The benefits of gardening in your park home
You might feel a little overwhelmed by the garden in your new park home to understand the benefits of gardening for you.
"It's too much work, and I don't know where to start," you say to yourself.
"I'll never be able to make my park home garden into anything special," you may think.
"And, I'm just too unfit to make for gardening," you might believe.
But, consider this: gardening can be the secret to a long and healthy life.
Before you dismiss gardening as a way to keep and live healthily, read our short guide on how to make the most of the garden around your park home.
What are the health benefits of gardening?
The great news for everyone with green fingers is that gardening can be a big part of the residential park lifestyle.
- Digging, sowing, planting and even weeding improve your physical condition
- Spending time in the garden can have a substantial positive impact on your mental well-being
- Eating all that delicious home-grown veg you've lovingly tended is good for your health (and your pocket too!)
It's a way of life in many parks. Most homes have their private gardens, and many parks have gardening clubs that help generate a great sense of community – as well as some friendly rivalry!
Growing your produce
One of the most exciting benefits of gardening is one for those who want to take it up a level. A growing (pardon the pun!) number of parks now offer allotments and kitchen gardens on site.
Your imagination is the only limit to your 'growing options' and taking the right approach. With a bit of luck, you can have bumper crops all year round. Whether it's crispy fresh salads on balmy summer evenings or warming vegetable soup on chilly autumn days, it always tastes better when you've cultivated the ingredients yourself.
And you can even grow your Christmas dinner's spuds, sprouts and carrots on the allotment.
Growing your produce can be hard work, but it brings plenty of rewards:
- It's a consistent source of year-round food, and you have absolute knowledge of what goes into the soil and on your crops, so no need to worry about pesticides and other chemicals
- You can grow and eat crops to your taste – for example, if you love broad beans but hate peas, then that's what to grow
- The social interaction you get with like-minded growers
- It's an excellent way to keep fit
- The sense of achievement when you produce a bumper crop of courgettes or tomatoes
What about storage?
If gardening is essential to you, then find out what is available onsite when you are looking at a residential park.
Homes do usually have gardens, but you'll probably also want some outdoor storage building like a shed for your garden tools. If allotment plots are available, check what you'll have to pay. If there is a charge, usually it's not very expensive, ranging from a peppercorn rent of a pound, up to about £25.
Which parks offer allotments?
At Willow View Park in beautiful Devon, there are 27 allotment plots, and residents pay £5 per year, per plot. Surrounding the whole area is a fence, and there is a water supply.
Claire Podbury, of the park, said: "We set them up in about 2013, and they have been popular. We felt it was a good way to create a community spirit among our residents, and it has!"
Another park where allotments are available is Willow Park in the Nottinghamshire countryside.
Not only does the communal allotment provide an area for residents to grow their fruit and vegetables but there's even space for a chicken run to provide eggs! The site also has an eco-friendly, communal composter for garden waste.
Director Sophie Brown said, "At Willow Park, we have one large allotment with raised beds. Residents are free to pick a spot as they please, and the ethos is to plant and share with others, which works well with everyone. It's something we installed right at the very beginning of developing Willow Park as my father has a small holding so has always been into 'growing his own'."
"Residents themselves maintain the allotment; there are a compost heap and running water, as well as a chicken run which they take turns to look after (weekly) and have eggs. They've grown potatoes, cabbages, salad, carrots, sweet peas etc. There is no charge to use it, and if there is no space it's just a case of getting in their earlier next time – there are no designated plots."
At Warfield Park in Berkshire, the Garden Club, organised by the community association, is a hugely popular part of the social scene, along with activities like Pilates.
With around 500 homes, there's a wide range of residents living here, and just as in any other community, park dwellers have different levels of ability and interest in gardening.
But club secretary Jim Claridge said the club helps add to the community spirit among people living on the park, regardless of skill-levels.
"The enthusiasts will spend two to three hours per day in their garden," he said, "while non-gardeners will do the minimum required to keep things tidy, possibly only two or three hours per week. I find it very hard to work out an average figure!"
"And, of course, as we are all well past retiring age, some need professional gardening help.
"The benefits of gardening are well known. Fresh air, exercise and the satisfaction of creating a beautiful haven for relaxation times. Most people concentrate on growing flowers, but vegetables, salad crops and soft fruit are all grown here."
"Some of the more established plots have been here long enough to have fruit trees. Even grapes and melons are not unknown!"
Jim added: "The Garden Club certainly adds to the community spirit, although it is only one of a large number of societies catering for all interests."
What shall I grow?
If you decide to go down the route of producing your veg, you'll have to decide what you want to grow, whether it's on an allotment or a vegetable plot in your garden.
It makes sense to grow what you like to eat, but you'll have to take into account what is possible, given the soil type and where your home is.
Check your soil type – is it light and sandy, or heavy and clay-filled? Certain crops will only grow well in particular kinds of ground, so if you're not sure, ask your fellow growers.
Some crops such as carrots, onions or potatoes, are so cheap to buy that it might be easier to get them from the supermarket and concentrate on other produce. They are easy to grow, so if saving money isn't your prime motivation then give them a go. The likes of leeks, spring onions, salad leaves and lettuce are also relatively easy to grow and cost a bit more to buy in the shops.
Brassicas can be very productive, but you will need to keep a close eye on pests. Given a chance, caterpillars will decimate your crops, so you'll need to keep them covered with netting as much as possible. Courgettes will produce loads and, at the peak of their growing season in mid-summer, you might find yourself overwhelmed.
If you do get a glut of anything, one solution is to share with your fellow park residents. Another is to get pickling. You can make a delicious courgette relish without too much difficulty.
We may not have a long, hot summer as we had in 2018 may never be repeated, but for gardeners, it led to bumper crops of everything and an extended growing season. Some allotment holders were still harvesting tomatoes they had grown outdoors in November! Again, tomatoes are the sort of crop of which that you can never have too much.
Make batches of your pasta sauce (with homegrown herbs, of course) and stick them in the freezer for eating any time you need an easy meal. Green tomato chutney can be delicious, especially if you add a few chillies, which you can also grow yourself.
Gardening tips: Plants and flowers
Gardening doesn't have to be about producing food. You may want to keep the area around your home tidy and colourful and create a lovely space for you to enjoy when the sun is shining.
If that's the case, you can get away with spending a few hours a week pottering around. A lawn mower, a trowel, a hand fork and a pair of secateurs should be enough to get you started, and hanging baskets, tubs and pots are an easy way to grow flowers.
The most important thing is to remember to water plants daily in the summer. Plants in containers and hanging baskets may need watering twice a day during dry weather.
Remember, gardening is not an exact science. Even experienced growers make mistakes, and sometimes things don't go to plan for no apparent reason. Take it as it comes and be confident; soon you'll be enjoying the fruits of your labour, and you'll understand the real benefits of gardening.
Now that you've read about the benefits of gardening in your park home read our park and home reviews here!