Key to ethos and philosophy of the nurturenature therapeutic garden project and it’s associated endeavours is a wish to heighten awareness of the benefits of nature and gardening in all their forms to both physical and mental health. Part of this is sharing a message that it is possible for everyone, even if you only have a windowsill, to grow something they can eat. For some it may be a basil plant or some salad leaves on the windowsill, for others it may be a full size allotment that provides more produce than their own family can eat – and excess is either stored/preserved or pickled. Vegetable production at Station House is a source of huge pleasure to me. There is such a feeling of achievement when a meal consists almost entirely of home grown produce (which may include eggs from my lovely chooks). And of course it does actually taste better.
As a small contribution to the local community and passing walkers/horse riders/bike riders we have built a number of raised beds – four 2.4 m square and four 1.8 x 1m VegTrugs – adjacent to the track which goes not only to our house but also to a riding stable and a popular local wood which joins the TransPennine Trail. The goal is that by this time next year the beds will heaving with produce which anyone passing-by can help themselves to so that they can appreciate the pleasure of eating freshly picked produce and possibly even be inspired to grow something themselves. Flowers for picking such as sweet peas will also be grown there. Salad crops, beetroot, spinach have produced crops which friends and neighbours have been encouraged to use. But as they have pointed out we must get a sign up explaining what we are doing and why and encouraging them to help themselves. Ready for the next few weeks our recently planted autumn carrots, spring onions, dwarf french beans and spinach are sprouting, squash are ripening and hardy herbs such as rosemary and sage are well established. Just need to get that sign up! Helpers will be welcomed for both this which we are calling our “community allotment” and the therapeutic garden and the opportunity to work in this will be part of the therapeutic garden project too. A page of A4 letting people know a bit about the project has been drafted but something much shorter to catch people’s attention is essential as well.
For those living and/or sharing food at Station House we are lucky enough to be able to produce even more autumn/winter/hungry gap produce as we have polytunnels and heated greenhouses to help us. During summer these groan with tomatoes of range of varieties – sungold;tiny orange cherry tomatoes and tomatoberry; little red hearts are like little sweets and crop early. Fabulous looking shiny Black Russians on their thick sturdy stems are just ripening. Aubergines, peppers, cucumbers and chillis also get the luxury of protection from the elements. With all the veg I try to grow varieties that are not available in the supermarket and also some heritage varieties.
During the winter the polytunnels are not only used for growing food but for bring on flowers both herbaceous perennials and hardy annuals so that they flower earlier and produce stronger plants for the following spring/summer. I love flowers for their beauty, their scent and their relationship with food as well – they are key to attracting pollinators and I make a conscious effort to plant flowers that attract bees. The RHS provides a list of suitable plants for this purpose – “Plants for Pollinators” which can be found at RHSPlantsforPollinators. I also planting where vegetable are planted immediately next to veg, either as companion plants to deter pests or simply for the look. And of course many veg are themselves very attractive such a broad bean ‘crimson flowered’ cavolo nero, most herbs and many more.
Many of my plants I grow from seed because I love doing it (and it saves shed loads of money) but some especially those that are hard to grow from seed are being grown on from plant plugs to try and raise some much needed funds to support the development of the nurturenature project. In particular, improved wheelchair/disabled access is needed urgently to some of the garden, both for myself and for future users who need to use a chair/sticks or are just a bit frail. There is the possibility of a grant for some of this from a charity but I am anticipating that even if our application was successful that the funds awarded would be a relatively small amount though, very gratefully received. Cake sales and car boots here we come!!
Enjoy any gardening you do, take every opportunity you can to get outside, stop and smile at the beauty of a tree you pass every day. Take time, be mindful, life is only lived once.