For the congregation at St Giles’ Church in Lincoln, lockdown has given them a ‘nicer problem to have’ in that the fruit from their community garden has had to be turned into jam with the raspberry one ‘going down very well’.

The garden is about the size of a tennis court, and what is now a productive fruit and vegetable garden with an area for wildlife, was previously an area ‘given entirely over to weeds and brambles’ five years ago. The transformation is the result of a collaboration between St Giles and Lincoln charity Green Synergy which uses community gardening and horticultural therapy to help improve people’s lives.

The project was funded through grants obtained by Green Synergy with the single biggest grant coming from the Bishop of Lincoln’s Social Justice fund which gives grants that, mong other criteria, improve community cohesion or provide community facilities. Funding secured, Green Synergy then gathered together a team of local volunteers and managed the design and build process. It won a Highly Commended Church Times Green Health award in 2018.

Much thought has been given to encouraging biodiversity and ecology within the garden.  Nectar rich wildflowers have been sown, as well as plants such as lavender and nepeta (catmint) that are beneficial to pollinators, such as bees, hoverflies and butterflies. There is also a wild grassy area and another zone described as a ‘healthy garden mess’ where there are piles of twigs and leaves which make good habitats for wildlife to counterbalance the loss of natural habitats.  Several insect hotels have been installed that provide a home for a variety of helpful bugs that can help control pests. 

The volunteers make their own compost using green (leafy plant matter, grass clippings and kitchen vegetable waste) and brown (prunings, wood chippings, paper, cardboard or straw) organic material as a replacement to animal manure.

The Revd Canon Nick Buck said: “We are lucky to have some green-fingered volunteers who keep our garden looking lovely.  Ordinarily the fruits and vegetables are used in parish lunches but since lockdown we have utilised our produce in other ways. The jam was a big success and we leave the vegetables at the back of the church so people can help themselves.

“We have a greenhouse so we can grow vegetables from seed and many are grown from the previous season’s plants so it is lovely to see them sprout and develop.  We have links with two local nursery schools and small groups come most weeks so this provides an opportunity for educating children about how balanced ecosystems work and how things grow and end up on our plate which is very important."

This story was published on Wednesday 29th July 2020.