The terrace at The Collective Old Oak has been looking extra lush lately. Were we paid a visit by the garden fairy on a full moon at 3:37am? Not quite – our community garden has been cultivated by our own members Mike and Nitisha, and the Garden Club. The lovely couple from Sussex and London both work in the public sector and were excited to share their green thumbs when they moved to The Collective in February of this year. I sat down with them to find out how they created our community garden.
Bria: What inspired the creation of the Community Garden?
Mike: Our garden. We missed it! We had something like this – there was no grass. It was just a tiny box of concrete that we just turned into our urban garden. And we just thought it would be lovely to see if we could do something here. It’s just amazing to see something you’ve grown from a packet of seeds.
So true. It’s incredible to see something grow. Have you always been green thumbs?
Nitisha: My Dad loves gardening so growing up, I always had him as someone I would look up to. I feel like it’s in me and I really love it. Mike and I jokingly say that our plants are our babies. And always for birthdays or holidays, we buy a new plant as a present.
Mike: We’ve got a Christmas tree that’s lasted for years; we just keep recycling it. We keep it well watered in the summer and it comes back in at Christmas.
That’s so cool! Where do you keep it?
Mike: It’s planted in our neighbour’s garden, next door to our house. It’s from Nitisha’s and my first Christmas. We bought the tree and it’s in a little pot and each year we just bring it back in.
That’s so beautiful. Walk me through everything you planted in the garden.
Mike: Strawberries, tomatoes, peas, salad plants, mint, potatoes. People should be encouraged, if they’re making some sort of dish like biriyani or making a cocktail you know that needs mint, they should come down.
Nitisha: Yeah the more you use it, the better it is. And if people want to make a roast, we’ve got sage here. We’ve got parsley over there, we’ve got chives. Thyme.
It’s everybody’s garden. Use the mint! Overnight it will replenish.” – Mike
Take me through the process, from seed to harvest.
Mike: I always like to make it like a sandwich: the new compost at the bottom, then you add the seedling out of its pot – see the root system? Put it on top and then put the new compost around it. Don’t squash it down, but make sure it’s firm and feels secure.
So tell me, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced getting the community garden started?
Mike: Having people be interested in it, really. It’s not for everyone. Also, because of the area that it is, it’s multi-functional so you can’t have an overly gardened area – because it’s used by other people, you can’t be selfish. I thought that might be a challenge, because I don’t want us to start guarding areas. They have to grow in their own little pots and fit with the area. If it’s not organic, it becomes a task and it sucks the fun out of it.
Any last thoughts about urban gardening?
Mike: Don’t go down to the shops if you need some herbs, look what we’ve got here first. It’s free for you to use!
Gardening is a good hobby. You come out in fresh air, it’s lovely and it’s nice to care for something. I think plants reward us by giving us something back.” – Nitisha
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