In early July, homeless residents at a scheme in Ipswich were funded by Church Housing Trust to begin a self-grow project, producing their own vegetables.
Gardening has many therapeutic qualities, and producing their own vegetables would encourage the formerly homeless residents to practise self-sustenance, eat more healthily, and improve their cooking skills. Project trainer Lydia told us about their journey:
“They began the project by putting up a fabric greenhouse so that our seedlings had protection and heat to grow. Great team work on a very hot day!
“Two month old potatoes were planted, covered in a grow bag, soil, plant feed, and plenty of water, and left to see if they would re-grow.
“And they did – very quickly!
“One resident rightly pointed out that because the grow bags were small, the potatoes might not get the nutrition value needed to grow to full size. But the plants continued to grow quickly, and in early September they began to flower and were ready for harvesting. And harvest them we did.
“The potatoes were a decent size, although nearer to new potatoes than jacket. The carrots recovered well: we initially thought they might not take, but they surprised us with their size, as they are meant to be small round carrots.
“Our tomato and onion plants took a while to grow but now are on their way to producing.
What we learnt:
. You can grow vegetables from old vegetables, which saves having to buy seeds!
. Good soil and plant food really does help plants and isn’t a gimmick.
. Being mindful of our plants’ needs, such as water and sunlight, is important.
. Growing vegetables makes you feel good and helps to build a calm confidence in ourselves.
. Growing your own food is a great way to be in touch with nature, while saving money.
. Growing your own food makes you feel calm and meditative: a positive way to spend time.
. The grow bags were especially useful when it was necessary to move plants around and into the sun.
. Even with a small amount of space, such as grow bags, you will still gain a good harvest – certainly edible and delicious!
What we could improve:
. Grow bags are great for small vegetables, but in future we will buy a bigger container for potatoes so we are able to grow larger variety of spuds.
. Good planning and preparation for vegetable growing will produce a bigger harvest with more variety.
“The residents who participated in this self-grow project are carrying on, as we have a lot of new potato seeds from our produce. We will be re-seeding them in new soil and looking to put cane on our tomato plants to help them grow upwards.”