Vegetable gardening can be incredibly therapeutic but it also gives us the food we need to live life to the full.
At St John’s Hospice the friendly team of vegetable garden volunteers grows crops that give patients tasty and healthy food.
This in itself is a worthwhile venture but there are many other reasons why people volunteer to work on the veg plot.
Now, in its third season, the allotment plot looks superb. It is tended with loving care – reflecting the ethos of the hospice.
There isn’t a weed in sight and all of the crops look extremely healthy. When I met volunteers Margaret Ellor from Lancaster, John Wilson from Morecambe, Joyce Harris from Bolton-le-Sands, Dorothy Newby from Hest Bank and Christa Gausden from Lancaster I learned that they all had their own reasons for being there.
However, one story that all of the volunteers referred to was that of a patient who had been a grower and plantsman throughout his life.
Although he was ill he was able to walk the short distance from the ward to the allotment. He loved nothing more than to see what was going on and even helped to prick out seedlings grown by the volunteers in their greenhouse. It is this extra dimension of involvement with the patients and their families that makes the hard work of the volunteers so worthwhile.
There is no funding for the allotment garden – everything has been donated or found by the volunteers. This is another reason why their achievements are so amazing. It’s all done on a shoestring from the paths to the compost bins.
A new shed donated by United Utilities is soon to arrive but donations are always welcome. The veg plot is at the rear of the hospice so crops can be in the ground in the morning and on the plate by the afternoon.
There are six compost bays made from palettes and when I arrived the volunteers were busy collecting leaves to make leaf mould. Everything is composted including spent crops, grass and scraps from the kitchen.
A woman who was so grateful to the hospice for the care that her relative received, donated a large ‘polywall’ which is used to deter aphids, rabbits and other pests. The volunteers have named it the Cooper Wall in the patient’s memory.
The allotment path was donated by Morecambe Men’s Committee and the volunteers are delighted with it.
The volunteers and gardener Simon Jones would also like to establish an orchard next to the plot and donations would be gratefully received for this.
The plot was first established by a group of Community Service Volunteers and there has been a great deal of hard graft since then. One of their dreams is to create a path that would link up all of the garden areas at the hospice so that patients in wheelchairs and their families could do a circular route of the grounds.
n If you can help with any donations to the hospice allotment please call the hospice on 01524 382538.