Benefits of allotment gardening
Gardening is good for you and allotment gardening offers additional benefits that help to ameliorate loneliness and enable citizens to contribute to society, especially beyond retirement. Hundreds of allotment holders volunteer on their association committee and give up precious time, helping to manage and maintain sites. Even on a site with no allotment association plot-holders are part of a community of like-minded people, many of whom are eager to share their knowledge and spare produce. The social contact offered by gardening in an allotment environment helps to combat the lack of social capital embodied by loneliness, which has the equivalent risk to health as consuming 15 cigarettes daily and is twice as harmful as obesity.
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 more hopeful and there have been recent studies that have measured this benefit (See link to “A case–control study of the health and well-being benefits of allotment gardening” below).
The physical benefits of regular spells of gardening help plot-holders to keep fit even if they have sedentary jobs, the physical exercise also contributes to their mental well-being. Gardening can also 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, if you are fair skinned. And for those whose skin is naturally darker, anywhere up to 90 minutes of sun exposures will help your vitamin levels. However, gardeners do need to be aware of skin cancer risks, Melanoma is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and on the rise. So make sure that you dress appropriately and wear sunscreen on exposed areas. Click Here for more advice for gardeners.
Fresh, local, seasonal produce
If managed properly, an allotment can produce enough food to supplement a family's weekly shop, with fresh fruit and vegetables over the year. Allotment gardeners can choose to garden organically and avoid ingesting chemicals that are likely to be present on shop bought fruit and vegetables.
In a survey of National Allotment Society members nearly every person said their love of allotment gardening comes from the fresh air, home grown produce, healthy lifestyle and like-minded people this activity offers.
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 home grown 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.
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.
Allotments during the pandemic
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. Two National Allotment Society members tell their lockdown stories - CLICK HERE to read Elizabeth's story and CLICK HERE to read about Sara's lockdown experience.
Unable to hold the annual show or open day many sites held virtual fruit, flower and vegetable shows and Newcastle Urban Green created the Newcastle Allotments Digital Celebration.
Research around the benefits of allotment gardening
One of our members has written a piece about a social prescribing project in Dursley, Gloucester where allotment growing is prescribed by doctors on their Hospital Allotment