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.
Set up in 2013, it was initially funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust and later by the Big Lottery.
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. Many plants shared with the central MG hub are given to Food Forest Brum and Fruit and Nut Village sites to be planted out in public spaces. Plants will also go towards plant share and swap events.
There are different aspects of a Mother Garden which people may opt for their garden: 1) A nursery bed for propagating plants, 2) a space for raising young plants before being planted out in their permanent site, 3) a garden of mother plants used to take cuttings and seeds for creating new plants. Or all of the above.
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. We have a wide range of people and groups who have signed up their gardens as mother gardens. This means those in this network have potential access to an array of interesting plants.
An important element of the project is the development of this 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.
Over the years we have developed different strands of this initiative, sometimes in the form of specific projects or in specific sites, exploring different applications and variations of this model. Yet all with the key aims of sharing plants and connecting people to mother garden sites:
Plant and Seeds swap days
Fruit and Nut Village
Over the years we have developed a network, spanning a wide area in and around Birmingham. A broad range of groups and projects doing inspiring things in their communities have signed up as Mother Gardens. Here is map of what we currently have in our network. If you wish to be added to the network please get in touch. Those on this list are public Mother Gardens. We do not publish details of private gardens. Please note details of those on the map may change from time to time, and we will update where possible.
This map also provides details of other food-based projects, sites and enterprises.
Plant and Seeds swap days
These are hosted by specific Mother Garden projects around Birmingham.
Seed swaps will generally happen during March time. Anyone is welcome to bring seeds to share or swap. And anyone is welcome to take seeds away with them.
Plant swaps are most likely to be held during mid to late May. This is the best time for when many of your annual vegetable seedlings you’ve been growing since early Spring, should be planted out. Many people will find they end up with a large surplus of some vegetable seedlings and a lack of other seedlings. The plant swap is therefore an ideal opportunity to exchange with others. If you have nothing to share, donations are accepted. Aside from annual plants, we strongly encourage people to share and take useful perennial plants. These are ideal for your Mother Garden as they will provide propagation opportunities (and produce) for years to come.
Plant and seed swap days are very easy and low cost to run, and we encourage groups to hold them. They are great ways of bringing people together, building your network, and facilitate people in your community to acquire interesting and beneficial plants. Contact us for advice on holding an event in your area.
This project aimed to connect refugees and asylum seekers living in Birmingham, to Mother Garden projects in their communities. The project ran during 2017 and was funded by The Big Lottery. We engaged with various projects and sites signed up as Mother Gardens, and took groups from different asylum seeker/refugee projects such as Kushinga Community Garden, Hope Housing, and Freedom from Torture, to different green projects. The project served to connect communities, as well as build skills, and support the well-being of those involved. The title of the project ‘Gaining Ground’ comes from the term ‘grounding’, a psychotherapuetic term redenoting the process of grounding oneself in the present as a way to manage stresses related to the past or future. Click here for a full article on the project.
A key aspect of Gaining Ground was also for people to have a chance to share plants and knowledge of these plants that people would have grown back in their home countries. It served to create mutual benefits for the host and guest. Kushinga Garden served to be a key partner of the project, as many of its volunteers took pat, and many of their exotic edible plants were shared with other community projects and Mother Gardens in Birmingham.
As part of this project, we also ran a well-being day inviting refugees and asylum seekers. This was held at Martineau Gardens, and entailed a range of theraputic activities and information stalls of organisations supporting new communities in Birmingham. For more information in this event click here.
Despite Gaining Ground no longer officially running, this approach of connecting refugees and asylum seekers to outdoor groups and communities is very much woven throughout many of our current projects.
Uplands Allotment Mother Garden hub
Over the years, many Spring to Life projects have taken place at Uplands Allotment. In 2016, with funding from Barrow Cadbury, the we helped develop a Mother Garden hub.
We chose Uplands allotment due to our existing work 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 were 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.
Fruit and Nut Village
This is a project separate from Mother Gardens, whereby local groups develop orchards and forest gardens within a certain location of the city. However, the whole of the village will be supported by an allocated Mother Garden within the area, which will propagate, nurture, hold, and raise plants for the different sites within the village. It may also be a hub for workshops and events. There may be more than one Mother Garden within a single village which could hold different functions.
For more information on Fruit and Nut Villages, click here.