Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Allotments can be great places for wildlife!

We are always looking forward to sample pollinators in allotments as this can be so much more interesting and rewarding than most of the other urban habitats that we sample.  Walking into an allotment site is like walking into a different world: All of a sudden, we are surrounded by flowers and vegetables, buzzing bees, ripening fruit and the wind rustling in the leaves. We can almost forget that we are in the middle of a busy city.

A typical allotment site in Reading

Allotments are like green oases in a concrete desert, especially in areas without many gardens. There is a newly-found interest in allotment gardening at the moment and many people try to grow their own vegetables without pesticides which is good news for the wildlife.

Vegetables and flowers mixed together in this wildlife friendly allotment

We often find a great diversity of flowering plants, especially if people plant flowers in-between their fruit and vegetables. Also, some of the more weedy plots, while potentially providing fewer vegetables for their owner, may nonetheless be good foraging and nesting habitat for wildlife. Also, allotments are often surrounded by hedges made up by plants such as bramble and blackthorn which are a good source of pollen and nectar for pollinators and a good source of food for birds, and can also provide the latter with valuable nesting opportunities.

You can attract lots of bees to your allotment if you sow Phacelia
 as a green manure and let it flower

Allotments are under threat as councils and private owners of allotment sites are tempted to generate income by selling off allotment land for site development. But luckily, ‘statutory' allotment sites (as opposed to ‘temporary’ allotment sites) are subject to some protection under the 1925 Allotments Act so land on which such allotments are cannot be sold off as easily.

A wildlife friendly allotment site in Tilehurst, it was amazing to see all the bees and hoverflies
 visiting flowers planted along the edge and in between the vegetables

Let’s hope that future generations of allotment holders will be able to enjoy allotment sites to the same extent as the current one, and that such sites will be able to provide a lifeline for some of the wildlife to survive in an increasingly challenging urban environment.

A wildlife paradise ...

Borage is loved by bees and once you plant it it will seed itself around
and you never have to plant it again

You can also watch the two allotment videos I recently made to see how my own allotment looks now and to get more ideas of how to make your plot more wildlife-friendly.

My wildlife-friendly allotment in June/July 2015

My wildlife-friendly allotment plot in early August 2015


  1. Absolutely! Allotments have proved to be our best habitats so far as well - we put it down to the great diversity of available flowers at any one time, due to the mix of flowers and veg, and so many plots under different management. And not just for the pollinators - we've had plenty of frogs and dragonflies as well, and hearsay stories of hedgehogs and foxes. My personal favourite sightings are the red kites that occasionally drift over - there always seems to be one around in the airspace over allotments!

  2. We see red kites circling over allotments quite frequently as well. Yesterday we have seen a red kite circling, coming closer and closer and going down behind the hedge between the allotment and the allotment car park and coming back again with something in its claws. We think it got a sparrow as we found a moist spot in the area the red kite came down.We have also seen two kestrels on the same allotment which was quite nice.

  3. Great to hear that you have found that allotments are such good habitats for pollinators (I knew it all along of course!). The site where I have my allotment in Derby (http://firsestateallotments.co.uk/) has been found to be a "hot spot" for the speckled wood.