Monday, August 31, 2009

Let Oxford's gardeners use spare land

PEOPLE with large gardens they can no longer cultivate are to give over their land to keen green-fingered residents as part of Oxford’s first community gardening project.

The trustees of a thriving community garden are launching a scheme aimed at getting more people involved in growing food on small and unusual plots of land — and sharing the fruits of their labour.

Barracks Lane Community Garden, in East Oxford, is applying for a National Lottery grant to set up its local food programme.

The idea is to teach those who have not tried gardening how to grow fruit vegetables, encourage those who already have allotment plots to share their produce and persuade people with large gardens who cannot cultivate them themselves to share their land, allowing others to dig for victory.

Trustee John Green said: “There are a couple of schemes across the country where people get together and match up those who need gardening space with those who have it and either don’t want to manage it or cannot, which is what we are hoping to do.

“For example, in East Oxford there are thousands of apple trees that are unpicked.

“The idea would be to find people to gather up that produce and put it where it’s needed, either give it away or turn it into juice.”

The group is now preparing to apply for a £27,000 lottery grant.

Mr Green said: “It’s all about celebrating local food, but also trying to stimulate the whole idea that with a very small space – for example a window box, a patio or a small garden – you can get involved in growing things at home and that it is fun, very productive and also healthy.”

The plan is to set up regular masterclasses and activities aimed at bringing the community together, such as feasts featuring locally-grown produce.

Fellow trustee Annie Davy said about 700 people would be directly involved in workshops but it could potentially have far wider knock-on effects.

She said: “We hope the garden will inspire people, demonstrate different techniques and pass on skills, like how you make compost.

“We are getting masses of enthusiastic responses and lots of support from allotments associations, children’s centres and all sorts of people.”

Barracks Lane Garden opened in 2007 after a group of dedicated residents transformed a derelict, waste-filled garage site into a thriving community garden.
By Fran Bardsley

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