It’s a Bugs Life
Last week was National Allotment Week. This year the National Allotment Society (NAS) wanted not only to encourage people of all ages to grow their own, on whatever plot they have, but they also wanted to conduct a survey for allotment holders to record the insects they see on their plot.
They enlisted the help of Buglife, an organisation which tries to protect and preserve our native insects. They are currently focussing on pollinators, which most plants need to transfer pollen from the male part to of vegetables to the female part in order to develop. Without pollinators, there would be very little to harvest.
Buglife created a survey to make it easy for allotment holders and keen gardeners to record the insects they find, and asked for images as well.
With natural habitat declining by way of hedgerows being destroyed to make way for building, roads etc, not to mention by the recent spate of field and woodland fires, it’s imperative that we understand the state of our insect population – so the survey is important.
It is believed that there are about 330,000 allotments in the UK, and as the waiting lists show, that’s not enough. In some areas, the waiting time for a plot can be 18 years. The NAS work with councils and landowners to try and find more plots, and funding for them too. When communities are awarded funding for various projects, allotments are often overlooked and not considered to be a community space, so the NAS tries to ensure some of that funding is diverted to allotment spaces.
That means that allotments with funding tend to be better managed, which not only can improve the habitat for insects, but humans too. An allotment can provide quite physical exercise, and of course is in the fresh air, which is a great combination. Combine that with the mental relaxation it can give, and of course the great tasting fruit and vegetables, and you can see that they play their part in our well-being. There is social interaction with your fellow allotment holders if you want it, and there are no age barriers. Getting children interested in growing their own is a great way to teach them where our food comes from, and hopefully give them an interest in it for life.
A recent study showed that just one session on their plot gave allotmenteers better self-esteem, and by continuing with it, better general health and less depression and tiredness. During the lockdowns over the last couple of years, many people have decided to grow their own in their gardens, for all the reasons stated above.
During the Second World War, the government encouraged the nation to “Dig For Victory”. This was to encourage people to grow their own as much as they could to combat the food rationing that was in place at the time. Nowadays, we take it for granted that we can just go and buy what we want when we need it, and we’re probably all guilty of throwing food away when it’s out of date. But during the war years every part of what was grown was used, and the population were only allowed so many ounces of meat or so many eggs a week, and had to queue to buy them. So by growing as much as possible in their gardens, they didn’t go as hungry as they would otherwise, and learned to value what they had.
Going through those hard times taught people a lesson, and many continued with the gardening after the war, and rationing, was over. But somewhere along the way, with the population becoming more affluent, it was easy to just go and buy it. This left more time for leisure activities, and generally people wanted to spend their time doing what they wanted to, rather than what they had to. So, the art of gardening became a minority activity. But as recent events have shown, a great deal can be achieved and obtained by doing it yourself and thankfully it is on the increase in popularity again.
I can remember my parents growing a few things in the garden such as potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes and that they tasted better than supermarket bought. My in-laws had a vegetable patch until quite late in their lives, growing peas, runner beans and rhubarb. The rhubarb was prolific, and mother-in-law used to find many ways to serve it – pies, crumbles etc.
My daughter has turned her tiny garden (well her partner has) over to growing vegetables and loves the results, getting excited when a strawberry turns red or digging up potatoes. She sounds like she’s five, but actually she’s a grown woman – but that’s the satisfaction you can get from growing your own.
Although it would be difficult to become totally self-sufficient growing your own, whatever you can do has the added benefit of saving you money – and at a time when the cost of energy is going skywards, we need to save wherever we can.
As with everything, it can be daunting to try and reverse the state of the habitats we rely on, but remember that even a wild flower patch in your garden, however small, can attract bees and other insects and therefore give nature a helping hand. If we all designated a couple of square metres to insect friendly plants, collectively we could make a difference. This would then increase the vital insect population to keep our vegetables pollinated.
So if you fancy having a go at growing your own, just do it – it may not all work every time, but mostly you’ll get great satisfaction from it.
Talk to keen gardeners, they’ll love to give you some advice, or just do some research on what you can achieve in your window box or garden.
Give nature a chance – or as John Lennon once said – Give Bees a Chance!