Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Garden sharing scheme benefiting owners and helpers

Jake Butcher likes nothing better than digging in the soil.

But living in an Edinburgh tenement, he does not have too many opportunities to indulge in his passions for plants.

So he jumped at the chance to have his own plot in someone else's garden, as part of the Edinburgh Garden Share Scheme.

The project - paid for by the Climate Challenge Fund - matches people who can no longer cope with their garden, with a volunteer who is keen for a little patch of green of their own.

Jake, 24, was paired up with Sarah Shields, a pensioner who was struggling to manage the garden of the family home.

"The garden's much too big for me now and I had this area of vegetable garden I wasn't using," she said.

"I just felt it was a shame that those two plots were lying and all the fruit was there and nobody was benefiting from it."

Now that Jake has taken over that part of the garden she no longer worries about having to look after it, because she says it's "Jake's domain".

'Fresh veg'

As for the volunteer gardener, he's enjoying the chance to experiment with plants.

"I live in a tenement building in Marchmont," he explained.

"There's not a huge amount of space in the back greens and quite often they're weirdly designated so there's not a huge amount of space for growing veg, so it was great to be able to come out here and just have a wide open space to play around with."

He said there were also rewards for putting in hours of work in Sarah's garden: "It reduces food miles and also means you get to eat fresh veg all year round which is really nice."

The organisers believe there could be benefits to the wider community.

Co-ordinator Tony Brash said: "We're hoping that through growing more food locally we'll reduce carbon emissions.

"Growing food locally you're reducing the number of carbon miles involved in transporting food, then you're not packaging food and that also reduces carbon emissions."

She added that people struggling with their garden can often be tempted to move, but this could help them to stay in their own homes for longer.

Social contact

Sarah Shields would certainly recommend handing over a piece of garden you no longer use to someone who would take care of it.

And as well as having a flourishing plot, she enjoys the social contact.

"It's nice that Jake's working about the garden," she said.

"I look out the window and see his bike there and come out and have a few words and let him get on with it."

There are now about 60 garden owners in Edinburgh hoping to be matched up with gardeners, and about 40 volunteers on the list.

If their pairings are successful then more derelict areas in the city could be turned into fruitful havens.

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