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News 25/04/2019 Health & wellbeing

"Edible Britain" food growing efforts at Anchor Hanover yield delicious results

National Gardening Week takes place from Monday 29 April to Sunday 5 May 2019. The theme this year is "Edible Britain". As lots of Anchor Hanover customers love growing food and enjoying the many benefits this brings to their health and wellbeing, we share here some stories of the great work being done.

A win-win for wellbeing and saving money

Adrian, who lives at an Anchor Hanover estate in Worthing, has found that growing his own vegetables has improved his health and wellbeing, while also saving himself and other residents cash on food bills. Despite having recently had hip and knee replacement operations, Adrian can still be found most days tending his vegetable plot in the garden area outside his flat. He also helps tend a larger plot in a friend’s garden nearby. This allows him to widen the range of produce grown, including beetroot, broad beans, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, potatoes, rhubarb, runner beans, spinach, spring onions and tomatoes. The estate won the Best Vegetable Patch prize (West region) in the Hanover in Bloom competition held in 2017.

Adrian prefers to take an organic approach to pest control, using beer traps for slugs and soapy water spray for aphids. He makes his own compost and fertilizer from recycled scraps, finding this just as good (if not better) than shop-bought products, without using any harmful chemicals.

Other tenants at the estate have also enjoyed the benefits of having tasty home-grown vegetables available right on their doorstep. Adrian doesn’t sell the produce to them, preferring instead to share it when he has more than he and his wife can feasibly use or freeze. From time to time a barbecue is held, increasing the sense of community on the estate and allowing others to enjoy the fresh taste of home-grown salads.

"Never give up on a good thing"

Homeowners at Rosehill in West Sussex have had quite a journey in the growing of food over the past few years. For a number of years they had access to allotments on privately owned land right beside the estate, and on the edge of a beautiful protected woodland area. They spent lots of time and effort developing their individual food growing areas, with great results. They enjoyed the delicious produce and shared it with other homeowners at the estate. But sadly, one day they heard that the land was going to be sold to a developer to build private housing. The photos below show how well established the food growing was at that time, and the site as it looks now.

Despite the scale of this setback, the homeowners were determined to carry on growing food. Knowing that they had to vacate their current site by the beginning of April 2017, they started looking at an alternative site on the other side of the village. The land was a former football field redeveloped in 2015 with Lottery funding to provide 60 allotments for food growing. So already in 2016, some Rosehill homeowners began applying for an allotment there and starting their food growing again from scratch. And today, after a lot of hard work, they're now back in (fairly) full swing again.

The allotments are large and the land is spacious. Crop rotation is used and the variety of produce is vast: beans, shallots, potatoes, spinach, cabbage, beetroot, onions, garlic, peas, rhubarb, leeks, strawberries, raspberries, and so on. The atmosphere is supportive and friendly, with lots of social interaction across several generations, and allotment owners regularly swapping produce with one another.

John, an allotment owner from the wider community, told us how the produce he grows keeps him in food for a whole year, and he also gives lots of it away. He’s currently teaching his young grandsons to develop a love of gardening by setting up a vegetable patch of their very own for them. This is exactly in tune with the RHS aim to show the value of gardens and to inspire "more people, and particularly the next generation of gardeners, to experience the joy of growing and visiting beautiful green spaces."

My young grandsons can't get over the fascination of having planted just one potato each, only to see each plant produce ten potatoes!

John, local resident

David who lives at Rosehill said: “Starting again from scratch can be really challenging, particularly when it comes to the quality of the soil. But we are proof that it can be done. And there's a big advantage here in that we have a water supply. At our old allotments we had to use water butts, plus water from a small stream by the woodland, but the stream used to dry up in the summer.” The photos below show the scale and success of the redeveloped football field.

It's really nice to hear the residents talking about the various foods they're growing when we all get together for our weekly coffee mornings.

Com, Estate Manager at Rosehill

Back at Rosehill, Mollie gave us a tour of her long-standing herb growing in pots beside her flat. Her collection includes lemon balm, chives, rosemary, chocolate mint, bay, curry and thyme. She uses them in teas and in cooking, and shares them with homeowners at the estate. Mollie's current project involves a plan to create some raised beds and plant wildflowers underneath to help attract pollinators. The role of insects, such as honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and moths, is vital to the human food chain. Of course, Rosehill is no stranger to creating and maintaining beautiful natural environments, having won first prize in the Hanover in Bloom 2016 competition for the Best Kept Estate Garden (West region).

Fruitful (and other) endeavours in Berkshire

At an estate in Aylesbury fruit, vegetables and herbs have been grown for a number of years. The estate has won a couple of awards in the annual Hanover in Bloom competition in the Best Vegetable Patch category. Estate Manager Jacqui said, “This year we’re also planning a summer garden party on 9 June. I have registered the event on the RHS website."

Everyone can grow something

National Gardening Week is the biggest annual celebration of gardening in the UK. At Anchor Hanover we see first hand how gardening can be of great benefit to residents' health and wellbeing. And Edible Britain helps to show that any space, no matter how big or small, can be used to grow delicious vegetables, fruits and herbs to eat and to share with others.

Useful information

  • The RHS website has lots of information about the many ways to get involved in National Gardening Week
  • If you're organising an event for National Gardening Week and you'd like to promote it, you can do so on the RHS website's Register your event page
  • The National Allotment Society's website has a wide range of information about allotments
  • The BBC website has a fascinating article about the importance of bees in pollinating the foods we eat
  • Find out how to grow herbs in containers with this useful advice from the RHS

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