Growing your own for National Allotments Week

To celebrate National Allotments week, we caught up with Lesley, a staff member in the SASH therapies team who has had an allotment for three years and finds gardening is a great way to keep busy and live a healthier life.

Growing your own for National Allotments Week

Gardening for personal and environmental health

Lesley got into gardening after moving into an apartment, she missed her garden so decided to join the waiting list for an allotment. She’d always loved her garden but had never grown vegetables and was up for the challenge. As well as growing her own, Lesley has tapped into a great source of wellbeing too…

There are clear, proven health benefits of interacting with nature, and if that means you get fresh produce as a result, that is a clear win-win. Just 30 minutes of gardening is equal to the same amount of time in playing badminton, volleyball or practising yoga.

The Royal Horticultural Society has a host of information on their website on the health, environment, and health benefits of gardening.

Feel happy!

Keeping an allotment can be hard work, but Lesley stays motivated by being outside in fresh air, making new friends, and from the satisfaction of producing her own vegetables, which she sums up as rewarding. When we asked her how being in the allotment feels, she had one word to respond and that was ‘happy’!

Lesley also explained that spending time on her allotment has a positive impact on her health and wellbeing. She says that if she is a bit stressed, the allotment is the best place to be and that the fresh air and exercise are a bonus in boosting her wellbeing.

She also finds that keeping the allotment allows her to feel more connected to nature.

Reducing our food miles

Tray of seedlingsMany of us buy our fresh fruits and vegetables from the supermarket which have often travelled many miles to reach our plates. If we all took a leaf out of Lesley’s book and used our patch to generate fresh produce, the food miles associated with  our food would be significantly reduced, helping to reduce carbon emissions.

She also grows seasonally so that she has a year-round supply. Each allotment grower has perfected growing certain produce on their patch, and this means that they are able to swap any surplus produce, meaning that everyone gets a larger variety of produce without any waste.

The whole process is very sustainable. Seeds are kept back from crops each year so they can be used to plant next year’s crops.

More sustainable than your average supermarket shop

Supermarkets import many out-of-season foods that cannot be grown in the UK. On an allotment we can grow seasonal produce year-round and reduce the need for international imports that come with a large carbon footprint.

Supermarkets also often package fruits and vegetables with cardboard and hard to recycle soft plastics; by growing your own, you eliminate the need for packaging – reducing the need to produce unnecessary waste.

Lesley grows a variety of vegetables and salads; she explains that by growing her own vegetables it is much easier to access fresh, healthy foods which are so much tastier when they’ve just been harvested compared to shop-bought, and who doesn’t love great tasting food?

Not to mention the additional benefits of having fresh produce on your doorstep, making it even easier to incorporate healthier foods into our diet.

If you’re considering taking up gardening, Lesley has this advice:

“Just give it a go – I had never done it before and I wish I had done it sooner – no matter how inexperienced you are, there is always something you can grow – It is hard work sometimes but worth all the effort you put in.”