Mother Gardens project
Propagating plants, skills and community well-being
Mother Gardens is a scheme developed by Food Forest Brum and its parent organisation Spring to Life CIC to promote community resilience and mutual aid within and across communities in Birmingham and surrounding areas.
The project was set up in 2013 and has been funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust.
The idea is to work with community food growing groups (as well as individuals) to grow, propagate and share beneficial plants with one another. As people develop their own Mother Gardens, they are encouraged to make connections through plant sharing with other Mother Gardens in the region as well as with groups and people in their own communities.
Anyone with a garden – however big or small and regardless of skill level or available time – can have a Mother Garden. All you have to do is be willing to share and receive plants. Some groups may choose to set up nurseries on their site, but others may just allow beneficial plants to spread and multiply themselves. Then all people do is dig up, pot up, and share.
The idea is to make the maximum range and number of plants available to the widest possible number of people. We are very interested in plants with different uses, including those that are edible, medicinal, wildlife-friendly, unusual, heritage, and hardy/resilient. This year we organised our first very successful plant swap days at two Mother gardens, where people also shared many surplus vegetable seedlings.
An important element of the project is the development of a network of groups and individuals who connect through sharing. This sharing is also extending beyond plants. The network has already been used to dissminate other resources, skills, and initiatives, such as Spring to Life psycho-emotional well-being projects and other schemes offered by partner organisations within the network.
Mother Gardens hub at Uplands Allotment
We have recently received further funding from Barrow Cadbury trust to pilot a scaled-down Mother Garden network hub within Uplands allotment in Handsworth, Birmingham.
We chose Uplands allotment due to existing work Spring to Life and Food Forest Brum has done there, and because it is a site very rich in skill and diversity, with an active and like-minded allotment committee, who are developing a host of pioneering projects around sustainable living.
There will be four key strands to the project:
- Develop the overall network within Uplands allotment, connecting with groups, projects and individual allotment holders, while promoting the sharing of plants and seeds.
- Develop specific Mother Gardens within plots run by services working with disadvantaged groups, including Midland Heart and Creative Support.
- Further develop the community orchard. Hold workdays, creating Mother garden areas of self-propagating mother plants. We will work with the Urban Orchard project to restore the old orchards.
- Cultivate links between the allotment network and the outer network. We will link Uplands allotment with the wider Mother Garden network in Birmingham and to the growing food network of Handsworth. We will organise plant swap and seed swap days inviting people from both the allotment and the wider network to share. Anyone at Uplands who chooses to be a Mother Garden will automatically be part of the wider network.
Contact us to find out more or if you are intersted in signing up as Mother Garden: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring to Life received a commission from Midland Heart Housing Association to provide weekly horticultural therapy sessions and develop a vegetable garden at one of their new services for supported housing in Wolverhampton.
We have been delighted to engage their residents in sowing, planting, caring for and now harvesting food crops and flowers. They have harvested crops of salad, beetroot, carrots, potatos, onions, green beans and have a lovely strawberry bed ready for next year.
We have also constructed a garden sculpture by recycling plates and other natural elements. On 17th September we visited Sidney Nolan Trust Organic Farm and Art Centre. We enjoyed a warm welcome and wonderful countryside. On 30th September we are taking the residents on a Project Greenheart visit to Smestow Valley Local Nature Reserve which is a nearby nature conservation site. Spring to Life believes that growing plants and being in nature is a great way to calm the senses and soothe the mind.
Spring to Life’s Mother gardens project is teaming up yet again with Sandwell and Birmingham Permaculture Network to run another skills-share gathering, disseminating and sharing skills within the themes of food and health, earth stewardship and community wellbeing.
This is a free event and will take place on the 27th of June at 10am at the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath.
Over the last two and a half years, Food Forest Brum has worked with over 90 groups and community projects to plant permanent food landscapes in public and semi-public spaces across the city. We have provided over 2000 edible perennial plants, including fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs and perennial vegetable plants.
Due to the recent development of the Mother gardens scheme, emerging out of Food Forest Brum, many of these community projects have also been growing, propagating, planting, and sharing, many plants themselves, in an effort for our communities to be self-reliant on plant stock.
Aside from the planting and provision of plants, an important element has been in the skilling up and bringing people together within and across communities. We have run a number of workshops and a skill-share gathering (in partnership with Sandwell and Birmingham Permaculture network). It has been a great achievement to broker so many connections between people and groups.
For more information check out the FFB and Mother garden page:
Get in touch if you either wish to sign up your project or garden as a Mother garden, be part of the Food Forest Brum network, or volunteer with either of these.
Over the last year, Spring to Life has been providing a range of well-being groups and therapies to different services across the city. This has been funded by IAPT (improving access to psychological therapies), an NHS scheme aimed at reducing anxiety and depression in our communities.
Spring to Life has enlisted new practitioners to expand its well-being provision, with the aim of addressing different elements that are key to psycho-emotional health. These elements relate to clusters of therapies, for us to then provide holistic well-being packages:
– Body work: gentle gym, holistic massage, bowen massage.
– Creative therapies: art therapy, african drumming, creative writing.
– Talking therapies: counselling, reading for well-being, stress and anxiety management groups.
– Project Greenheart (ecotherapy): horicultural therapy, nature walks.
We have been tailoring therapy packages to different client groups, offering both one-to-one therapy and groups. We have worked with a host of services working with people with mental health problems, refugees and migrants, people with brain injuries, women who are victims of domestic violence, people with learning disabilities, and the elderly.
Throughout this process we have solidified our partnerships with existing services, such as Midland Heart, and have developed new partnerships, such as with Creative Support, Hope Housing, Anawim, Birmingham Care Group, and Kinmos.
We expect to continue this project for the next year, working with IAPT, and raising well-being in Birmingham communities.
Are you looking for a new challenge?
Spring to Life CIC works to grow people’s wellbeing through therapeutic programmes across Birmingham. We base our work on a foundation of Christian principles and are now in our 12th year.
We have developed some new directions and are looking for more volunteer Board members to join our innovative community interest company and help steer our strategy for the coming years.
If you think you could commit to our three Board meetings per year and input creatively between times, please send your CV and a covering letter telling us how you could contribute to our company. Applicants must have a compassion for others, and we would particularly welcome those with business development and marketing expertise.
For more information about us please see our website, www.springtolife.org.
Applications to Philippa: email@example.com.
Closing date: Friday 14th March 2014
The Midland Heart allotment project we have partnered since November 2012 has been shortlisted for an award with the Health Service Journal (HSJ), the journal for healthcare leaders.
Together we have been using horticultural therapy and outdoor activity to maximise mental health support and wellbeing for the hardest to reach individuals. Midland Heart have been shortlisted from over 1000 applicants and can be very proud of their success so far.
Congratulations to Midland Heart!
We too have worked hard within that partnership and are thrilled to be associated with the award in this way. Representatives from our team will accompany their mental health team in November to be present at the awards ceremony in London and learn who has won. An exciting moment!
Spring to Life has received Ronnie Bowker Foundation funding from Birmingham and Black Country Community Foundation to complement our Food Forest Brum project. Friends of parks groups, community allotments and food growing projects have all received free trees for their community growing areas. We can still receive further applications. The Ronnie Bowker Foundation Fund has paid for a series of skills-share workshops. The first is a Fruit Tree Grafting Workshop being held in Highgate this Saturday.
Felipe Molina is coordinating the project: ”What could be better than to learn to grow new fruit trees from the old favourite ones scattered around Birmingham which are getting too old. Grafting skills will enable communities to propagate their own orchards and keep old varieties going for future generations. Having more fruit trees in parks will enable the less well off to eat more healthily”.
If you or your community group are interested in learning more about Food Forest Brum fruit plants or to book onto any of the skills-share workshops, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07980272940.