Garden Partners Celebrate 1st Year

30 partnerships formed linking older garden owners with volunteer gardeners


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Garden Partners, run by Age Concern Wandsworth, was the first garden-share scheme of its kind in the UK when it began in May 2009. It matches people aged 60-plus who need help to manage their garden with volunteers who tend the garden regularly to grow and share vegetables, fruit and flowers.

More than 100 older people in the borough of Wandsworth have benefited so far from the scheme, which is open to both private domestic gardens and communal gardens attached to schemes for the over-60s.

NHS Wandsworth funds Garden Partners for its health benefits. The partners share fresh fruit and vegetables, and volunteers get more exercise, while garden owners are at less risk of falls or accidents. The scheme can also help to prevent loneliness, stress and depression among older people.

‘The scheme mixes gardening with befriending. Garden owners enjoy seeing their volunteer regularly and find renewed interest in the garden. Many are greatly relieved at having the garden well looked after, while the volunteers are delighted to have extra growing space,’ said Garden Partners coordinator, Sarah Jackson.

Millie Duncan, who is in her 70s, shares her Putney garden with volunteer Pete Bradley, 28. After her husband Ken died, Millie found it difficult to maintain the garden. She could only watch as the flower borders and vegetable patch that were once his pride and joy fell into disuse.

‘Ken always used to be out in the garden. Even when he wasn’t well, he would still go out there,’ she recalled. Millie tried to keep the garden going, but it quickly became too much. ‘It’s a big garden to keep up on your own - when I came in my back was in agony!’ she said.

Meanwhile Pete Bradley, who grew up on a farm, was longing for more growing space than his tiny Tooting garden afforded. He put his name down for an allotment, but was dismayed to realise that he was facing a five-year wait.

Last September he was introduced to Millie, whose garden is a short cycle ride away from where he works in Putney. The garden gave Pete the scope he had been looking for: ‘It was terrific – there was loads of space and a vegetable patch at the back which looked really exciting!’ he said.

Pete has weeded the borders and dug over the vegetable garden, ready for spring sowing. During the winter, he gardened mainly at weekends, but as it grows lighter he can drop in after work to check on his seedlings.

Millie is delighted to see the garden back in use again. She pops out with a cup of tea and has a chat while Pete is working.  And what would Ken think of Pete taking over his garden? ‘He would have loved to have had someone to help him. I say jokingly to my friends that I’ve got my own personal gardener now!’ said Millie with a smile.

April 28, 2010