Green Beginnings: A Journey into the world of gardening

Experience the joys of gardening at Railway Gardens, where new friendships bloom and green thumbs are made. Will a day in the dirt bring more than just flowers to life?

The gardening club brought people together to enjoy the Saturday.

Gardens are like little hidden paradises in the city, and gardening can make you forget the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a bright Saturday morning when people stepped into the Railway Gardens. Despite never considered myself to have a green thumb. I’m eager to see what the day would bring.

As soon as I arrived, I was greeted with friendly smiles. That’s when I met Helen, she is a gardening guru and leads gardening sessions every month. And Jon, he’s brand new to gardening. He told me it’s one of his new year’s resolutions. “I decided this year I need to be outdoors more, meet people more,” Jon said.

Gardening follows the simple rhythm of nature’s seasons. John said, “What makes it beautiful is that gardening has a routine throughout the year, and you have to do certain things at certain times of the year, so other things happen later on, it’s a long-term thing. You plant them in the autumn and you will enjoy them in spring.” 

With the fresh scent of earth in the air and a sense of adventure stirring within me, I was ready for my first attempt at gardening. I poured soil into a bucket, added compost, poured more soil, and mixed them by hand. I twisted the soil in my hand, it felt powdery. Helen told me that we can judge whether or not to water the flowers by the change in the soil.

Next, Jon and others managed to get a cherry tree onto a trailer and place it to the side of a bucket. It took two people to hold the tree while one tore open the bags of soil and fertiliser mix. Finally, the cherry tree was transplanted and the wood chips were spread over the surface of the soil, mainly to retain moisture.

Following the same method, another Christmas tree has been successfully transplanted. After lunch and a short break, people began to do some mulching. After loading more woodchips into two trolleys with a shovel, Helen told us to put our hands inside the pile of woodchips. It was warm inside, partly due to fermentation.

People were replanting the Christmas tree.

“Touch it and then put your hand under your nose,” Jon said. It smells pretty good. I asked him what it was and he replied, “I think it’s thyme or rosemary, hang on.” He then walked around me to get his phone and showed me how to use an app to identify plants. It is indeed thyme.

He also said the whole wasteland in the Mediterranean was full of that. “It’s a herb and used for flavouring, just like parsley, sage, rosemary. He then started to sing the song ‘Scarborough Fair’. It was so impressed to hear Jon sing the song because I knew the song seven years ago and sing it a lot, but I never realised what the lyrics meant and didn’t realise these things were growing right in front of my eyes until that moment.

Jon learnt about plants in the garden and taught others about them. He led people forward and pointed out the rosemary and parsley, which he said could be used to make a stuffing and put inside a chicken when cooking to absorb all the juices.

Just as they were talking about the lovely garden club that gave everyone a place to chat, drink tea and enjoy themselves, Jon pulled out a blade of grass and said, “That’s grass and it shouldn’t be there.” After checking it carefully, he put it back. “It’s not grass, it should be there,” he whispered. People laughed together. “I’m so into putting out grass, I got a bit over-excited.”

Jon tried to identify plants by using an app.

Everyone is patient with each other and supportive and friendly in the Gardening Club, which cultivates plants and inclusivity, allowing everyone to grow in their own unique way. “We don’t expect everyone to dig a tree, we got the seeds sowing area, which is accessible for people with mobility issues,” Helen said.

The club has attracted a diverse range of people, providing a refreshing alternative to indoor inactivity. If they weren’t here, they would be sitting at home and watching television. “Instead of lounging in front of the TV, I’m out here, making friends and learning cool stuff, like how not to mix up grass with onions,”said Jon.  

Discovering a peaceful retreat is more valuable than ever in a world where negative news often dominates the headlines. However, in Railway Gardens everything is positive. “That is very valuable for our well-being and mental health. Because sometimes you think, oh God, the world is so awful, I can’t bear it, but when you come here, do a bit of gardening, have a cup of tea, you think, actually, the world is OK,” Jon said.

People who are naturally good at gardening and instinctively know what to do are said to have green fingers. Jon is not one of those people. Jon’s perspective on this matter is both refreshing and inspiring. He said, “I’m all about enthusiasm. My motto is don’t be afraid if things go wrong, don’t be afraid to be fail. If you never try you will never succeed. You get a bit mucky, you get some dirt on your hands, but it’s all good.”