Working an allotment has always been a favoured British pastime. We have an allotment. Well, I say we – my husband does all the hard work.
Gardeners love their outside world and tending a garden, or an allotment can be the main occupation of many retired people. We have broad beans chitting on a windowsill right now. Later will come potatoes, runner beans and all sorts of other vegetables and fruit. There will soon be trays of seeds in the greenhouse and on any available sunny ledge.
Having an allotment has become more popular over the last few years for many different reasons but particularly with the rising cost of food. But I also think it’s become popular as people see a new and better way of living. Recognizing the many benefits of self-sufficiency which was accepted as normal by our parents and grandparents, gardening, baking and crafts.
As a rule, if there is earth, sun, and rain something will grow. With a bit of planning and application we can even control what grows.
Gardening is an activity that can benefit everyone. Our grandchildren love going up to the allotment with their grandad to see what’s growing. Few pastimes can surpass the picking and eating strawberries on a sunny day. Harvesting route vegetables is like a miracle to young children. It is amazing that by turning over the earth it is possible to collect potatoes for dinner!
Most people, particularly the generation of people living in care homes now, are very familiar with growing fresh produce in their gardens and on their allotments. It’s an activity that can absorb the whole year from browsing through seed catalogues to potting, planting, and harvesting. Even preparing the ground is a very therapeutic activity; there is something very satisfying about spending time digging over a patch of earth.
But it can be difficult to persuade people outside. Becoming inactive is an easy habit to develop especially during winter. Congratulations to those care teams who manage successfully to encourage people outside.
- Adding purpose to going outside is key; going to look at the snowdrops and daffodils coming up, to decide where to put the potatoes and carrots, help dig over a patch of earth.
- Making it easy to take one or two steps outside of the door is also important.
- Enthusiasm from the care team is essential.
- Leaving a door open, or ajar on a particularly cold day, can help tempt someone outside.
- Making it possible for the people already outside to be seen by those inside
- A coat hanger by the door with some coats to slip on quickly,
- Some boots by the door
- A table just outside the door with a few pots with some soil, maybe a trowel, an old rag to wipe fingers
- Some mugs of hot tea outside can be a great reward.
If it’s cold outside, we can soon warm up afterwards. If it’s raining, we can soon dry off when we come back inside.
Bringing the outside in, with plants and pictures is valuable. But helping people get outside to breath the fresh air brings so many benefits.