How to run a Scout allotment: part 1

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Allotment

1st Stanway Scout Group recently started running an allotment – and are reaping the benefits! Here, ACSL Robin Dawson writes about why it's a great idea and how to start your own.

Welcome to my allotment blog following the highs and lows of running a Scout Allotment through the coming year at the 1st Stanway Scout Group in Colchester. My hope is to encourage volunteers, parents and Scouts alike to give gardening a go. Together, we can inspire the next generation of growers and green fingers! 

Why run a Scout allotment?

  • Improves knowledge and appreciation of nature from plants and mini-beasts to the changing seasons
  • Increases personal responsibility, by giving young people ownership over something, and allowing them to care for living things
  • Improves access to nutrients and awareness of where food comes from (freshly picked veg are higher in vitamins!)
  • Improves physical health, by getting everyone active in an outdoor setting
  • Improves mental health and wellbeing (Horticultural therapy is proven to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression)
  • Fits perfectly with lots of Scout activity badges and challenge awards (e.g. Environmental, Gardener, Naturalist, Scientist, DIY, Chef, Adventure Challenge)

 

The story so far

In 2016, the task of clearing an unused strip of ground behind 1st Stanway HQ began. It soon became apparent this would not be easy. We had buried concrete posts and barbed wire to contend with, not to mention the thick vegetation that comes with decades of neglect. Progress was slow, but with the help of a band of 16 and 17 year olds from the National Citizenship Scheme the site was finally cleared. Raised beds were put in – one for each Section – and an additional bed was set up as a dedicated wildlife area. 

2017 saw the first year of 1st Stanway Scouts, Cubs and Beavers growing their own crops and flowers, as well as learning about the benefits of insects and bees on the environment. 

Top tips for running a successful Scout allotment

Keep things simple. If the thought of building an allotment from scratch is daunting, start with something smaller. You could try planting  a few strawberry plants or herbs in a large container, for example. Herbs like mint and rosemary are particularly low maintenance if regular watering might be difficult.

Choose brightly coloured, fast-growing plants to keep your young people interested. Sunflowers, pumpkins and rainbow chard are all great options. 

Try to be adventurous and grow something a bit different for variety. I'll put up a few of my personal favorites in my next blog, coming soon. 

Get your whole group involved. Scouts will make short work of digging, hoeing and planting. Keep visits short and sweet for Beavers with sowing seeds and watering duties.

Stay safe. Risk assess your plot early on.

Don't be too strict about the plants and keep things fun. If the occasional carrot gets stepped on, accept it as part of the process, and remind yourself that at least the young people are enjoying being outdoors and keeping active.

Friendly competitions between Sections are a great way to build interest. You could host a tallest sunflower competition or see who can grow the largest pumpkin.

Coming up in future blogs:

  • Getting started: Don’t be daunted by the idea of a full-scale allotment. Next term ,I have some suggestions for easy, small scale container gardening.
  • Know your Onions: Would you like to grow some tasty veg? Perhaps you want a sensory garden stimulating the senses of smell and touch, as well as sight and taste. Or perhaps low maintenance crops are your thing? My handy plant guide has options to suit everyone.

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