Allotments and Summer Homes


In many parts of Europe allotments- what westerners call community gardens-are common. And big. Very, very, big. Here in North America 4 X 8′ raised beds are the norm. Europeans laugh at us. Their allotments can measure in at 5,000 square feet which translates to a 50′ X 100′ plot; the size of a city lot.

Panoramic view of Communal allotments in Suffolk, England

Panoramic view of Plots of land cultivated by the tenants for food production

People often rent these lots for a lifetime, frequently handing them down through their family. They can keep chickens and bees on their plots and because they are there every year, they can also plant fruit trees and other perennial things. Even though they don’t actually own the land, because the gardens are so long term, the renters even build garden sheds on them at their own expense. In some places, such as The Netherlands, these sheds are decadent enough to double as summer homes that gardeners live in during the growing season.

Excuse me while I swoon and shed a few green tears.

Wouldn’t a summer shed/home in a garden patch be heavenly? Of course, when I say the garden sheds are decadent, I simply mean they have a roof, a door, a window, a bed and a hot plate, as well as a corner to store ones tools and a few shelves for seeds and such. For a gardener that is enough. More than enough.

Gartenhaus mit Gemüsegarten

Honey, I’m home!  Okay, I admit this is a pretty tricked out decadent garden shed…



This would do equally well for my “she shed”     My garden home away from home…


I recently read a book of fiction called The Mulberry Tree about a fellow who inherits his grandfather’s allotment. It left me wishing we had spacious places like that we could rent.

mulberry tree


In Europe the rent for allotments is low. Really low. The yearly lease usually rings in at the equivalent of $50 – $150 Canadian. The idea is to provide an affordable place for people to raise their own food; never mind that land in Europe is becoming rarer than hen’s teeth.

Here in Fort St John we have an enormous empty space near the heart of the city where our hospital used to be. Every time I drive by that big empty space I picture it filled with tiny house garden sheds and garden spots.

I think it would be a wonderful green use of space and if done right, it could even offer alternative housing as well as giving people an opportunity to grow a significant amount of their own food. The whole tiny house movement stumbles on where to park the tiny houses once they are built. An allotment-type subdivision could be the answer. Stir in some green energy options and the whole project would be incredible.

Gartenlauben / Schrebergrten

Something like this for an allotment/tiny home subdivision could look as good as the vegetables taste…

It’s fun to think about, but I suspect few would share my enthusiasm for such a project. As always, there are economics to consider. Right now our city lots-the equivalent of one allotment-can sell for $180,000. You can buy a lot of vegetables for that kind of coin. The space where the hospital used to stand would be worth a fortune. And-as weird as it sounds-it is possible that wanting a tiny home wouldn’t necessarily equate to wanting a huge garden.

It’s all very interesting. Oh, and while we are on the topic of tiny houses, I have to put in a plug for my favourite tiny house book by Dee Williams…The Big Tiny  If you are at all interested in building your own tiny house this is the definitive book on the subject. You can also find some really interesting videos about Dee Williams and her tiny house on youtube.

The Big Tiny

Well it looks like it is going to be another blue sky gorgeous day in the Peace. I think I will go for a morning walk and get some of that sunshine on my face. Maybe I will even walk by the old hospital lot and do a little dreaming…