Each year there is an annual judging of each allotment to see how well each allotmenteer is doing. Prizes and certificates are awarded for the best kept allotments.

Usually an external judge is appointed to make these judgements. The criteria for judging are below and you will see that biodiversity as a concept has now been included in the judging criteria and we've provided some guidance on this page.

Judging Criteria

From 2020 there will be new judging criteria for allotment holders. The main changes are to reflect the importance of biodiversity, which is a new category (see 8 below, but also there are some changes in some of the other categories to better reflect the importance of biodiversity).

Each plot will be judged on the eight categories below, with each category having a maximum score of 10 points.

1 - Tidiness

Consideration will be given to health and safety hazards, ability to access the various parts of the plot with ease and gardening equipment being neatly arranged

2 - Weed Free

The judge will not be looking for a plot that has no weeds. Annual weeds that have not gone to seed and are not having a negative impact on crops can be a positive feature for soil maintenance and bio diversity. However perennial weeds in the areas where crops are grown is a negative. Areas of the plot that have managed “weeds” can also be a positive – see biodiversity below.

3 - Variety of fruit and vegetables.

This category is self-evident

4 - Water storage

With climate change water may well become scarcer and therefore having systems to store rain water will be regarded as something positive. Plot holders are advised to consider having several water butts to collect rain water and if possible to collect rain water from the run off from shed and or greenhouse roofs.

5 - Compost

Making compost is an important for soil fertility. It is suggested that there should be at least two compost heaps, and preferably three or more. This enables the compost to mature, without constantly adding
new material onto rotted material. Green manure –in liquid form or
planting will also be taken into consideration

6 - Disease free

Some disease is inevitable on some crops, so this category is not looking for all crops to be disease free, but is looking at overall how healthy crops are. A healthy soil and bio diversity also helps with disease prevention and control

7 - Plot Planning

This looks at how a plot is planned. A good plot does not necessarily mean pristine rows of the same crop, intercropping and companion planting may be a feature of a good allotment. A well planned plot however is likely to have areas for soft fruit, perennial vegetables, annual veg, small leaf vegetables, climbing veg. etc.

8 - Biodiversity

This is a new category, brought into recognise the importance that allotments play in supporting biodiversity. This is to encourage wildlife, birds, insects and general evidence of planting for the benefit of pollinating insects, bees, butterflies etc. A bio diverse allotment is not only good for the planet, but is also good for growing. A plot that scores highly for bio diversity may include some, or all of the following:

  • Log pile - for insects, toads etc
  • Pollinating flowers i.e. could include: Marigolds, nasturtiums, Michaelmas daises, honeysuckle roses, sorrel, borage, comfrey, ivy etc.
  • Wild plant area - nettles etc.
  • Nest boxes for birds, bats, bumble bees, hedgehogs
  • Pond or damp areas to encourage frogs etc
  • Evidence of not using weed killer, chemical fertiliser, harmful slug pellets
  • Wormery

Guidance on Biodiversity

Warren Avenue allotment rep Joe Gooden undertook some research for the Society on how other allotment societies and similar bodies approach the issue of biodiversity, with a particular focus on the judging criteria for best kept allotments. There is good evidence of the growing recognition of the importance of recognising bio diversity and clearly some allotment societies recognise bio diversity in their judging criteria.

The following gives a sample:

1 - “Our local group is introducing a wildlife friendly category, ponds, bug houses, wild flower areas etc.” (Northamptonshire)

2 - Calderdale council Judging criteria:

Judging for weed free: (Notes for the judges when judging weed free) You should consider the effects on rare (or even common) wildlife to the extent of ignoring small patches of nettles which are used by several butterflies (Peacock, Red Admiral, Tortoiseshell and so on), and also sorrel which is host to various 'Coppers'. For example a 'hedge' (windbreak) of Michaelmas daisies gives a rich late feed of nectar which is lapped up by these butterflies

3 - Ashfield Environmental Friendly Practice & Biodiversity

With consideration for site management policy, credit will be given for environmental friendly practices and the promotion of biodiversity such as the use of green manures, composting, water butts, mulching, beekeeping, etc.

4 - Trafford Council Environmental Award

Plots should be maintained to the same standard and criteria as the individual plots and have additional criteria and features:

  • Non-use of chemicals and pesticides (organic slug pellets are not allowed)
  • Biodiversity – planting for the benefit of pollinating insects and bees and other wildlife
  • Bird boxes, ladybird and insect boxes, wormeries, ponds, hedgehog habitat, butterfly gardens (not compulsory but beneficial)
  • Use of water butts
  • Companion planting

5 - Hatfield Peveril Allotment Association

We are changing things up a little year and focusing on getting more members involved this year.  Gone is the need to grow crops just for the competition, it is all about keeping a tidy productive plot now with extra points awarded for environmental features like; water conservation, growing for bees, creating wildlife areas to attract helpful bugs and animal life

  • Most Eco Friendly
  • Best use of recycled material
  • Rain Water conservation
  • Wildlife friendly plants & flowers
  • Best Use of space

6 - Cardiff

Wildlife on Allotments Allotment sites and plots can be a haven for wildlife. Many sites have hedges and trees around them. Planting of flowers and diverse crops attract insects. Log piles can attract toads and other beneficial insects. Bat, bird, bumble bee, butterfly and ladybird nest boxes can help to increase the population. Even a small shallow area of water can attract newts and frogs and bring an extra pleasure and interest to the plot.

7 - Natural England

Allotments are also an increasingly important resource for wildlife. Allotments are a refuge for both people and wildlife. This leaflet will help you enhance the conservation value of your allotment, while continuing to cultivate it for fruit and vegetables

8 - Allotments and bio diversity Glasgow Council

Over the past 20 years, 28% of the plants, 56% of the birds and 76% of the butterflies in Britain have declined in numbers. Some of the threatened species are garden visitors, for example song thrushes, bullfinches, tree sparrows and some types of bumble bees and butterflies. (Science vol. 303. p1879) Allotments, especially those in cities are important habitats for wildlife as they provide food, shelter and breeding sites. We do not really know the full consequences of the threatened extinction of so many species except that it is likely to diminish the quality of life for all of us. By gardening in harmony with nature, people benefit as much as the other species belonging to the planet. Biodiversity is the variety of living things on earth, from the smallest insect to the largest mammal and tree. It encompasses the variation within a species and the complex ecosystems or habitats where they are found. It is not just restricted to rare species or threatened wildlife sites, but includes the whole of the natural world. (Glasgow City Biodiversity Action Plan). This booklet brings together some of the best ideas of how biodiversity can be enriched in Allotments. Many of these ideas are simple. They can be incorporated easily without changing the essential purpose of an allotment garden as a plot of land to be cultivated for the production of vegetables, fruit and flowers.

Some of the richest wildlife areas on Allotments can be found around the boundaries. A few simple actions can increase biodiversity, improve security and enhance the view at the same time. Fences can be used as frames for climbers such as Russian vine, clematis, roses and honeysuckle. The addition of ivy with its thick, evergreen growth providing all year round shelter, ensures the transformation of an uninteresting structure into a wildlife haven. Fences can be concealed within a mixed hedge of hawthorn, blackthorn, holly, pyracantha, bramble and roses. Over several seasons, the mix provides a variety of attractive, nectar producing flowers. The berries provide food while the bushes themselves give shelter for resting and nesting. The thorns are an effective deterrent to intruders.

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