Allotments and growing spaces
Spending time in allotments and vegetable patches can make us feel better, and for some of us it’s life changing.
This year's National Allotments Week which took place on 10-16 August, focused on the wellbeing benefits of gardening, which helps many of us escape the stresses and strains of daily life. To mark the occasion we're sharing a podcast on the healing power of growing plants, as well as stories from the growing spaces in our care, tasty recipes and gardening tips, plus much more.
Listening to the sounds of nature, nurturing new life, unearthing potatoes and watching your first tomatoes ripen on the vine are just some of the simple pleasures we take from gardening.
And there’s a growing body of evidence that horticulture has a positive impact on a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, including stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and obesity.
According to the Royal College of Physicians, the social interaction, exercise, sunlight and access to nature that gardening gives us have several health benefits. Its report, Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening, published in June 2018, found that working in the garden improved dexterity, strength and mental wellbeing and reduced social isolation.
" My allotment is the place I go to escape and switch off. When I'm digging around in the soil my mind is clear and calm for once. It's just me, my veg and peace. "
To dig or not to dig?
Attitudes towards digging have changed. Every time earth is turned over the soil structure is damaged and carbon is released. It’s better to top dress with compost, leaf mould and manure, and let the worms do their work.
Why do I need to thin seedlings?
If seedlings are too crowded they will not thrive, so if you have sown in the open ground thin twice. First leave twice as many plants as you will need. At the second thinning remove every other plant in the row.
Why do I need to earth up potatoes?
May can still bring a late frost which would damage exposed shoots. Earthing up helps to keep the stems upright, and prevents the tubers from being exposed to the light, which can make them go green.
What is the purpose of mulching?
Both peas and beans specially need moisture to produce a good crop. In very dry weather, instead of watering, spread grass mowings, decayed leaves or compost to a depth of one inch along each side of the rows.
Which birds are your friends?
Robin, wren, hedge-sparrow, song-thrush and many others will be looking for food, and in doing so will help you keep garden pests under control.
" Cooking food, whether a solitary special treat for yourself, or a feast for all your family, can bring such a feeling of wellbeing to so many people. Add into the mix the use of fresh, homegrown produce and that feeling is heightened."
There are thousands of allotments and growing spaces on the land we care for. Growing plots have been created in restored kitchen gardens, on agricultural land or in the grounds of historic houses. Many of these plots provide local people with space to grow fruit and vegetables and some are used by schools and community groups.
Kingtson Lacy, Dorset
A set of 118 new allotments for the community are now open on the Kingston Lacy estate in Dorset.
Shottermill Ponds, West Sussex
The creation of Shottermill Ponds Allotments is a joint initiative between us and Lynchmere Parish Council. The plots are on land in our care and the council runs the entire site for the local community.
Gibside, Tyne and Wear
A project at the walled garden at Gibside is supporting people with learning disabilities work towards qualifications in horticulture and helping them grow their own food.
Buckland Abbey, Devon
At Buckland Abbey, there are 40 allotments, as well as a community growing space called the Buckland Food Growers that's used by local families.
Springhill, County Londonderry
Thanks to the hard work of the estate team and volunteers, the overgrown walled garden at Springhill has been transformed into 27 allotments.
Hatchlands Park, Surrey
We look after 1,000 allotments at Hatchlands with the help of community group Grace and Flavour.
The landscape has changed at Woolacombe after a large field was turned into 50 allotments of different sizes.
Lytes Carey Manor, Somerset
Lytes Cary Manor in Somerset created 40 new allotments at the entrance to the property.