Growing Food for Health and Well-being – National Allotments Week

It seems the perfect time to be writing this as I just found a rather fabulous looking cabbage and courgette left on my doorstep, by a lovely neighbour who has one of the village allotments. I do love living in the friendly Forest of Dean!

National Allotments Week takes place 10-16th August. And I’m a particular fan of this year’s theme as it’s all about growing food for health and wellbeing.

Grow For Victory

The campaign week started in 2002 as a way of raising awareness of allotments and the role they play in helping people to live healthier lifestyles, grow their own food, develop friendships and bolster communities. According to the National Allotment Association, interest in growing your own fruit and vegetables has never been stronger since the WW2 Grow for Victory campaign.

And we can guess why.

Be Self Sufficient

During lockdown, Suttons seeds experienced a huge surge in sales; with up to 25 times their usual amount. They had 150,000 new customers in about five weeks and sold a million seed packets in a month, in response to panic buying leaving supermarket shelves empty – and people being concerned about food shortages. [Source]

Gardening is good for physical health

So not only do you get peace of mind from knowing you won’t be going hungry any time soon when you grow your own food, but you get numerous physical health benefits. You get a daily dose of vitamin D, physical exercise (According to Garden Organic, gardening is second only to weight training as an effective way to increase bone intensity), you might lose weight (gardening burns as many calories as playing badminton, according to one source) and you’ll probably eat more healthily too.

Gardening is good for mental health

But there’s more! Natural England commissioned¬† a report called “A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care” which showed some incredibly exciting information about the benefits of gardening on mental health. These included:

  • increased mental wellbeing
  • reduction in depression, anxiety and stress related symptoms
  • improvement in dementia related symptoms
  • improved self esteem, confidence and mood
  • increased attentional capacity and cognition
  • improved happiness, satisfaction and quality of life
  • sense of peace, calm or relaxation
  • feelings of safety and security

You can download and read the full report here.

How to grow food in a small space

Now, although I’m writing about allotments, you really don’t need one to start growing your own food. You can grow on a balcony, in windowboxes, in containers outside the back door and even vertically, as this article proves. We grow everything in containers, including potatoes and raspberries. The secret is to grow what you love to eat. I know that sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised how tempting it is to grow all sorts of exotic things – which is fine if you eat them, but not if they end up back on the compost heap!

So make a list of the fruits and vegetables you eat most and prefer to eat and start with the ones that are easy to grow at home such as tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, runner beans and courgettes. Better still, why not have a go at growing things you already buy? A potato that is starting to sprout can be put in a large container of soil. Scrape the seeds from a pepper and plant them in compost. Experiment and have fun!

You can adapt a garden to suit you – raised beds if you find digging difficult, table-height containers if you need to sit, containers if you don’t have much time and of course, a full blown allotment if you can commit to getting there a few times a week to take care of your produce. Gardening might be just about one of the most rewarding things you can do!

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