For Susie Solis, the patch of land she cultivates on the outskirts of Edinburgh is a "place of sanctuary" and never more so than during lockdown.

Now in her 14th year of holding an allotment at Bridgend Growing Communities near Craigmillar, the former mental health officer visits nearly every day and appreciates the routine required to maintain it.

She said: "I was brought up with a beautiful garden and knew the joy of eating fresh vegetables from garden to table. So that inspired me, and my father was so zen I learned from him that there must be something so chilled out about gardening."

Scottish Government guidelines issued at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak indicated that councils and private holders could continue to run their allotments, as long as social distancing rules were adhered to and shared utilities closed.

There was an almost palpable sigh of relief from the country's committed army of allotment cultivators who feared the loss of not only their city retreats, but also of their vegetables, flowers and plants were they not allowed to tend to their plots, said Delia Henry, a plot-holder and committee member at the Springburn Gardens allotment site in Glasgow.

"Some people really panicked about it. It's a real lifeline for folk because it is so therapeutic, and to have that taken away [would have been awful]."

Figures from the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society (SAGS), a voluntary organisation that protects and promotes allotment sites and plot-holders, indicated in 2007 there were around 7,000 plot-holders across Scotland, with numbers thought to have crept up towards 10,000 in more recent years.

Her "lottie" is a place not only for Ms Solis, 67, to stay fit and active but also to maintain her mental health during a time when so much is uncertain.

"I have definitely come down more than I would have usually, because I have more time. But also because it is an oasis of beauty and calm, and it reminds you that life goes on because there's always weeds growing and there's always tatties to shore up. And just hearing the birds sing is the most delightful thing because it's so peaceful."

Having worked in mental health for so many years, Ms Solis knows the importance of taking care of her emotional wellbeing.

"It's brought me peace and tranquility and hope in that the bees are buzzing, the birds are still raising their young, the weeds keep growing. So it's just being part of nature and watching it happen as it does no matter what's going on around it."

Mrs Henry, 67, found her love of an allotment after her husband was gifted one for his 60th birthday. Now she can be found down there most days, pulling up weeds, planting new seeds or checking in on her bees.

Despite everyone keeping a safe distance, the sense of community hasn't diminished, and Springburn's diverse group of residents continue to support each other as they nourish their small pockets of land.

"Interestingly, during the pandemic everybody's asking each other how they are and checking in, whereas before they might have just said hello, which I think is lovely."

The 11-acre plot that lies hidden between a dual carriageway and a rail track in north of Glasgow is now more than 100 years old and there are plans to create a nature reserve on the site.

Like both Springburn and Bridgend allotments, many across Scotland have voluntary and community groups that make use of plots that hope to return when the virus becomes less of an immediate threat. Local food projects, refugees, young offenders and people living with domestic violence, as well as children with learning difficulties, have all experienced the transformative practical and emotional benefits of gardening.

Some doctors now even prescribe a stint in the garden to help alleviate depression and anxiety, and the Scottish Horticultural Plan, a paper produced by 28 member organisations including SAGS and National Trust for Scotland in 2018, noted that "gardening offers a sense of fulfilment that can boost social and emotional well-being, build self-esteem, reduce isolation and help in mental health recovery".

For Mrs Henry, not being stuck inside has been a saving grace of lockdown: "This is like being in a different world. There's almost a kind of counter-intuitiveness of the fact you're in the middle of Springburn but you would never dream that was the case.

"It really gives you a sense of wellbeing and growing and thinking about what I'm going to be growing and harvesting in the autumn. Being outside and looking to the future and actually doing something really positive in a really negative situation."

How to get your allotment up and running

If you have been lucky enough to bag an allotment, here are some tips on how to get started:

• Plan the layout by talking to others who can tell you what works and where and how to make the best use of space. A crop rotation plan can help you get the best from your plot.

• Clear the plot of unwanted materials and debris. Trees, shrubs and other woody plants such as brambles are best cut down and dug out, while woody waste can be shredded and composted

• Don't overlook the weeding. Weeding is vital to maintaining an allotment as not only does it protect the plants by creating space and loosening the soil, it allows water to access roots more rapidly.

• When clear of weeds the soil can be broken up, and ideally then add organic matter by digging or rotovating, or while building raised beds.

• Practise companion planting by planting different crops in close proximity that act as pest control, allow pollination and provide habitat for beneficial insects.

• Make use of any leftover wood or tools by recycling them into planters or other helpful equipment like a compost bin.

• If you're a beginner, consider tackling only half the plot in the first year so you can get to know the land and stay motivated.

• Get to know your soil – is it sandy, clay or otherwise? Different conditions require different treatments and seeds. Plants can grow differently in each and they can affect drainage and nutrients they need.

• Don't hang around – the sooner you get planting, the sooner you can reap the benefits.