Volunteering at a community garden

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

It was 10.30 on a Wednesday morning in September. Walking from Phipps Bridge tram stop, I arrived in the alleyway by the side of number 58 New Close, SW19 2SY. I walked down and at the end was the gate which was closed as I had been warned, but a shout from me brought a response of friendly voices and I was soon let in by Gillian.

My first impression was of a wide expanse of greenery, with hardly any buildings in sight.

I couldn’t believe I was still in a city. An added bonus was a dry and sunny day, though I am told a bit of rain doesn’t put off these gardeners, many of whom have been coming for up to ten years.

I was enthusiastically shown around the half acre project and introduced to people gradually. A few were already busy, Ruth picking runner beans and Nick and Peter digging up potatoes. Apart from the vegetable beds, there were three sheds, a poly tunnel and area of grass with two picnic tables.

A trestle table was already loaded with courgettes and some enormous marrows. Bob was carefully wading in between the large leaves of the plants looking to harvest the small courgettes.

‘What is the difference between a courgette and a marrow?’ I asked.

Well the plant species do differ slightly, I was told, but if you miss picking a courgette at this time of year, it grows enormous by the following week. There were certainly a lot of marrow sized veg stored in one of the sheds. Apparently people are less keen on cooking the larger ones, which are more watery. Luckily they keep for quite a while if stored on well -aerated wooden slats.

I explained I was completely new to allotment gardening and was told this was absolutely no problem. Instead I was asked what I would like to do.