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article imageOp-Ed: Be a volunteer gardener

By Eileen Kersey     Jan 5, 2013 in Lifestyle
Many people are the unsung heroes of British society, volunteering their time and effort for the good of others. Gardening may not be a pastime which readily springs to mind if you are considering volunteering, but maybe it should be.
People in the UK can be very giving. This is probably true of some people in most societies. There are always people who will volunteer their efforts for free. Some do so out of passion for the subject, others to be philanthropic or help others in need, but there are many reasons you may choose to be a volunteer.
Which charity or organisation you opt for can depend on the publicity, knowledge and openings available. UK PM David Cameron's, widely espoused, Big Society has been written off by many in the UK. Still that is another story. With or without the so called Big Society project you may want to be a volunteer. So, how about a volunteer gardener?
Writing in Friday's Daily Express Britain's celebrity gardener and author, Alan Titchmarsh, suggested that a late New Year's resolution for readers could be to become a volunteer gardener.
Winter may have hardly begun in the UK but, round about this time of year, many people cast their thoughts toward spring. If you are a gardener you may already be planning what you will plant this year and where. Container and allotment gardening is widespread in the UK and the economic downturn has resulted in many people planting vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. Size does matter in gardening but even the smallest plot can be utilised with a little thought and forward planning.
Alan's article related to a charity called Thrive which is in need of volunteers.
The charity needs volunteers to help out at its two main centres: Trunkwell Gardens at Beech Hill, near Reading, and Battersea Park in south London, but it also runs horticultural therapy schemes at the National Trust property The Vyne, in Berkshire, and Fulham Palace Gardens in south London, as well as in hospitals, village halls and community allotments.
For information on volunteering go to or call 0118 988 4844.
If you have the time and the inclination it could prove a good place to volunteer. Thrive uses gardening as a form of occupational therapy for those who are visually impaired, have dementia, are elderly or who have health problems limiting their ability to garden.
Some of the other volunteer gardening opportunities in Alan's article such as Groundwork London, which may or may not be part of the coalition government's Big Society plans.
Reading and reporting Alan's article though led me to realise that volunteer gardeners exist in many countries. It may be in the form of helping a neighbour or creating a small or large neighbourhood project.
In the UK current interest in gardening is growing due to austerity. It may not yet be on the scale of "the War" but many individuals and groups are now growing useful food items rather than just flowers and plants.
In 2011 the mailonline reported on Todmorden in Yorkshire, calling it an "eccentric" story. Volunteers had planted all manner of produce, curly kale, carrot plants, lettuces, spring onions, vegetables and salad leaves, outside of the local police station.
Locals responded well and rather than getting greedy took what they needed. Yes "took" as the produce was Free. Todmorden residents hope that by 2018 the village will be self-sufficient, as far as fruit and vegetables go.
The indications are that gardening, especially in the form of minor crops, is booming in the UK, as well as further afield.
Becoming a volunteer gardener often has an unexpected benefit for the volunteer. Many of the organisations have at least a handful of professional or semi-professional gardeners helping out. This means that you can fine tune your gardening skills whilst benefitting the community. A final bonus for New Year is that it could help shift those excess Christmas pounds of weight!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Gardening, alan titchmarsh, british gardens, new years resolutions, volunteer gardener
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