Are we to say that those that do not or cannot do their allotment should be asked to relinquish it? My gut reaction is to say yes. Unkempt allotments are unsightly and detract from the quality of the whole allotment site. Weeds spread across the allotment; there is a home for allotment unfriendly wildlife, getting past them with the wheel barrow is a chore, they can attract human vermin that see the allotments as somewhere no one cares about and they become dumping grounds for other people’s rubbish.
I have very little to do with the allotment committee. This is not a boast but out of necessity. Working full time means that all free time is devoted to cultivating the allotment. I find that they make some outstandingly stupid decisions that have very little to do with gardening, however that is another story.
The most effective official on the allotment is the secretary. He walks around the allotments and checks on each one. Afterwards, he either writes this down or colours in on a plan of the allotments how everyone is doing. If there is a problem with any of the allotments he has a word with the allotment holder especially when they are paying their rent. He says that they are not doing well enough. A little patronizing but it seems to have worked very well. If allotment holders have not then cultivated at least some of the allotment, they are sent a letter. Interestingly, the treasurer of the allotment committee was sent a letter this year much to his annoyance.
If there is a waiting list it is unfair to hold onto an allotment when you know that you cannot do it. Maybe there should be a way of allowing someone to take it on when you are ill or when work prevents you from doing it.
The problem with when is the allotment being cultivated and when is it not, is a tricky one. The number of people that come onto the allotment and cultivate a metre square out of a full allotment cannot be said to be cultivating. This is why the secretary is giving people half and quarter allotments when they first allocated an allotment. If they do that well, then they are given larger allotments when they become available. This also means that there are less people on the waiting list for allotments. It encourages them and enables them to build up their expertise before the daunting task of turning a wild allotment around.
Many of us are experimenting with companion planting and permaculture which leads to unkempt allotments in the eyes of a few. This means that the people on committees need to be fairly experienced in the different styles of growing. I find that many of the committee members are inexperienced in even the traditional ways of growing and this leads to a great many problems. Still it is those that put themselves up for election that will get voted on.
Our allotment site is not one of the most picturesque. When I first started the majority of the allotments around me were abandoned and high in weeds. We could do what we wanted on the allotment just so long as it did not annoy anyone else. Now we have a waiting list but also uncultivated allotments. After so many years surely we could have worked out a way of giving allotments to committed people that would keep them cultivated.