although people are welcome to visit whenever they are free. They are interested in sustainable living and locally grown produce.

Exeter Green Society Allotment

60 sqm plot, growing onions, lettuce, raspberry canes, beetroot, parsnips, potatoes and spinach.

Please send in more information on your projects.