This week is National Allotment’s Week. I’ve always been fascinated by allotment spaces in towns. Here is this land, dedicated to the growth of vegetables, fruit and flowers, a green oasis in an urban setting. Historically, the roots (!) of allotments in the UK lay in the nineteenth century, but things really took off at the end of World War One. For more history, follow this link to the National Allotment Society webpages.
I am not a natural gardener but I really wish I was. We have a garden but I hate the work! My dad loved his garden, growing vegetables and flowers. Every year, there was friendly rivalry between him and our next- door neighbour as to who would have the better crop of tomatoes – and how delicious those tomatoes tasted! And the sight and smell of a chrysanthemum always reminds me of my parents; he grew them and she loved to arrange them.
Gardening is a hobby that brings practical benefits to those involved in it. Once you know your craft, you will be enjoying the freshest of veggies at home. With crops being seasonal, there is a tendency to need to keep eating them when there is a glut, with the search always on for new recipes. Eating vegetables is known to be good for our health so this brings real dietary advantages.
Gardening has other health advantages as well. It can be a highly physical enterprise. Apparently, the number of calories burned during 30 minutes of gardening equates to the same time playing badminton, volleyball or yoga. If you want more information on gardening burning calories, look at the AXA Healthcare article below. Like yoga, gardening encourages the development of balance and promotes flexibility so it’s a great activity to keep up as we age. Simultaneously, the skin absorbs Vitamin D which is vital for our wellbeing in so many ways, (but be careful not to over-expose; wear a hat and long sleeves or sunscreen when out for long periods).
Gardening is good for our mental health. Wellbeing experts encourage us to go outside, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the sounds and smells of nature. As I have mentioned in previous blog articles, the epitome of this is forest bathing which is all about being in a green space. You can’t get much greener than a garden. Gardening is a mindful activity; you have to ‘be there’ for what you’re doing, and it stimulates ‘flow’, getting fully engaged and absorbed in an activity, in a good way. It encourages us to put away our technology; it’s not so easy to check your messages and social media when your hands are covered in soil! It supports that connection element of good mental health as well, especially if you have an allotment.
The University of Kent has a community garden project that it runs with East Kent Mind and Kent Union, the Kent Community Oasis Garden. If you don’t have a garden yourself but would like to get digging or weeding, contact them via their blog pages. Or you could apply to your local council to get an allotment.
All the articles and videos below give more information on the benefits of gardening. The YouTube video by Embracing Harvest offers a more alternative way of looking at this subject and the author truly brims with enthusiasm! I’m even starting to think I’ll do some gardening this weekend!
‘Why gardening makes us feel better – and how to make the most of it’ by Laura Scruby and Lauriane Suyin Chalmin-Pui on rhs.org.uk
‘Health and fitness benefits of gardening’ on axahealth.co.uk
‘Gardens and health Implications for policy and practice’ by David Buck; a King’s Fund publication commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme
‘7 Benefits of Gardening That Prove It Helps Your Mind and Body’ by Caroline Picard and Amanda Hawkins on goodhousekeeping.com
‘Why is gardening so good for your mental and physical health?’ by James Wong on theguardian.com
‘Why gardening is good for your mental wellbeing’ on thrive.org.uk
‘10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening’ by Seth J. Gillihan PhD on psychologytoday.com
The secret history of the UK’s allotments’ by Martha Cliff on dailymail.co.uk
‘Healthy Gardens, Health Gardeners’ by Planet Natural on YouTube
‘Gardening Provides Health Benefits At Any Age’ by Baylor College of Medicine on YouTube
‘Gardening For Health And Wellbeing – 7 Health Benefits To Growing Food At Home’ by Embracing Harvest on YouTube