The National Allotment Society - National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd

Sheds,toilets and other structures

Sheds are probably one of the most useful additions to an allotment, but the decision as to whether these can be built will lie with the landlord. Please check your tenancy agreement and have a conversation with your landlord.


  • A shed measuring no more than 4.32 square metres (8ft x 6ft) should be sufficient for use on an allotment plot. Securing them with a padlock or d-lock is highly recommended, as is chaining up any equipment left inside them.
  • Adding guttering connected to a water butt is an excellent way of harvesting rain water.
  • The walls of shed can form micro-climates, providing the ideal position for cold frames or mini-greenhouses, warming up the air and helping seeds to germinate quicker
  • Sheds are not meant to be slept in overnight, have running water or electricity. They are shelters from the elements and spaces in which to keep your tools – but this doesn’t mean you can’t make them homely and welcoming. Many allotment societies hold ‘Best Shed’ competitions and often you’ll find them doubling up as canteens as everyone congregates for an afternoon cuppa!
  • For further guidance on planning issues in relation to sheds and other structures, please click here to see a Q&A paper provided by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities

Compost toilets

  • A compost toilet is a toilet that doesn’t use water or chemicals to take away the waste. Instead the waste is left to compost down into useable fertilizer, thanks to the addition of straw or sawdust (which also neutralised the ammonia smell, leaving them odour-free), usually over the space of a year.
  • There are many different designs on the market, and grants are available to assist local societies to install them. You will however have to check them regularly to ensure nature is doing its bit and that there is enough straw and sawdust in the mix.
  • The fertiliser produced from these toilets should be used around fruit bushes and trees and not placed directly onto vegetables patches. (It is a very small risk, but there is one type of roundworm egg that can survive outside the human body and a year long compost period, and so to minimise any risk of infection please do not use on the vegetable plot).
  • Societies will need to check with their landlord before installing a communal toilet.


  • These can either be made of plastic or glass. On the whole glass offers better growing conditions but as some tenancy agreements do not support the use of glass on sites, it is advisable to check your agreement before purchasing any such structure.
  • Depending on the greenhouse’s structure, it may require a firm base (concrete) and as such you will require written permission from the landlord. If in doubt, please check your tenancy agreement.
  • Like the sheds, guttering and a water butt make an excellent addition to your greenhouse, providing free water for your crops.


  • Polytunnels are easy to acquire and erect. Usually made from UVI polythene stretched over a frame. Polytunnels can suffer from condensation so good ventilation is essential. Please check with your landlord regarding consent, and you may need to talk to your local Planning Authority.

Cold frames

  • Cold frames offer an alternative to greenhouses and polytunnels. They are inexpensive and require no permission. They do not protect from the frost but they are useful for hardening off seedlings or using year round to grow salad crops. If you are in the mood for some recycling, you can build your own cold frame out of an old window frame and some wooden planks.
  • A cloche is a mini, portable structure that is placed over a young plant (or row of plants) to help bring it on. Often you will see old plastic bottles being used as cloches – to make one, just cut the bottom of an old bottle and stick it over the plant and into the ground.

Fruit cages

  • These are used to protect your fruit bushes from hungry birds. You can either drape netting over the bush, or with a bit of DIY magic, build a simple frame around the plants and attach your netting. These shouldn’t require any permission as the cage should not exceed the size of the fruit bush too greatly.