By Lauren Goddard
After months of passing by the empty green patch behind the Forest Hill Library, and speculating about its emptiness, Harwood and I decided to go to Lewisham Council and apply for community garden funding. Fortunately for us, the council and the library were on board and we have begun to work on the space in the hopes of welcoming the community to an all-seasons edible community garden — once it is safe to do so of course.
We have both worked and volunteered across a broad scope of local private and communal gardens over the years, including mental health gardens, and we have seen first-hand the absolute magic that comes from gardening alongside a group of people. It is now well known that horticulture has an incredible effect on mental well-being, but it also has the ability to enable a community to form from people who may never have met each other otherwise.
As we come from a therapeutic-horticulture background, we want to offer a warm and welcoming space to members of the community who may have become isolated due to the pandemic. By scheduling session times with a set number of volunteers and providing personal gloves, a hand-washing station and strict tool disinfection we will be able to offer assurance that the garden accommodates social-distancing requirements and is as Covid-safe as possible.
So far, we have gathered advice from various contractors and green charities on how to make the most out of the small space whilst also making it as accessible as possible given its sloping topography: elongated raised beds will be incorporated into the slope whilst flatter paths will be carved out to wind around them.
Our main aim is to grow edible and medicinal plants, along with some ornamentals to lift one’s spirits. We want to share the unbeatable joy and satisfaction that comes from sharing and eating crops that you have grown yourself. The space will demonstrate ways to grow your own food, even if it’s just on a windowsill or balcony, and we know that we’ll all be sharing lots of crafty growing tips amongst us!From then on, we will welcome local people for sessions and encourage participants to determine what we grow at the Library Garden and at home. By working together to grow, tend and share plants, we hope the same camaraderie and care will help us to navigate these difficult times as a community.