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UK Gardeners Grow Their Own with National Trust

Valerie Elliot

The trust has identified 40 sites that it hopes can be turned into allotments within three years. (Times photo)

LONDON - The National Trust is seeking to persuade every household, office and company to grow its own vegetables in a campaign that will create 1,000 allotments on its own land.

Gordon Brown is being urged to plant a vegetable patch at 10 Downing Street, and down the road the trust is to practise what it preaches by letting staff dig up the garden of its Westminster premises.

The trust has identified 40 sites that it hopes can be turned into allotments within three years, or where the former kitchen gardens of country houses can be restored and used to teach gardening skills.

Most of these sites are on trust farmland or vacant land next to estates, or are traditional walled gardens.

The trust has 3.6 million members and 100,000 people are already on waiting lists for allotments.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, director- general of the trust, said that this was just the first step and if necessary the number of sites would be reviewed. She will try to persuade other landowners to offer more plots.

The TV gardener Monty Don, who is backing the scheme, said that every politician should have an allotment - "and if they don't keep it up properly they should lose their jobs and I promise you the country would be better run". He added: "Allotments connect ordinary people to the beauty and richness of growing things. In an age of deceit and spin and collapse there is absolute integrity in growing food."

The trust will not buy new land for the project but staff are ready to help local groups to apply for start-up grants from the Big Lottery Fund or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

No health and safety problems have been identified. Gardening staff and trained volunteers will supervise kitchen garden sites, and on the other allotments individuals will be responsible for their own gardening tools.

The campaign is part of a wider Food Glorious Food theme to be pursued by the charity this year. Dame Fiona said that it tapped into a mood caused by the recession with people shifting their interest from materialism to real things such as spending time with family outdoors.

"There's something in the air," she said. "More and more people want to grow fruit and vegetables. This isn't just about saving money - it's really satisfying to sow seeds and harvest the fruit and veg of your labour."

The National Trust's campaign to turn over parts of its land to allotments echoes the call for people to "Dig For Victory" during the Second World War, when there were 1.4 million allotments. The trust's campaign hopes to revive the spirit of the wartime poster of a gardener's boot driving a shovel into the soil.

Anyone interested in applying for a National Trust allotment or to work on a community one can register at Available plots will be listed as they become available.

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