Pilot Write Up: Shrivenham Community News Article Summer 21

For the Summer publication of the Shrivenham Community News I wrote an article following up on the DE Gardeners Pilot that had taken place in the spring of 2021. Lots of lovely pictures showing the community planting in St Albans Church was a happy day of light relief in the pandemic.

Scroll down for the full text of the article in larger font!

Thank you to everyone who took part in the DA Gardeners / Daffys Big Spring Plant in March and the Big Autumn Bulb Order in June.  We look forward to planting some bulbs communally in the autumn, as well as people planting in their SFA to ‘pay it forward’ and brighten up our spring.    

These orders were part of a pilot for the wider concept of DE Gardeners www.degardeners.com to make it possible to plant gardens in SFA, make community gardens with allotments where appropriate and generally champion the enormous benefits of gardening. 

The thing about pilots is that it’s an experiment.  A carefully thought through idea is tested in real life and with the best will in the world was there ever a pilot that went perfectly?  There’s the known unknowns, of course.  Will anyone see the vision and back the idea?  Will people want to support the concept?  Will I cope with the seventh circle of spreadsheet hell?  However, it turns out that those are not the real problems.  It is the unknown unknowns that cause true excitement.  Between Brexit and Covid this was the year there was a national shortage of plants, packers and distribution slots.  Wholesale orders are put in months before retail orders so our huge order was very late to the party.  There’s been a run on wildflower seeds so there weren’t enough to go around.  May was the wettest May on record meaning plants that should have been acclimatising in the garden were stuck indoors.  Who could have foreseen any of that?

However, these challenges presented enormous learning opportunities and so building on the huge widespread enthusiasm towards the concept and with gratitude to all those that took part in the pilot, the concept continues to develop further.  I’m delighted to say the response to the pilot is the development of our own plant nursery.  What will move the idea of DE Gardeners forward most appropriately is the availability of ‘ready to plant’ sets of plants carefully chosen for SFA, local soil and climate conditions.  These can come with a suggested layout and maintenance tips but are, essentially, a ‘plant now’ border in a box.

DA Gardeners has piloted what is now a national network of DE Gardeners Facebook groups discussing allotments, community gardens, communal planting schemes and SFA gardening.  I am working with the MOD to re-write the policy about gardening in SFA and I am talking to DIO about community gardens in multiple locations.  The flagship pilot for www.e50k.org.uk in Catterick is full steam ahead with a farm to fork commercial allotment supplying their own café providing not only the benefits to military families of growing your own food but also training opportunities in horticulture and hospitality. 

It wasn’t just SFA occupants who joined in with the big spring plant.  The Language Centre re-planted their front border after a rather aggressive prune left it looking quite bare and St Albans Church also ordered plants to bring colour and joy to the church grounds. Planting up these public spaces will benefit everyone as the plants grow and develop adding colour and scent in the summer, structure and form in the winter.  We were also delighted to give a donation to Pennyhooks Farm, a local charity benefiting adults with learning disabilities, following the fundraising element of the Big Spring Plant.

To keep in touch locally join DA Gardeners on Facebook or for the bigger picture keep an eye on the DE Gardeners blog on www.degardeners.com/news/

Happy gardening!