The Whitgift Foundation, Croydon’s biggest landowners and the operators of three large fee-paying schools, has launched an ambitious borough-wide gardening project to inspire residents to shrug off lockdown, dust off the trowels and get green-fingered as we spring into spring.
They claim that Grow With John is the biggest community project in the Foundation’s 425-year history.
Backed by television celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh, the Grow With John campaign is offering free packets of seeds to households, schools, businesses or community groups.
And they have launched a new website packed with tips and advice for novice gardeners to encourage them to play a part in turning Croydon into a green oasis within south London.
After a recent name change – apparently, to distinguish themselves from the less well-known Tudorbethan archbishop Eric Whitgift – the re-styled John Whitgift Foundation issued a statement this week saying, “Following a year that has seen restrictions for all ages, the Grow With John plan will see the roll-out of thousands of seed packets across schools and care homes.
“Whether you are nine or 90, the Foundation is determined to help get their community involved.”
The website includes activities designed to inspire creativity with any windowsill, balcony or porch.
“Gardening is such a life-saver, both for individuals and in communities,” Titchmarsh said.
“It fosters our understanding of the natural world, feeds us and lifts our spirits.
“Congratulations to the wise people of Croydon on the ‘Grow with John’ project which is a brilliant idea and one which I hope other schools and communities will learn from. Grow well!”
All the microsite’s resources have been collected from residents across the Croydon community, with families, teachers and allotment owners all showing their support by sharing their journey as they get to grips with growing.
Sowing the seeds of the future in schools
It’s back to school for the borough, and with the benefits of being outdoors well-documented as a boost to physical and mental well-being, it is crucial now more than ever for children to reconnect with each other outside.
Free seed packs will be distributed to five Croydon schools, utilising the power of plants to rebuild the vital life skills of confidence, resilience, teamwork and communication that have suffered over the lockdown year.
Grow With John is partnering with the Royal Horticultural Society to pilot their Grow Social programme across five care homes in the borough. The initiative, to help address loneliness, will bring residents together through growing and sharing gardening memories to help enrich the lives of those who have been most isolated throughout covid-19.
“Celebrating 425 years of supporting people of all ages and backgrounds across Croydon, this is the biggest community project in our history and will bring the joy of gardening direct to the heart of our residents,” said Catherine Shirley from the (John) Whitgift Foundation.
“The campaign will work to improve mental health, healthy eating, and sustainable living across the borough. We can’t wait to paint the town green and see what residents get growing.”
Bethany Cutter, a teacher at one of the participating primary schools, Oasis Academy Ryelands, said: “Having spent the majority of last year stuck indoors, the time is long overdue to get a little bit muddy and reconnect with nature. We are thrilled to be involved with the inaugural year of Grow With John and are excited to see what our children will achieve in the coming months.”
And if you’re thinking about venturing out into your garden, or setting up a window box, this Easter weekend, here’s a few tips from the Grow With John project:
Get planning: Build your gardening plan of action to make the most of any space you have.
Spring clean: Clear away the cobwebs of winter and tidy the garden ready for the long growing season ahead. Get those patios, flower beds and borders neat and tidy by hand or with a hoe.
Start sowing: Be it your vegetable patch or some meadow flowers, use the start of spring to get the whole family sowing seeds into well-drained soil in beds, borders and pots.
Croydon residents can sign up to receive their free pack of mixed chive and basil seeds and tomato seeds via the website www.GrowWithJohn.org.
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