National Allotments Week 9th – 15th August
Gardening is good for you and allotment gardening offers additional benefits that help to combat loneliness and enable people to contribute to society, especially beyond retirement. The social contact offered by gardening in an allotment environment helps to combat loneliness, which has the equivalent risk to health as consuming 15 cigarettes daily and is twice as harmful as obesity. In a survey of National Allotment Society members, nearly every person said their love of allotment gardening comes from the fresh air, homegrown produce, healthy lifestyle and like-minded people this activity offers.
In 2018 the UK Government produced a 25 Year Environment Plan, which acknowledges that connecting people to their environment will also improve their health and well-being. A study in the Netherlands showed that every 10 per cent increase in exposure to green space translated into an improvement in health equivalent to being five years younger, with similar benefits found by studies in Canada and Japan.
For many people, their allotment plot has been a refuge during the covid19 pandemic, a place where they could exercise during lockdown and spend time safely distanced but in company with like-minded souls. For plot-holders who were shielding and unable to visit their plots – the allotment community helped to keep on top of the weeds and harvest crops on their plots.
Mental well being
There is a growing awareness of the role that gardening plays in both preventing and alleviating mental ill-health. Many allotment gardeners will tell you that a spell on the plot nurturing plants and contemplating nature makes them feel calmer and happier.
The physical benefits of regular spells of gardening help plot-holders to keep fit even if they have sedentary jobs .as well as help to maintain good gait and balance in older gardeners and help with cognitive decline.
Spending as little as 15 minutes a day out in the summer sunshine can build up your levels of vitamin D. However, gardeners do need to take care of their skin so make sure that you dress appropriately and wear sunscreen on exposed areas.
Fresh, local, seasonal produce
If managed properly, an allotment can produce enough food to supplement a family’s weekly shop, with some extra fresh fruit and vegetables over the year.
Sense of achievement
As many new plot-holders discover, growing vegetables requires acquiring new knowledge and skills and the satisfaction gained from eating their first homegrown tomato or new potato makes them taste even more delicious!
Contact with nature
Working a plot year-round means that allotment holders experience the seasons, witness the behaviour of birds, insects and other animals and gain an understanding of the eco-system. This appreciation of the natural world also has the potential to inspire more environmentally aware behaviour by themselves and their children.
For lots of resources and information, see www.nsalg.org.uk