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The positives of growing your own fruit and veg

It's National Allotments Week August 14-20, and now is a brilliant time to be friends with an allotment holder. Every available bag, pocket or crook of the arm will be carrying or cradling some sort of fresh produce.

Every available bag, pocket or crook of the arm will be carrying or cradling some sort of fresh produce.

And stalks and boughs and furrows are groaning and bulging with among other things blackberries, raspberries, runner beans, rhubarb, plums, squashes, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, spring onions, carrots, a few cauliflowers - and the odd weed.

But no bother; the beauty of hoiking those out plus pruning and watering and harvesting the rest is it burns 300 calories an hour, the same as low-impact aerobics. With the added bonus of fresh air and bird song and butterflies and bees for company together with hundreds of other species and an escape from the modern world for a little while. If the weather is kind, there is some vitamin D to be had from the sunshine too.

The pastime, being celebrated during National Allotment Week, which starts on 14 August, has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years, meaning there have been waiting lists full for them up and down the country.

An allotment is traditionally marked out in rods, perches or poles, an old form of measurement dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. Ten poles-worth is the accepted size, about that of a tennis court.

Benenden Hospital set aside a space on its 364-acre site for 15 plots for staff to manage a few years ago, specifically for the sense of wellbeing the practice brings.

Carol Head, Chief Gardener at Benenden Hospital

As well as many a misshaped vegetable being pulled from the ground at the moment, there is a riot of colour with sunflowers, dahlias, cornflowers and marigolds blooming. It is a very enjoyable spot to visit.

Chief gardener at Benenden Hospital, Carol Head said: “The garden plots also hark back to the self-sufficiency here when it was a sanatorium for postal workers being treated for tuberculosis. There was not a supermarket down the road at that point. The Hospital has been here for 110 years. It has adapted and changed over the years and now offers many treatments and services.

“We keep the grass edges mowed, but the rest of the hard work is all down to the staff. There is real satisfaction in growing your own and the taste is obviously far better. It is also an opportunity to grow more unusual varieties.   

We’re very proud of our wildlife and biodiversity here, which we have always fiercely protected. So you might find the odd slug here and there as we do not allow fertilisers, only biological control.

“I’ve been inspired and got some strawberries and tomatoes growing in the Sensory Garden we have here which is open to patients, visitors and staff. So taste is catered for as well as sight, sound, smells and touch.”  

Courgettes are particularly plentiful right now. Did you know you can make cracking cakes with them? There are some recipes for chocolate loaves worth searching for online. It will count towards one of your five-a-day too!

I’ve been inspired and got some strawberries and tomatoes growing in the Sensory Garden we have here which is open to patients, visitors and staff. So taste is catered for as well as sight, sound, smells and touch."

Carol Head, Chief Gardener at Benenden Hospital

Copyright © 2017 Benenden Hospital Trust. The Benenden Hospital Trust, whose registered office is at Goddard's Green Road, Benenden, Cranbrook Kent TN17 4AX is a Company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales, number 3454120, and is also a registered charity, Registered charity number 1065995. The Benenden Hospital Trust is a subsidiary of The Benenden Healthcare Society Limited.

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