Are YOU green fingered?  Or, would you like to be?  Many of us yearn for an outside space of our very own; somewhere to sit, enjoy the sun, and – if we’re so inclined – to cultivate flowers, vegetables or fruit.

There’s something infinitely satisfying about growing your own, wouldn’t you say?

Maybe you don’t have a garden, or perhaps the one you have has seen better days.  It’s highly likely however, that as a carer, someone else’s needs and wants tend to  supersede your own.  There are just not enough hours in the day for you, and you alone.

Here at Carers Support, we’d like to help you change that if we can.  We’ve been doing a little, err, digging around.  Did you know, for example, that this week, August 12th-19th is National Allotments Week?  And, that there is even a National Allotments Society, working hard to keep allotments in the public eye and to protect, promote and preserve them?

How marvellous.  Who knew?

National Allotments Week started in 2002 as a way of raising awareness of allotments, and it’s still going strong today.

If you’ve ever considered applying for an allotment and were altogether put off by a) the long wait and b) what on earth to do if you ever got one, you’re not alone. We’ve put together this handy jargon-free guide to help you consider the pros and cons.

Also, we’re going to be quite direct here:  You are important. Yes. That’s you, the person reading this blog.  If you’re caring for a loved one, your commitment to them must, in our opinion, be supported by a degree of self-care to help you re-charge your batteries and re-set your heart and soul.  Remember:  you can’t pour from an empty cup.

An allotment could give you the precious time and space you need.  Fresh air, peace and the chance to focus on other things, if even for a short time. A place to look forward to going to every single day.

What is an allotment?

A strange question perhaps, but worth answering.

An Allotment is a small plot of land rented by a private or local authority landlord.  Traditionally, each one is 250 square metres – about the size of a doubles tennis court – and you can grow flowers, fruit and vegetables on it.  And, more random facts: you can also keep hens, rabbits and bees.

The produce grown can only be for your personal use (you’re not supposed to sell anything for commercial gain) or for your family.  At the risk of sounding sexist, you can include a man cave, otherwise known as a shed!

Who are Allotments For?

Let’s bust this myth:  they’re not for the experienced gardener (although you will learn a lot), or for the elderly, or the retired.  They’re for everyone.  There’s no age range, entry threshold or limit.  Men and women of any age and any background could benefit from donning their green wellies to sally forth to their allotment.

An allotment could be for YOU.

They’re not easy to acquire, not least because they’re in demand.  People put their names down on a council waiting list, then they wait.  And wait.  But is it worth it?

If you lead a busy life, then the answer is most definitely…yes.  Here’s why:

Your Mental Wellbeing

Gardening can play a key role in alleviating stress and mental health problems.  Contemplating the joys of nature and growing plants must surely be one of the best ways to embrace a calmer, more positive outlook.

Your Physical Health

If you’ve ever dug a plot of earth or even spent half an hour pulling up weeds, you don’t need us to tell you that it’s quite hard work.  Gardening is often quite physically demanding.  You’ll work up a bit of a glow.  Who needs the gym?

Also, don’t forget that being outside every day, even for just a short while builds up your levels of vitamin D, pretty much essential for your health.

Fresh Food

You could supplement your weekly supermarket shop with vegetables and fruit grown and stored in your freezer for the whole year.

There’s no end to the healthy food you could grow: onions, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, courgettes (everyone ends up with hundreds of courgettes).  Not forgetting all kinds of salad vegetables, herbs, fruit…Imagine cooking up a lovely meal with your handy little primus gas ring, stored in your allotment shed of course.  From ground to fork in the blink of an eye.  Lovely.

Just have a look here for some delicious recipes to fire your imagination:

https://www.allotment-garden.org/recipe/

 Contact with Others

Being a carer can be isolating, so making great connections with other allotment folk is a wonderful way to forge new friendships and become a wide part of the community.  If you catch the gardening bug, you may even want to volunteer to be on your local allotment association committee and help manage and maintain the site.

Don’t forget that research increasingly shows us that loneliness can be a killer.

We’re social animals, so being a part of your local gardening community could be the lifeline you need – and deserve.  Here at Carers Support, we can’t over-emphasise the importance of reaching out to others.  What better way to do it than by way of a shared interest, outdoors in the fresh air?

 How Do I Apply for An Allotment?

To find out more, you may want to search “How to apply for an allotment” in Google, as these sorts of spaces appear to be area specific.

The gov.uk site is also a good place to start:

https://www.gov.uk/apply-allotment

Here’s a local portal for people in West Sussex: :

https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/leisure-recreation-and-community/events-activities-and-community-venues/allotments/

Brighton and Hove residents have a little more information, here:

https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/allotments

And now…you’ll have to wait.  But there are 10 million books on allotment gardening out there.  OK, maybe not that many, but honestly, there are books and magazines galore to help you get started.  Don’t forget your local library as a wonderful free source of information, too.

And YouTube!

If an Allotment’s Not for You?

Well, that’s no problem.

If you have a garden, whether it’s large or small, why not get inspired?  Just section off a small part to start with and get down to the garden centre for some seeds?  Perhaps you could simply create your very own little herb section?

Or, think of a colour that you love.  Treat yourself to some blooms in contrasting shades.  Flowers are a great tonic and will give you joy every day.

On your terrace, perhaps a simple collection of terracotta pots with orange geraniums.  Another with purple petunias or delicate fuchsias.  This is the sort of self-care you deserve.