BHOGG’s Starter Bed scheme at Weald Allotment site

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We are pleased to confirm that the Organic Starter Bed scheme operating at the Weald Allotment site has the green light from the Allotment team at B&HCC to continue in 2019. Read on to find out more about what the scheme is and why it has been so successful

In 2014 the Organic Gardening Group (BHOGG) worked in cooperation with the City Council’s Allotment officer to pioneer a project enabling 6-8 people on the Weald allotment waiting list to spend a year cultivating a “starter bed” and gardening on the organic community allotment. The scheme has been in place ever since, with great outcomes from a survey of users covering the period 2015-2018.

24 people were involved and responses were received from 16 with all 16 rating the scheme at “very good” on a scale of ‘very bad’ to ‘very good’. What participants loved: hands-on gardening experience outdoors, use of equipment, learning from each other and access to a breadth of gardening knowledge, sense of community engendering friendships and sociability.

All participants believed that the scheme helped them prepare effective for their own allotment or to continue as a volunteer on the community allotment to gain further experience. As one grower noted:

“It’s been really useful for learning what crops I would like to grow, how much work will be involved and what size Allotment might be manageable for me”

Of 14 people who have gone on to have their own allotments, 12 have successfully cultivated their allotments and we only know of 2 people who have given up. This appears to be a very low drop out rate compared to the allotment strategy figures for allotment holders generally.

There were no notable problems reported, and in fact participants suggest that more sessions and communal events be held. Unexpected benefits were reported, such as the impact of the plot on wellbeing for volunteers:

“Although I joined BHOGG to learn about organic gardening, I found it also had massive benefits for my mental health (I suffer from anxiety). The effect of going once a week has been very noticeable I i.e. I notice a change in my mood if I don’t go”.

In conclusion, there seems to be much to recommend this scheme, and support from B&HCC and from sponsors Infinity Food have made the project possible. It would be great to offer the scheme to a larger number of people and on other allotment sites.

“In my view the project is a wonderful community enhancing, educational and healthy living inspiring network and activity. People are helpful to each other, there is a good balance of personal accountability and group responsibility, co-ordination is brilliant despite that task being obviously akin to herding cats. I have personally enjoyed making new friends, the fresh air and exercise and feeling much more prepared for my own allotment when that time comes.”

If you are interested in becoming involved in the scheme, offering some volunteer time on the BHOGG Weald plots or in helping support the work of BHOGG generally, please do get in touch with us.  You can read Alan’s full starter bed scheme report here.