I recently had the distinct pleasure of working with The Conservation Volunteers in the UK, a non-profit that truly honors reduce, reuse, and recycle. Before you think the 3 Rs are the common link among environmental organizations check out my petite expose Naughty Non-Profits 7 Eco Sins.
The Conservation Volunteers have been restoring woodlands, planting community gardens, and clean up the unsightly in Great Britain since 1959. Approximately 1/3 of Britain’s green spaces are in danger of being lost. The Conservation Volunteers work with local communities to help reclaim these spaces so that they can operate as sanctuaries, gardens, natural classrooms, and recreation areas.
After searching TCV’s easy to use website www.tcv.org.uk for a volunteer opportunity I decided to help them reclaim an abandoned space in far west London and turn it into a garden.
I took the London tube and buses to the suburb of Hounslow to help build the Sow Good Community Garden. As I walked up I noticed that the Sow Good plot didn’t look like much of a garden. Currently, it’s a vacant, unkempt, former rubbish dump behind a chain link fence, but project leader Anna has big plans.
Anna guided me around saying, “And over here people will picnic, and they’ll be a path here for kids to run on,” and things of that ilk and I soon started to see the potential. Strawberries and rhubarb have already spread from cuttings the year before. Two 5-foot apple trees already produce fruit, and lemon balm pushes its way between donated flowering plants.
Yes, donated. Anna doesn’t have much funding for her project so all the materials they work with have been donated or repurposed: soil, clippings, and tools. Seems the odd individual (odd meaning rare, not weird) will call them up as they are tearing up their home’s flowerbed and donate the plants that would otherwise become rubbish. So during my day of hoeing and planting that’s what I worked with rubbish plants.
I helped Anna dig a flowerbed roughly the shape of a boomerang and then filled it with some flower cast offs and lemon balm. I got a fantastic workout digging and jumping/running away from the slugs, worms, and various other creepy crawlers that inhabit the plot.
They compost all the weeds, sticks and clippings they don’t want. Hopefully in a few months these castoffs will make decent soil. Stones collected from the ground are made into flowerbed boarders.
This garden, and other TCV gardens like it, is the ideal way to promote conservation. Plants that would be trash are given a place to live and blossom. If you’re lucky enough to be in the UK I highly recommend volunteering with this group, their resourcefulness makes the heart sing.
Sow Good in Hounslow is going to be a lovely place with heaps of fresh fruit, flowers, and picnic areas. Someday I hope to come back and see it in it’s full grown glory.