Happier Living at the Plot

The allotment has become a place of calm and happiness for me over the last few years. It’s separation from life at home and work, offers the chance to look at things differently with a new pair of eyes. The people at Action for Happiness have ten keys to happier living and I reckon the allotment fulfills them all in some way. great dream

One of the great things about allotment sites is the way people support each other. Fellow allotment holders talked to me when I was feeling down, and relating to these people helped me to not feel isolated in my depression. From receiving gifts of seedlings from my neighbour, to returning the favour by giving her some spare cucumbers, contact with other members of the community was really helpful in helping me to accept how I was feeling and manage my emotions. Visiting the allotment, with out doing anything other than being there, offers therapy in itself. Just looking, appreciating, taking notice of the minute beauty of the plants growing (whether weeds or crops) allows one to find meaning in life; enables you to dispel thoughts of uselessness and pointlessness. When I had left work and my mood meant my confidence was low, the allotment also gave me direction. I needed to be there to weed, to tend the seedlings, to pick the strawberries; and so I had to go. As my confidence grew I could try new things, unlock my creative side which had been supressed. My reslience was also improved as I saw that a slug attack was not the end of the world; that I could sow more seeds; that the greenhouse could be rebuilt after the storm. Now that I’m more on an even keel, with more of a positive mindset, the allotment still offers me a place to go for peace and solitude. It also gives me a chance for physical work. An afternoon digging and weeding is as good a excercise as any gym. The Allotment Gym if you like. A gym for your body and your mind.

Time to Dig

As the first frosts hit the plot, its time to clear away the final signs of a summer of growing. The ever-growing nasturtium have wilted under the frost and the courgette plants have long given up producing their fruits. With the weather dry and bright, if  a little chilly, I’ve taken the opportunity to clear and dig over the big bed at the front of the plot.

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I always used to hate digging, but recently have found it to be a very therapeutic activity. First of all its a good workout; apparently you can burn 600-700 calories in an hours digging, and even three hours of general gardening burns a similar amount of calories. The active part of having an allotment really helps to clear the head and increase motivation, but I find that the very nature of turning over soil to start again is a useful metaphor for trying to forge a new balance and direction in my life.

I also took the opportunity to add some organic material, manure, to the soil. Although we’ve been improving the soil since taking on the plot, it still benefits from the addition of some well rotted manure to loosen and aerate the clay soil. Hopefully the winter frosts can help to break up the soil and lead to a fertile start to next year.