Govanhill Voice spoke to Yazmin from Sooside Bloomers about the gardening project beside Samaritan House in Govanhill. And their efforts to make gardening and food growing accessible to all!
We are the Sooside Bloomers, based in the new community garden beside Samaritan House in Govanhill. We came together in December 2015 as a group of disabled people who love growing and use gardening as a kind of therapy that creates a sense of fulfilment for us all. Despite this patch of land never being gardened before, we have already created opportunities to grow food together regardless of disability, illness or advancing age, replacing frustration with a real sense of achievement. But we’re running out of room!
The garden in the beginning.
About what we do
We try to move away from traditional gardening beds and find our own new ways to do things. We don’t take a “one size fits all’ approach. Instead, we measure wheelchair heights and arm lengths, and we’ve looked at “one-handed” gardening. The social aspect of gardening is really important to us, too. We have been playing, using things people throw away as building material, and drinking copious cups of tea.
Using pallets found in the street and wood from skips, we built raised beds for seated and standing gardening and painted them in funky colours donated by the Craft Café and Govanhill Baths to cheer up the bare wood. Locavore donated the plastic boxes their mushrooms come in and we fitted these into the raised beds to grow vegetables. I volunteered previously with South Seeds at Agnew Lane and then Queens Drive Lane and the years leaning to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers are paying off. Like other groups, Sooside Bloomers enjoy improvising with material and we’ve turned discarded water dispenser bottles and milk jugs given by GHA and Crossroads staff into nifty planters for herbs and flowers. We also start seedlings and protect plants in packaging we accumulate while shopping – inspired by The Hidden Garden’s Recycle, Reduce and Reuse workshop. Some people might think we’re ‘Midgy Rakers’ but we just laugh!
We encourage other people to get outdoors and have a go, too. Working together as disabled people, we build capacity, provide access and support garden activities whilst improving and managing health more independently and we are keen for disabled people to meet others, connect with services, learn new skills, drink tea and have fun. On top of everything else we are delighted to receive some funding through Sport Relief Community Cash to support our disabled activities in the garden. The funding has aided us to buy accessible tools, seeds, compost, some building materials and of course fund our most treasured pastime of drinking lots of tea and eating cake together.
One of the great things about growing food is sharing it during events with other groups from the garden, like the Craft Bomb outdoor arts and crafts event in May with the Craft Café. The groups painted planters, bird and bee boxes, upcycled plastic bottles into cane toppers, and decorated the garden with handmade pompoms and bunting. It was a lovely sunny day made even better by all the people who came along and the colourful objects dotted around the garden. Not to mention gallons of tea and large wedges of cake.
In July, we had a Big Lunch to show off what we had been up to in the garden which also miraculously turned out to be another fabulous sunny day. The Scottish rep from the Eden Project came along and was really enthusiastic about the great stuff we’re doing: “What Yasmin and everyone has achieved with the community garden is remarkable in the timeframe they had. They’ve been very resourceful in getting materials etc and been creative in their use that gives a real unique character to the garden spaces. It just shows what can be achieved with many hands, a bit of creativity and of course dedication. Its clear that all involved have a real passion and determination to make it the best they could, big congratulations to all whom took part in creating this mini Eden in the South Side of Glasgow.”
Yasmin of Sooside Bloomers and Derek from the Eden Project at the garden.
We’re over the moon about the recognition we’ve received for our much-needed community project and later this month we are travelling to Cornwall for a three-day camp. Feeding Community Spirit – the Future of Food & Community will have a mixture of practical activities, facilitated sessions & networking opportunities to connect people and their communities through growing or cooking food.
About why we do it
Getting involved with the community garden has highlighted wider social issues around the physical obstacles disabled people can face which affect their independence and confidence. We still have a lot of challenges to make the garden more accessible than it is just now. A lot of the time accessibility seems to be an afterthought when public spaces are made and we would like to see a better approach where accessibility is planned-in right from the start. We believe disabled people are best placed to understand the barriers and the solutions needed. Too often disabled people are prevented from working alongside others as equals, kept apart from other people so that situations do not have to be dealt with and are often stuck in separate “accessible” areas, rather than making every area accessible for everyone.
Sooside bloomers and some of their disabled gardeners using the raised planting bed next to more traditional beds.
Sooside Bloomers want to make a real difference in the community by promoting disabled gardening and making new opportunities to participate in the community and wider society. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get us this far but it’s been thrilling, too.
Our hopes for the future
We’re looking forward to increasing accessibility in the garden, helping disabled people independently engage in a programme of learning and fun activities.
We’ll be working with architects from GHA, sharing our experiences, telling them about the barriers we face and helping them plan action to make the garden more accessible. Coming to the garden and getting around independently will give disabled people the same choices and control over their lives as anyone else.
We’ll continue to experiment with our senses to explore further accessible gardening ideas. Regardless of the weather we will continue to have activities outdoors or indoors in the polytunnel or portacabin. We meet every Wednesday at 1.30pm-3.30pm. We will have more events and undeniably drink more tea.
Some of the fun from the ‘Big Lunch’ day.
A few last words
Is has been an incredibly busy and productive time. We are deeply grateful for everyone whose work, music, art and laughter make the garden an interesting place to hang out. Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) gets a big shout out as their activities to support disabled people to participate and be leaders in their own lives and become more visible across all aspects of life are a constant motivator for us!
A big thank you also goes out to everyone who has come to the garden, helped out in any and every way, been a source of inspiration, drank tea, brought biscuits and enjoyed the craic with us. If you have a free mo you are very welcome to pop along to the garden to visit or join in.
Funded by Comic Relief, through
Foundation Scotland Comic Relief
spends money raised by its Funding
campaigns, Red Nose Day and Sports Relief.