The ever increasing variety of fruit and vegetables available mean that you can grow pretty much anything (within reason). I have kiwi plants, grapevines for making wine, and even citrus trees... There is no end to what you can do with an allotment these days.
Grow your Own
More and more people are concerened about where their food comes from, how many food miles it has cost and whether it has been grown organically. Taking on an allotment allows you to control all these aspects. You can decide what you grow, choose whether you grow organically or not, and massively reduce the food miles of what you put on your plate.
You will also be surprised by the difference in taste from the food that you grow, and that you can buy at the supermarket. Carrots taste like carrots, potatoes taste more earthy, and sweetcorn (which starts to loose its flavour as soon as it's picked) cooked within an hour of picking is wonderful.
Allotments cost on average around £30-£50 per year, which is a small sum considering how much food you can grow on them. With careful planning (and a big freezer) you could easily grow most of the vegetables for an average size family for the whole year. All you need are a few basic tools (spade, fork, rake and a trowel), and a few packs of seed each year.
I should add a word of caution here - It is very easy to get carried away and spend far more than you either wanted to, or indeed the value of the food you get out. Sheds, greenhouses, expensive tools, raised beds, fruit cages....all cost money. If you have the money and are enjoying the plot then no problem, however if your intention is to save money by growing your own food then be careful - with some careful planning and a bit of time even these items can be had for next to nothing (recycling old pallets, using the freecycle website and so on.)
Exercise & Stress Relief
If you work indoors in an office, or spend the day driving, then what better way to relax than spending an hour or so on the allotment each evening. Not only is it great exercise - spend an hour digging and you'll know about it, but the simple fact that your outside with nature is a great stress buster.
And its even better when you consider the cost - compare the annual cost of an allotment (usually between £30-£50 per year) with the monthly membership cost of joining a Gym. In my opinion there is no comparison with the level of enjoyment and satisfaction maintaining an allotment provides.
The Allotment Community
Forget the image of old men in sheds. Allotments have become livelier, younger and more diverse than ever.
Most new allotment holders are surprised by the level of friendliness and community spirit that is usually found on an allotment site. I certainly was! Our site has a wonderful mix of people of all backgrounds and ages, and I have made some friends for life. There is a wonderful community spirit, and if you're in need of advice or help then just ask - most plot holders love to give advice and share their experiences with you.
We organise regular gatherings and BBQ's and some impromptu ones too - and these are always a good time to compare each others attempts at home-brew wine and beer making.
Some allotment sites even arrange their own shows, which can get very competitive, but always great fun.
Whatever your reason for getting an allotment, if you have a few hours a week to put in, then I promise you won't regret it. It is a hugely fun, satisfying and healthy hobby to take on. Read our Finding an Allotment guide for more information on how to get started.