‘Gardening’ Improves your Life Satisfaction!

Finally some success with carrots!
Finally some success with carrots!

I am lucky to have a reasonable size garden so I’ve practised ‘growing my own’ for a few years.  I’ve enjoyed growing small patches of beans, peas, strawberries etc and I’ve even grown the odd cabbage in the flower beds!  Last year, I decided to invest in some ‘vegtrugs’, which were brilliant, however they left me wanting to learn more! My allotments allow me to grow food on a much bigger scale (and learn) – freeing up most of my garden for flowers and shrubs. For me learning to grow my own fruit and vegetables is helping my to develop a real understanding of the nature of organic growing and the most important aspects of day to day tasks required to produce good quality, tasty crops.

My first home-grown cauliflower :-)
My first home-grown cauliflower 🙂

It was allotment week a few weeks ago (8th – 14th August). I must admit I’ve never heard or noticed allotment week being celebrated in the media before so I’m assuming that owning an allotment is a little ‘cooler’ than it used to be!

It’s also reported in recent polls that gardeners score higher than the average person on ‘life satisfaction’ so, for those unsure whether to take the plunge into ‘allotmenting’, here, are a few reasons why you should ‘go for it!’

Becoming an ‘allotmenteer’ has many benefits. I’ve found an allotment has provided me with the opportunity to meet people who live in my community.  During the seven months I have been an allotment dweller I can honestly say that I have developed a ‘comradeship’ with the other allotment dwellers.  Most are more than happy to chat, but of course, if you wish to be ‘self-contained’, I’m sure that would be respected too!  My allotment site has its own committee, run by a group of ‘elders’, which are happy to supply anything from compost to advice.  I’ve had many conversations, stood at the water tap, about successes and failures of this years’ crops!

My organic cabbages have had a few 'nibbles' but they huge hearts!
My organic cabbages have had a few ‘nibbles’ but they huge hearts!

Although the allotment is enjoyed by all members of my family, it is primarily mine. It’s a place to be on my own (for much-needed head clearing and peace). I love ‘the escape’ for a few hours a week but the family love it too!(see my previous blogs). If I’m with the family at the plot on a weekend ,I really don’t expect to get a huge amount of work done but even the ‘Tiddlers’ are happy to ‘pitch in’ with the weeding or the odd spot of digging (or strawberry munching!)… I refuse to think of my allotment as hard work  so I make time for catching up on the family gossip, to enjoy few giggles, stopping often and drinking plenty of tea!

Our neighbouring honey bees are doing a great job!
Our neighbouring honey bees are doing a great job!

For me, the allotment has allowed me to get a little exercise. I hate the gym!!!!  I can’t imagine spending hours on a running machine in some soul-less building! I work indoors so, personally, I love the opportunity to enjoy a few hours of exercise in the fresh air. I walk miles up and down the paths collecting water, tools from the shed or weeding and, of course, digging over the ground racked up quite a few extra fitness points on my exercise tracker!

Fattening nicely!
Fattening nicely!

I’ve also found another, unexpected bonus to growing my own…my husband eats (and enjoys) the fruit and veg offered. (Mr D is generally a reluctant fruit and veg eater!) Of course, the food grown has been tailor-made for my family…I’m growing the food we most like to eat, and I’ve designed my plots accordingly.

So pleased with the sweet peas...perfume and colours are wonderful :-)
So pleased with the sweet peas…perfume and colours are wonderful 🙂

Not convinced? Worried about taking on too much, perhaps?! Well you don’t have to take on a full plot!  In fact plot sizes vary considerably…start small and enjoy growing your favourite fruit or veg…I promise you that there’s nothing like the taste of the ‘fruits of your labour’!

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Such a Perfect Day!

Family gathering on the allotment
Family gathering on the allotment

Plots 4A and 5A have become a wonderful place for family to gather, chatter and potter…it’s lovely!

Helping grand-dad with the weeding
Helping grand-dad with the weeding

A few days ago my daughter and grandsons joined me for a harvest and taste session (see the previous blog). Today my husband, son, parents, and grand-daughter all joined me for a couple of hours of ‘therapy’ in the glorious sunshine.

Mum weeding
Mum weeding

Upon arrival everyone automatically set about allotment jobs. My parents promptly began weeding, my husband helped me erect a new raised bed, my son (an amazing photographer!) snapped plants / workers and my three year old grand-daughter assisted with all the ‘too difficult to bend down’ tasks!

New raised bed and our 'little runner'!
New raised bed and our ‘little runner’!

I’m not entirely sure what my ‘neighbours’ make of our regular family ‘meets’ at the allotment – whilst they are very friendly and happy to natter for hours – they tend to be rather solitary gardeners!

Sweet peas
Sweet peas

In my opinion the allotment is a great place to ‘grow’ special family memories. Gardening with my family not only provides the tangible benefits of exercise and fresh food, it also provides opportunity to talk about recent events, strengthens our relationships, and offers an chance to work towards a common goal. What more could anyone ask?

Sunflowers
Sunflowers

My clever son has kindly allowed me to upload his photographs of our ‘Perfect Sunday’…I think they are amazing! They are not only a lovely record of the day but I adore how he has ‘captured’ my beautiful allotment! Hope you enjoy 🙂

8ft high Sunflower!
8ft high Sunflower!
Owl
Owl
Tomatillo
Tomatillo
Tiddler A - purple bean tasting!
Tiddler A – purple bean tasting!
Purple Bean
Purple Bean
Pumpkin
Pumpkin
Cabbage, Caulis and Sprouts
Cabbage, Caulis and Sprouts
Spring Cabbage - growing fast!
Spring Cabbage – growing fast!
Cardoon
Cardoon
Mexican tree spinach
Mexican tree spinach
Rooster
Rooster
In the trenches
In the trenches
Beans
Beans
Time to go home...
Time to go home…

A Touch of Chelsea

It’s been all grow, grow, grow! Time to ‘stop and stare’ has had to be put on hold for a number of weeks but finally I have 5 minutes to update my blog!

Running around the plots...busy, busy, busy!
Running around the plots…busy, busy, busy!

The allotment site is currently a hive of activity and ‘we are full’…yep…every single plot is taken! I am now one of four women that have a plot. Two are admittedly husband and wife teams…Only two of us work our own plots (I’m the only woman with two plots!) 

The Tiddlers showing off their 'pickings'
The Tiddlers showing off their ‘pickings’

It seems that the allotment is still predominately, a place where men can retreat to tend their cabbages and potter in their sheds away from family responsibilities.  However, a growing number of women women are taking over thousands of plots and (I’m told) are outnumbering men on waiting lists!

Digging for 2nd Earlies
Digging for 2nd Earlies

In my experience, most of the men are happy with women working the plots, although a few are clearly finding it hard to adjust. It is probably a shock for ‘Mr Brylcreem and Wellies’ of advancing years who’s trying to escape his wife, to find a woman on the plot next to him. The constant ‘her in doors’ jokes give away the fact that he’s a tad disgruntled!

Happy to dig but 'must keep my hands clean!'
Happy to dig but ‘must keep my hands clean!’

I also understand that some women might feel a little intimidated but I’ve found that, after the initial ‘proving myself as a credible hard working and committed allotmenteer, we are all get on famously… loaning tools, swapping seeds and advice.

2nd Earlies
2nd Earlies

Most of my allotment site still has the traditional, ramshackle vegetable patches however I’ve noticed some small changes in the last 7 months since I joined the ‘neighbourhood’.  I was the only allotmenteer with flowers and unnecessary frills but no more…the odd ‘fancy’ has appeared on neighbouring plots!  Don’t get me wrong they aren’t being turned into showcase gardens (I quite like the shambolic nature of an allotment) but it’s no longer a case of  ‘not on my vegetable patch’. A little touch of ‘Chelsea’ goes a long way 🙂

Checking the pumpkins - all fine and dandy!
Checking the pumpkins – all fine and dandy!
Yum, yum, yum!
Yum, yum, yum!
Worzel Scrappage has a tan!
Worzel Scrappage has a tan!