Our Community Garden

The name Mustard Tree was inspired by the following Biblical parable:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

(Matthew chapter 13, verses 31-32)

It’s only fitting, then, that a charity whose name conjures images of growth, nurture and horticulture should have a community garden. But it was easier said than done, given that our headquarters are in Ancoats, hardly known for being an oasis of greenery.

Behind the building we had a derelict car park, overgrown with weeds and brambles, that had the potential to accommodate such a garden, but, it would take almost two years – from our first application to Manchester City Council in 2010 to the launch event in 2012 – before the community garden became a reality.

This wouldn’t have been possible without a generous grant from the Council’s Regeneration Team and the incredible, tireless effort from a whole load of volunteers. It started with the hard task of digging up all the existing concrete using a mini-digger; then we needed to put down soil so the garden could take shape. In the span of several months a patch of wasteland became a beautiful outdoor area with seating, hanging plants, vegetable patches and improvised flower beds made from old bath tubs and tyres. If you want to revolutionize your community space, then you might want to consider using some form of nutrient feed like emerald goddess to give some of those harder to take plants the boost they need.

Next month, the community garden will celebrate its second anniversary and we’d like to take a moment to talk about the positive impact of this space:

Gardening & Therapy

There has been plenty of literature written about the therapeutic benefits of gardening. Many of our clients suffer from mental health issues, and the community garden can provide a place to improve their emotional and physical well-being. It offers a different environment in which to socialise, and growing and looking after the plants can give a genuine sense of community, shared purpose, and responsibility. Gardening has even been used to treat children with behavioural problems. We are glad that the garden is also of benefit to clients from other organisations based at 110 Oldham Road, in particular from the Boaz Trust.

If you find that gardening is very therapeutic for you and you would like to tackle your own garden, there are a few things we would recommend. It would be worth following the steps and tips you have learned whilst maintaining our community garden to help you keep on top of your own. Also, having a safe place to store your gardening tools is vital. If you aren’t lucky enough to have this space at your home, have a look at www.keepsafestorage.com.au to see what storage companies can offer you, before you start to look for one closest to your home and one that suits your needs best. Our final tip, is make sure you do not set too high a goal for you first garden. You want it to be challenging, but achievable to ensure you are still receiving the same therapeutic lifestyle you had whilst looking after our community garden.

Gardening Courses

Having a garden means we can also run gardening courses, so that participants can learn the skill they would need to tend to gardens of their own and how to grown organically. The courses are run by Jayne Lawton from Grobox Gardens every Monday at 10:30 am.

Food

The garden also has more immediate uses. We now have a wealth of fresh herbs – mint, sage, chive, fennel – to add to the meals we cook for our staff and volunteers.

Returning to the Biblical parable from which we take our name, the Jewish audience of Jesus’ day would have known that Mustard was one of the plants banned from their own herb gardens due to the unruly size it grew to. They would also have known that “the birds of the air” meant specifically unclean birds – in other words, the kind of “messy people” that most good religious folk wouldn’t want hanging around. So it is especially pleasing that not only our building, but now also our garden, can become a home and a haven for men and women struggling on the margins of society in Greater Manchester.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask