Oh my days the happiness! I have tried not to spend silly money on any of my wellness investigations but this is one that deserves some pennies because it is such a fabulous investment.
A few weeks ago I was chatting to my good friend on the street, about how much I miss having a garden, and she said, ‘Oh my parents are looking for someone to look after an allotment in their garden.’
‘What? Really? I would LOVE to!’
And just like that, the universe gave me a little patch of land to look after. I went over to meet her parents and discuss the options. They showed me the gorgeous walled garden, full of various vegetable plots, and indicated a few spaces that were available. I couldn’t stop grinning at this beautiful little space that I was allowed to cultivate. There was one corner piled high with grass cuttings, brambles and nettles which I kept returning to.
‘I really like corners…’ I said, tentatively.
‘Oh well yes of course, if you want to make something of that bit, by all means.’
And so begins my happy little adventure in allotmenteering. I know absolutely zero about this subject, so have bought one book, and spent an extravagant £1.49 on gloves, and £1.99 on a mini fork. That was before reading the introduction in my book that explains the most important thing to invest in is your tools. Until I can afford to, I am very lucky that I have access to proper tools in the allotment shed. The next thing I looked up was what you can do in your allotment in October, and apparently the big job is to harvest everything you spent all year growing (never mind), build a compost bin and dig over the ground. The only thing that you can plant is lettuce, spinach and garlic, so yesterday I excitedly dragged my man to Lowden Garden Centre, where I forked out a whole £18 on seeds, garlic bulbs (supermarket ones are unsuitable for growing) and a few pots of vibrant pink cyclamen to brighten up my corner while it will be mostly bare soil for several months. I ran over to my allotment on this grey, rainy and windy day, eager to get planting. But having read more about plot preparation, the only progress I can report today is another two hours of digging, weeding and clearing. You have to go a spade’s depth to get rid of every single bit of root, so it will be a while before I get round to any actual planting, which is actually fine because I have a whole winter to occupy myself so I don’t mind doing every single job properly.
And much as there are benefits to all my indoor practices like meditation, art, writing and affirmation, I’m beginning to think that gardening will prove to include so many of them (including exercise, breathing, inner child work, creativity, mindfulness, gratitude) that an hour on the allotment every day might serve as a reasonable substitute for several other things I’ve been trying.
The mental health benefits of gardening are obvious, although it’s the one lesson so far that I can’t find a TED talk about. Because my phone can read my mind (I’m no longer bothered by its invasive knowledge of me and choose to be grateful instead) today it used a Facebook friend to show me this article that points to the immense health benefits of soil.
Which is exactly what my good friend Avril was telling me (she phoned while I was in the allotment, rainswept and covered in mud) as well as confirming the fact that time just disappears when you’re gardening. It’s amazing.
And because I know you share my delirious excitement about a square of soil, you can have a picture of the progress.