Many people during the past 18 months have found gardening to be a good form of exercise and helpful for their mental health. Even if space is limited, having a little area, whether it is a windowsill, or a patio, the feeling of seeing life spring from a seed or a bulb can be joyous. What most people have longed for during this time has been social connection with others who share similar interests and joys. The gardening group in Kings Norton South ticks all these boxes.
Originally coming out of the Mother Garden’s Home Grow project – supporting households during lockdown to grow food at home, this group emerged as a way to bring these new gardeners together, sharing in a community space. It is now a motivated and friendly group, working to be self-led.
What happens at the gardening group?
The group meets up every Thursday between 12.30pm and 2.30pm at Hawkesley Community Centre. At the moment there are 8 active members, and a few others that come along from time to time, but they are always open to more members joining. They start the sessions with a tea or coffee from the community centre café and there are always biscuits on offer. They chat about their week and decide on what they are going to do with the garden for the day.
What gardening activities do the members take part in?
All the gardening equipment has been provided by Spring to Life’s Mother Gardens project. There are some raised beds where they plant seasonal vegetables. There is always something to do, whether it is planting seeds, weeding, replanting, watering. The members are good at getting on with what needs to be done. They help each other out, each person doing what they can do to their ability.
How does being a member of the gardening group promote well-being?
Ultimately, it promotes a sense of community. The group members spend a couple of hours outdoors, amongst people who have become friends over time. They chat about the garden and the plants, sharing knowledge they have accumulated from the activities and from their own experience. Members feel supported and have a connection to a shared interest.
What are the benefits of being a member of the gardening group?
The social interaction was key for all members and are keen for new members to join so they can experience the benefits too. They think it is beneficial for both mental and physical health. Being out in nature, in all weathers they can experience a sense of change and appreciate the cycles of life.
What does the future hold for the gardening group?
The aim is for the gardening group to become self-sufficient. The group also does work at Millennium fields working with group who look after that beautiful and wild space. Here they carry out conservation tasks and help maintain the orchards. They are looking for volunteers to maintain it and use it for gardening projects.
How can people get in touch if they would like to become a member of the gardening group?
Testimonials. What people got most out of the gardening group:
‘Meeting people and spending time in the fresh air and learning new things.’
‘Doing something interesting and sharing gardening ideas.’
‘exercise and spending time in nature.’
Spring to Life is working with Living Well UK and its other member organisations to deliver well-being activities in Balsall Heath, Sparkhill and Hall Green.
Our therapists will offer sessions on Creative writing, African drumming, Mindfulness for well-being, and ‘In with Trees’, a nature connection programme for 11 to 13 years olds.
For more information on our sessions and those of our other partners check out the Living Well UK website
The huge success of Fruit & Nut Village, has now led to it moving from a partnership project between Spring to Life (Food Forest Brum) and Lets Grow Together, to an organisation in itself – a CIO. We are pleased to see it expand and grow. Spring to Life will continue to work closely with Fruit & Nut Village, on many levels, including Mother Gardens partnerships and through well-being work initiatives.
There are now visions and plans to develop Fruit & Nut Villages in other areas of the city. The first of these is Druids Heath. This comes from interest from Druids Heath residents after them having visited Fruit & Nut Village Stirchley sites and become inspired.
Mother Gardens supported the early stages of this new project, by helping engage other Druids Heath residents, developing a list of local people including keen gardeners wanting to be part of a community gardening group. Working with local people and groups in Druids Heath, including Druids Heath and Monyhull Forum and Kings Norton Parish Church, we engaged local people through door to door conversations and pop up stalls giving out plants and information.
Now funded by Selly Oak NNS, Fruit & Nut Village alongside a new Druids Heath-based green and well-being network called Planting Seeds of Hope, has been giving out a large number of Mother Garden growing kits – ideal for windowsills to grow salads, to get people into growing and to cultivate long term connections with people. This has also involved holding conversations with people about the possibilities of developing productive and wildlife-rich green spaces in their neighbourhoods.
This grant is now funding a first big event in the area, a Clean up and Green up day on the 31st of July. See poster below.
Check out our podcasts themed around nature and well-being.
In the first one, Christina takes us through a meditation in nature, with useful techniques to connect us with the natural environment and with our own bodies as a way to de-stress and become more mindful.
The Mother Gardens and well-being podcast, Felipe talks about the benefits of having a Mother Garden and of being involved in community Mother garden projects. He visits Mother Garden sites and speaks to volunteers about the mental health benefits of working with nature.
Mother Gardens and Well-being
An interview with Felipe Molina
Can you explain to us what is a Mother Garden?
Calling a garden, a Mother Garden, comes from the idea of a plant being a mother
plant that propagates, producing seeds and new plants from this original plant.
Similarly, a Mother Garden is a garden that grows plants which are then distributed to
other people and their gardens, in the form of seeds or young plants. So it is a garden that helps create new gardens. Anybody can
have a Mother Garden, in their own garden, allotment, nursery, and even their window box. Or they can join a Mother
Garden from The Birmingham Mother Garden Network.
How is Spring to Life involved with Mother Gardens?
Mother Gardens is a project developed by Spring to Life, initially out of another project called Food Forest Brum. Originally the idea was for Mother Gardens to support Food Forest Brum by getting communities producing edible plants to go into public spaces. Yet it later became more about the sharing process itself and mutual aid. From this, came out The Birmingham Mother Gardens Network, where community groups and food growing projects are coming together to share plants and resources within their own communities and across communities.
Spring to Life has been running its own Mother Garden at it’s allotment in Bearwood. This site is a well-being space involving various groups including people with mental health problems, and refugees.
From time to time we adapt the Mother Gardens model to suit the
different needs in our communities. For example, we have worked with refugees and asylum seekers,
helping them learn about how to have their own Mother Garden and connect them to local food projects (Click here for more details on the Gaining Ground initiative). This in turn has supported them to become more rooted in the community, where they also share knowledge of plants and gardening from their own cultures.
Spring to Life’s main aim is to promote wellbeing alongside learning new skills for health and enjoyment. This has been experienced by people in the
past year with our Home Grow initiative, a Mother Gardens sub-project which has supported over 650 vulnerable
households across Birmingham to grow food at home during the pandemic. Through Big Lottery funding this was delivered by The Birmingham Mother Gardens Network. 14 Mother Garden hubs across the city connected to households in their neighboorhoods, sharing plants, seeds, materials and knowledge on gardening.
How does being a Mother Garden and growing your own
vegetables promote wellbeing?
Ultimately, it promotes a sense of community by people sharing their plants, seeds and their knowledge. Members feel supported and have a connection with others through a shared interest. What people do in their own gardens can have a positive impact on others. This idea of contributing to the well-being of other people has been shown to have immense value to one’s own mental health
Our Home Grow project not only helped people learn a new skill but also gave them a sense of purpose, taking their mind away from the difficulties in the past year. It also helped many families to bond through a shared activity.
How can people get involved?
People can sign up their own garden as a Mother Garden, and become a member of the Birmingham Mother Garden Network. We can then keep them updated on any upcoming projects, events and workshops. They can also get involved in an existing Mother Garden in their area.
For those already involved in community gardening in their neighbourhood, we can advise on how to develop their own Mother Garden hub connecting people in their neighbourhood. There are many great examples of local people already doing this.
What are the added benefits of gardening?
Being outdoors in the fresh air, and seeing things grow from a seed into a fully grown plant can a very fulfilling experience. The excercise that people get from gardening is also very beneficial.
How can people get in touch if they would like more information about the
gardening projects run by Spring to Life or about becoming a member of a
Phone or text: 07980272940
Testimonials. What people got most out of gardening and being linked with Mother
Gardens during Covid:
‘Meeting my social needs at community events and making new friends within my
community. Being able to get out of the house in a pandemic and still attend events
with others in a social distanced manner when most other hobbies/community events
are not able to run a they are indoors.
‘Being taught the skills and given support and knowledge to garden. Being given the
equipment to garden. The social aspect of learning with others.’
‘I think this project can be very useful in helping everyone to understand how our
world of food works as well as giving nature a helping hand.’
‘Given me a focus throughout Covid and something to look forward to with the
growth of plants and community sessions. Meeting my social needs at community
events and making new friends within my community.’
Check out Felipe’s podcast on Mother Gardens and Well-being:
A journal can be used to find your voice, to share your thoughts, emotions, feelings,
ideas, inspirations, reflect, explore possibilities and rant.
A journal can be your best friend, a confidant even your therapist, or your supporting
self where you pose questions to your mind, body and soul, understanding yourself
There are many ways you can use a journal and all is individual. There are those
who like to write and document their day. There are those who write poems, doodle
They can be written in beautiful journals or in an old scrap book. Personally, I have a
few different books, note- books, art paper and even my phone and lap top.
Sometimes recording a poem helps to integrate the meaning, sometimes all that is
needed is the process of writing.
Sometimes, it is for myself, sometimes it is an idea to share. All relevant as what we
write is from ourselves and it is never wrong. Sometimes, of course it is best to keep
private to reflect on and to allow to germinate and grow into the idea thought
emotion, plan, future you desire.
Following are some examples if you are new to journaling to try
- Create lists
- Draw adding words
- Poems that rhyme and don’t rhyme
- Drawing cartoons with captions
- Music, lyrics, rap
- Mind maps
- Letter writing
- Prayer writing
- Mind maps
- Dream writing
The way you set up your journal is up to you.
Below are some ideas:
- Design the outside with your name and things that you like
- The first page write/draw the year adding your dreams and intentions
- Use a double page; left for drawing the right for adding words
- Date the page
- Title the theme
I like to have a beautiful journal for my thoughts and musings, where poems may
appear or just a documentation of my thoughts about the day. I have an art book
where I express emotions that have no words yet, through art, collage. This
stimulates the subconscious and adding prose and words becomes easier. For
ranting I use a note- book where I can write unedited and unashamedly then tear it
up and symbolically throw away the chatter in my mind. If it is something that needs
attention whilst I am on the lap top I will open a document and write without stopping
to read. Sometimes, I save it for later or sometimes I delete.
As one of my clients says,
‘when you print it out on paper you see it in black and white for what it is, as
sometimes you cannot see it because the mind is so cluttered with other stuff.’
‘Once I write it down, I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I feel
I can breathe again.’
Christina is an author and Writing for Wellbeing practitioner, using the power of writing to help people feel better from the past and re-create their lives. Christina uses expressive writing techniques such as poetry, metaphor, journaling and unsent letters. She combines scientific knowledge with her own and other’s experiences of how expressive writing can assist with psychological and physical healing.
Christina writes and runs workshops and works one to one for non- profit organisations and her private practice. She has used these techniques with cancer patients, MS and ME sufferers and is currently running a course at Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS trust. Christina is researching how early childhood trauma impacts our mental and physical health, through the lifetime and how ‘writing our story’, can help re-create our lives. Her background is in counselling and psychology and works freelance as a teaching assistant in primary schools.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ― Anaïs Nin.