18th July 2023
Jake Wennen: Tell us about Roots Allotments and how it got started
Will Gay: We’re the allotments of tomorrow, providing a membership that gives people no-fuss access to growing plants, fruit and veg.
Christian and I started this business with my twin brother Josh and our friend Ed Morrison back in 2022. Ed left London and started a no dig patch at home during Covid and by the time he came back, he was clearly healthier and happier. As he and I love to cook, we looked into getting an allotment of our own in London but found the local council had a 28-year waiting list.
It turned out this was the case across the country and after looking into it, it was clear there was the demand for this kind of business with an estimated two million people on waiting lists!
Having floated the idea, the four of us eventually decided to take the leap, renting our first site from my parents at Tuckers Meadow near Newbridge and opening in April 2022. The response was overwhelming, and we’ve since opened up a second site in Bathford called Avon Views, with a third set to open in Bristol later this year. Overall, we now have around 1,100 members.
JW: What services do you offer?
Christian Samuel: We want to make it easy for people to enjoy their allotments and after their face-to-face induction, where we get them ready to go and help plant their seeds, we provide watering and weeding services as well as looking after plots while they’re away.
We also offer an online learning platform through our app along with in-person workshops, advice and events. We are constantly uploading new high-quality videos to help people learn more and work with highly regarded growers such as Charles Dowding and Mitch Grows to get the most out of their allotment through our no dig approach.
JW: What is ‘no dig’?
CS: The classic approach is to ‘dig for victory’, trudging up the soil to unearth and remove weeds. This can actually undermine the backbreaking efforts to get the pitch started as it unearths dormant weeds, bringing them to the top where they can thrive.
No dig is a concept that looks to avoid turning or tilting the soil, and instead we put a layer of cardboard under four inches of compost to provide an environment to plant in on day one. This leaves healthy soil that has formed underneath undisturbed to create more nutrient-rich material for plants to grow into.
JW: Why would you say what you are doing here is important?
WG: In the UK, one-in-five adults suffer with depression symptoms with 3.8million feeling a chronic sense of loneliness. By being outdoors in a green space and interacting with other people, it has been shown to have a significant boost on mental health and we provide the environment for that to happen.
A recent survey of our users showed 93% had a wellbeing boost since joining, feeling happier both mentally and physically, with 60% saying they met someone new at Roots. This is supported by our community hubs on each site, running anything from poetry and compost workshops to yoga classes to add as much value as possible to our members.
JW: Given the sense of community in the business, what are you up to away from the allotments?
CS: We want to integrate ourselves into the community, making a positive different and impact to those that need it, one way we’ve been doing this is working with local schools.
We are currently redoing the entire back garden of the Bath YMCA and have donated a patch on our site to them. We’re also building an allotment bed at the RUH for patients to enjoy and are providing patients in the cancer centre with free access to our online platform and seeds to plant at home.
JW: What does the future hold for Roots Allotments?
WG: We’re very excited by our plans to expand the work we do across the south of England and are planning to have seven more sites active by the end of the year. We are actively engaging with a range of communities to win their support by getting our message across that this is an educational, environmentally-focused service which anyone can enjoy.
To find out more about Roots Allotments, visit www.rootsallotments.com.