You can’t mention gardening anywhere without half a dozen people telling you they’d love to grow things, too. But then you’ll hear they don’t have the space, the time, or the knowledge.
These are real barriers. If you’re already a keen grower, cast your mind back to your early days. Even if you had space, time and all the books in the world, just a quiet word or a bit of companionship probably made all the difference to your confidence. Fortunately, a new scheme by The Wildlife Trusts is helping people all over the UK to take their first steps in growing herbs, vegetables and fruit.
Nextdoor Nature is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to empower communities to improve neighbourhoods for people and wildlife. Every county has a project officer who supports the local community in their own area. It’s not centrally organised, which means that the projects are designed and led by local people. This leads to some wonderful innovations.
At the Beacon Centre in Exeter, the beginners’ gardening group is starting small – incredibly small. Their first projects are creating terrariums in jam jars, which is a lovely way to learn about the very basics of what plants need to thrive. Up in Hendon in Sunderland, the social enterprise Back on the Map recognises how intimidating an entire allotment can be. So first they offer a shared bed. Once the bug takes hold, the budding gardener can progress to a full bed of their own before finally taking on an allotment.
Over in Hereford, there are plans afoot – or should that be a-wheel – to expand the existing Pedicargo provision. These cargo bikes, it’s suggested, could collect food waste from around the city, including from food banks, to fuel their compost heaps. The resulting loamy goodness will be delivered back to community allotments and gardens.
Recycling is a cornerstone of community gardening. Hull’s project, by The Friends of Alderman Kneeshaw Park, have made their planters and raised beds from decking that was heading for landfill, and used the local city council’s own compost from their household waste recycling programme.
There are dozens of ways that groups can be supported to take their first steps into gardening and perhaps there’s a community group near you that’s interested in growing things too. All it takes is a listening ear, a few words of advice, and some clever solutions to everyday problems.
Find out more about Nextdoor Nature at www.wildlifetrusts.org/nextdoor-nature
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