January has been a varied month in the SCG – bitterly cold days with brittle frosts and painful fingers; mild, wet and cloudy days reminiscent of Autumn; and the occasional glorious moment of mood-lifting sunshine. At a glance, nothing is growing, and the garden is a bareboned shadow of its former abundance. Look more closely, however,and there are promising signs of life – snowdrops, daffodils, and
crocuses all spearing up through the soil, bringing with them feelings of hope and optimism for the year ahead. A lovely feature of gardening is seeing a plant appear for the first time in the year, especially if you had
forgotten having planted it!

This month, the SCG and Mission EmployAble (ME) started our practical partnership; ME is a new local charity helping young adults with learning disabilities to get into employment, through a year’s scheme packed with all sorts of employ-ability skills. (Do look them
up online for more information – they’re great). We are offering experience in horticulture, and currently we have 6 young men visiting twice a week – 3 on Tuesday afternoons, and 3 on Thursday afternoons. So far, we have been tidying up the garden – cutting back perennials,
spreading compost, weeding, and adding to the leafmould pile – as well as getting the new community allotment (No’s 1 and 2 on the Church Lane allotment site) into shape. We have painted an extra beehive, ready to receive a swarm in late Spring, all being well, and we’ve planted trees on behalf of SPC (more on that separately). If you would like to work
alongside these lovely lads, please do get in touch – you will need to have an enhanced DBS check, but I can sort that out for you. We would particularly appreciate anyone with DIY/carpentry 15 skills, as our team is noticeably lacking in that department, and patience and slowness to take offence are essential – people with Autism can be very blunt!

Plans for the year ahead: having had a frank and productive meeting with Tracey, Grainger and Chris of Sarratt Stores, one of our primary aims for the year will be to produce a more continuous supply of a slightly smaller range of fresh fruit and veg. The best-selling items last year were the bags of mixed salad, and the posies of flowers, and, were the purpose of the garden purely to make money, we would
limit ourselves to growing just these two. However, the garden’s aims extend further than just profit, into education,carbon reduction, enhancing biodiversity, and social projects, so we will still be growing a wide range of produce to satisfy those aims. In that vein,
SPC has kindly allowed us to take on allotments 1 and 2 under a special license, which enables the garden to spread its wings a little.
Please do buy the produce, and spread the word – post COP 26, we are all (hopefully) thinking about the environmental and social effects of our purchases, and here is an easy way to put your pounds into the green economy with a clean conscience – no food miles,negligible packaging, and no pesticides.

This year we will also be thinking hard about water use and how we can reduce reliance on tap water. This is a major challenge in a food
garden, as fruit and vegetables are notoriously thirsty plants, but our 5000 litre rainwater tank is full after the winter, and the emphasis on soil structure, not digging, and the addition of organic matter should go a long way towards this.

Flo Garvey