Margon Van Tuyl
4 April 2017
Having lunch outside under a tree full of pink blossoms is a lovely experience. Wednesday is my favourite day of the week, because I come and volunteer in the Royal Edinburgh Community Gardens. Wednesday is also the day that there is a cook-up in the gardens and we share food that is grown and cooked by the volunteers.
Spring is a great time in the gardens, because colour is coming back after dark winter months. The snowdrops are the first to arrive, followed by daffodils and blossoms on trees. Birds are singing all around the garden and we even heard a woodpecker a few weeks ago. More life is appearing in the gardens, in the form of flowering plants, vegetables, animals as well as people. New volunteers are coming to help in the garden and more patients enjoying the gardens too. Some have a wander through the gardens with staff, others with family and more patients are joining in with gardening activities too. It is great seeing new life and colour appearing in the gardens.
During the winter we have been busy in the green house sowing seeds, transplanting them into bigger pots and finally small plants such as peas and beans are being planted in the garden. As well as planting out small seedlings, there is always grass to be cut and weeds to be removed. Weeding may seem a thankless task, but it is very therapeutic and you get a great feeling once they all have been removed and added to the compost pile.
Some gardening tasks require more creativity. With an excess of willow, we have been making many pea and bean supports from willow and bamboo canes. It is surprising how much concentration is required to weave willow around a cane, going under and over, under and over. The result is something that looks like a tipi that the peas and beans use for support as they grow. They have been made in various sizes, from 3 ft high to at least a specimen of 8 ft!
Patient engagement is also important at the community garden. On a Monday afternoon, volunteers have gone onto the wards in the Royal Edinburgh and provided patients with a gardening – type activity. We have made birdfeeders from willow, also made seedballs from lard and seeds and informed patients about garden birds that can be seen in the hospital grounds. We have also decorated a large plant pot and potted it up with plants such as peas, marigolds and herbs. The decorated pots will be displayed in the community gardens and patients have been encouraged to come and visit the gardens to see the progress of the plants. The activities on the ward are to engage patients with the garden, nature and the outside world. If they can’t come to the garden we bring the garden to them. Patient engagement also happens on a Friday afternoon in the community gardens, where patients can actively garden and get their hand dirty.
The next big project in the garden will be making a clay oven, which is drawing much attention and excitement from patients and volunteers alike.
Margon volunteers with us on every week at the gardens. Follow her on Twitter for more from the gardens.