Proof that gardening can overcome the Odds

The Conservation Foundation is delighted to relaunch Gardening Against The Odds (GATO), which celebrates the power of gardening to overcome all kinds of ‘odds’ and improve mental, physical and community wellbeing.


The combination of glorious spring sunshine and some very challenging global odds means none of us will ever forget spring 2020. These days, more than ever before, we need to find ways to lift our spirits, bring us together, protect our mental and physical health and celebrate the beauty of nature.

Gardening Against The Odds – gardening for a digital age in the lockdown of spring 2020.

GATO is for everyone. If you don’t know a dandelion from a dahlia, it doesn’t matter. With the help of the Conservation Foundation’s network of gardening and environmental friends and experts, we’ll share tips and ideas for first time gardeners as well as old gardening hands. We’ll look at no-garden gardening to make the most of a tiny space and ways to use new-found green fingered skills to brighten the day for passers-by or cheering up local eyesores with some living colour. There will be suggestions on what plants work well in which spaces and also help improve the biodiversity.

We’ll pass on some of the stories of people who’ve been able to overcome all kinds of odds thanks to gardening.

When we spot great GATO ideas in action, we’ll share these on our social media pages, alongside news, useful contacts, practical tips, plant shopping and plant swapping.

But most of all we want to hear from you. No idea is too odd, no gardening isn’t good enough.

Tell us what works – and what doesn’t. Share your triumphs – and disasters – and tell us if gardening against the odds makes a difference to how you’re feeling.

We will be using our @gardeningagainsttheodds Facebook page as our main platform for sharing ideas but you will also be able to follow along on our other social platforms.

Twitter @conservationfdn #gardeningagainsttheodds
Instagram @gardeningagainsttheodds #gardeningagainsttheodds
LinkedIn @theconservationfdn #gardeningagainsttheodds

Or send your pictures, videos and stories to

We all know gardening is good for us. Now’s the time to let your imagination loose, get your hands dirty and start Gardening Against The Odds.



Elspeth Thompson

Elspeth Thompson


The much loved writer Elspeth Thompson was a judge of our Green Corners Awards. When Elspeth died in 2010 The Conservation Foundation created the Gardening Against The Odds Awards with The Sunday Telegraph, for which she wrote a weekly column, in her memory. Over the years we met hundreds of inspiring and creative people whose lives had been made better – and in some cases even saved – by gardening.







Andrew Barnett

Andrew Barnett and his family at the first GATO awards.

Andrew Barnett, the first winner, transformed the derelict Yorkshire garden of the new house he and his wife moved to after a nervous breakdown forced him to retire early. Encouraged by the award and with the help of the local community, Andrew opened his garden under the Yellow Book and over time it rebuilt his life, according to his daughter, Alexandra, who nominated him for GATO, “Not only has my dad saved this garden from a boggy existence, but I really believe the garden has saved my dad.”




Huntington’s Allotmenteers

Some of the Huntington’s Allotmenteers at a weekly session

Huntington’s Disease is an inherited progressive disease which makes life for sufferers and their families truly difficult. The second GATO award winners, Huntington’s Allotmenteers, all of whom are touched by the disease in some way, got together to turn an unloved Southend-on Sea allotment into a place of peace and beauty which yields enough fruit and veg for everyone. Whatever the weather they meet each week to garden or to cook the fruits of their labours and many report that not only has life changed, it’s changed for the better.






Sajeda Kadir

Sajeda Kadir and her friend growing herbs and vegetables in the inner city

Sajeda Kadir, winner of the third GATO award lives in Kilburn in an estate with little green space having moved to the UK from Bangladesh some years ago. She cares for her disabled child at home and has little chance to get out but was encouraged into gardening by Groundwork London’s imaginative food growing project and discovered her inner gardener. With the help of neighbours, Sajeda planted herbs and vegetables they share and use in their cooking, at the same time improving the space and the biodiversity of this built up part of London.





Butterfly Gardeners

The Butterfly Gardeners getting down to earth

When Chris Evans found that young people with autism, Down’s syndrome and various mental health issues enjoyed visiting his family garden centre in Cheltenham, he decided to set up the Butterfly Garden, winner of the fourth GATO award. In a space behind the garden centre, all kinds of gardening and other therapeutic and creative activities take place to the great joy and benefit of all who go there.






Waverley Allotments

All kinds of vegetables flourish at Waverley Allotments in Hartlepool

Waverley Terrace Community Allotment in Hartlepool, winner of the fifth GATO award, is a shining beacon of success in an area of high deprivation. Here vulnerable and socially excluded adults garden very productively, growing a great quantity of fruit and vegetables, which is distributed and sold in the community. At the same time healthy eating, exercise and social development are promoted and profits ploughed back into the project. It helps prepare people for employment and works with the local FE College whose vocational students provide free labour while gaining work experience.




As part of our ongoing support towards this project we are also currently undertaking some further research and could do with your help! Please click here to find out more.