The community garden on Erleigh Road, in Reading, saw many visitors during the summer and locals have been able to make good use of the garden that is providing a much needed relaxing green space away from the busyness and urbanity of the built up area of East Reading.
The community garden project has been running for over six years. St Luke’s Church in the Redlands Parish in East Reading partnered with Reading International Solidarity Centre’s Food 4 Families project, to turn the parish hall garden into a community allotment to give local people the chance to use, share, and learn skills, as well as to create a community of all ages and from all backgrounds.
Since starting the community garden has provided food for hundreds of people. With a grant from the Development Fund, a greenhouse was purchased expanding the capacity to year round harvesting and more activities for children and adults to be involved with.
Naomi German, Community Garden coordinator, tells us what’s been happening over the past few months:
The community garden is situated behind St Luke’s parish hall in East Reading and provides a green space where anyone can come along and learn about growing fruit and vegetables, help maintain the garden and benefit from the health and wellbeing advantages that gardening and being outdoors brings.
The garden was well used but we lacked somewhere to start seedlings off in the spring so that we could extend the growing season. There was an old shed in one corner of the garden that was a bit of an eyesore so with funding received from the Development Fund and from Reading Rotary Club we managed to remove the old shed and purchase a new greenhouse to go in its place.
We installed the greenhouse in February 2020, which was a very exciting day, just before the first lockdown! Unfortunately, the garden had to close to the community during the height of the pandemic, but I was able to continue to tend to the garden and start seedlings off in the new greenhouse so that once the garden was open again, we would have vegetables to plant out in the community garden sessions.
We also asked people to start growing their own vegetables at home and delivered seeds, compost and instructions. This proved very popular, and it was a really nice way to keep the community involved during the pandemic when we couldn’t all meet together.
This year the community garden volunteers have been able to make full use of the greenhouse. We started off lots of seedlings in the spring and then in the summer grew tomatoes and chillies in there. At the moment we have lots of cuttings growing in there and we’ve planted seeds such as sweet peas and cornflowers which will stay inside the greenhouse over the winter too.
It has made a huge difference as we can start growing earlier in the year enabling the garden to be more productive. It also gives people who come along to the sessions more opportunities to sow seeds and learn about propagation and caring for seedlings.
As well as the community garden sessions the garden also welcomes children from local schools and children’s centres and we also run a number of courses such as Growing Conversations which is aimed at people with English as a second language who have the opportunity to practice their conversational English and learn about gardening at the same time. The community garden is an important space for the local community and it’s great to have somewhere the church and others in the community - who may not usually come across each other - can meet and build relationships.
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Find out more about the Development Fund and how your church can apply for a grant.