Maybe you have seen one of them out in the suburbs or hidden in the middle of your city behind a fence. Maybe you live nearby or your Polish in-laws devote their entire life to one. Or maybe your Polish colleague has been boasting about getting access to some garden-like plot and you did not pay too much attention back then and now you want to know? We are talking about an allotment (Polish: działka) and how their system works in Poland.
With the upcoming summer you may have noticed an increased number of those interested in either buying or selling an allotment. Please bear in mind that such offers do not advertise literally buying a small piece of land, but only the right to use it. The parcel where your allotment is can probably never be your own property, although you will get full tenancy rights. A contract for that needs to be drawn up and signed in the presence of a specific kind of solicitor (Polish: notariusz).
Who are you making this deal with? The institution in charge of it is usually a local body related to allotment management. It is usually a legal entity with its board and structure, which can be joined by a new gardener so that one gets a say in board meetings and decisions valid for the whole allotment community.
There are no strict rules as to what can or cannot be done in your działka, except for a few basics. Generally, you are not allowed to live permanently in there. Some people do go overboard and instead of having a small cabin they build house-like structures, but that is usually frowned upon by the board. As for your allotment activities, you are free to do whatever you like, e.g. grow your own produce (it is tempting to have your own fruit and vegetables), plant flowers, bushes, or simply grass the whole plot and simply enjoy an obligatory weekly barbecue in there. Please note that you allotments are like mini-cities and you will have the same neighbours for many years to come, so you will not avoid socialising, especially as the new one in the hood!
Availability for foreigners
Anyone who finds this idea appealing and would like to have their own garden can rest assured that foreigners should not find it more difficult than others. According to the Polish Allotment Federation website, the only criterion for getting the right to use an allotment is your permanent residence in a place nearby the garden. If this applies to you, find a free allotment or contact your local allotment board, become a member if necessary and get going with the formalities. Sounds easy, but do bear in mind that działki are enjoying a real boom at the moment and you will need a bit of patience and luck to get your own piece of land! Even though there are nearly one million of them, hardly anybody wants to get rid of this treasured piece of land!