Spring is when you feel like whistling, even when you get caught in the rain.

It’s no coincidence that we have a bounce in our step this season: the arrival of Spring reminds us how much our mental and physical wellbeing are connected with nature. Over the last year, we’ve come to appreciate the importance of our green spaces more than ever, because they have been the places where we could – or could not – go when we had to stay close to home.

National Gardening Week celebrates the feel-good power of plants and gardens, highlighting some of the scientific links with our wellbeing. For those fortunate enough to have gardens, gardening is a way to immerse yourself in nature, to exercise and relieve stress, to reduce your carbon footprint and clean your air, to grow food and help local wildlife. For those who do not have their own outdoor space, access to communal gardens, allotments and green spaces can provide the same, profound benefits.

The act of creating these green spaces with others is good for us too. For example, Belville Community Garden in the east end of Greenock, Inverclyde, started as a campaign to rescue a piece of derelict land and has since turned into a vibrant community space. As organiser Laura Reilly reflects, it’s more than just plants that grow when people get behind such gardening projects:

“An idea that starts out as one thing can become much more with input from everyone. We are inspired by everyone in the community and our ideas grew the garden into what it is today.”

With sufficient community willpower, no plot of land is too small to bring people together or reconnect them with nature. Energy Garden empowers local communities across London’s boroughs to build greener spaces in and around their London Overground station. Their approach to gardening is inspired by the opportunity of addressing some of the most pressing issues of urban living – the environment, health and wellbeing, and renewable energy – all at the same time. Team member Caitlin Couper is keen to highlight that the impact is not so small either:

“Over 100 groups across London are engaged in the Energy Garden programme and over 300 people are involved on a regular basis with Energy Garden across 34 gardens. But the impact is much wider: the average station sees 15,000 passenger visits a day and the benefits have been recognised by Transport for London whose reports show that stations with Energy Gardens consistently have the highest Customer Services Scoring across the rail network.”

The growing waiting lists for allotments around the country is one indication of just how much people would like a place to grow. Happily, Maurice Patton offered one solution by providing plots at Patton Farm in Newtownards, County Down, for the local community to grow their own food. The Ards Allotments are managed and his team share their experience and skills with community members to help everyone to get the best from their plot. From novices to more seasoned gardeners, founder Maurice sees many benefits:

“As pressure for development increases, private gardens in urban areas have decreased in size leaving little or no space to grow. Ards Allotments aim to combat this by offering an alternative. By growing our own food, we reduce the amount of chemicals used and avoid plastic packaging. It’s also a great way to get outside, and quite often helps biodiversity by providing a habitat for friendly local wildlife.”

At Carbon Copy, we’re celebrating National Gardening Week by recognising how varied gardening can be. These three initiatives may be very different in practice, but the people involved have similar aims: to make green spaces more accessible and widely available; to reimagine what gardening could look like where they live; to put ideas into action, right now.

Photo: Belville Community Garden

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