OxGrow Monthly – December

It’s that time of the year again! A time to withdraw, relax, rest, and take stock of the last 12 months. If we wanted to list all the things we’ve done, you’d be in for a really long read which you’re probably already too lazy for, so let’s just have a quick glance at the most interesting changes or events that happened in 2016.

  • We planted apple saplings, sunflowers and holly bushes along the border fence (to complement the striking Jerusalem artichokes and an array of wild and garden flowers which were there already)


  • We built a small pond to attract more aquatic wildlife – see how happy Judy looks posing in front of it!

Judy proudly displaying a cabbage head

  • We constructed a large polytunnel which significantly increased the hothouse growing space (= more tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, melons, and the like)



  • We dug up new beds: a lovely little children’d bed and quite a large patch for growing many different kinds of herbs

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  • We had really great social gatherings. Having kicked off with a sociable AGM on 13 March, we then celebrated the Spring Equinox (20 March), had a great turnout for the Harvest Festival (9 October), Pumpkin Day (6 November), Christmas Social (4 December). We had a couple of cosy get-togethers on Winter Wednesdays, a few impromptu meals, and several bonfires, some with hot chocolate and toasted marshmellows and some with a can of something refreshing and cold 🙂

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  • We did quite a lot of outreach/media work: in addition to this lovely article in the Oxford Times, we also attended meetings of the new Growing Collaborate group which brings together various green and growing spaces around the city; Penny and Marta were on the panel of Garden Experts as part of the CAG Skill Share; and OxGrow was represented at various student and city fairs around Oxford.

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  • We got new funding from the Midlands Cooperative which will keep us going for another year or maybe even two!




  • In May, we hired a Garden Community Development Officer on a six-month contract. Jade helped us lots with reaching out to more people, including a leafleting campaign we launched jointly with the Hogacre Cafe, and attending numerous fairs and networking events, both in the city and at the universities. She played a major role in strengthening our structures and communications, from the new signage system to monthly organisational meetings, to drafting and improving various written documents. She was also instrumental in instigating our collaboration with Incredible Edible Oxford, which resulted in our launching a series of workshops around self-sufficiency skills. So a great success all around, and we feel we’ve become a stronger organisation as a result of her work – thanks Jade!


  •  We’ve had some good creative sessions as well: from our own Peter Naumann launching his new poetry book in the garden in June, to the very successful Arts in the Garden sessions in September, we celebrated the garden not just as a source of delicious food but also as a beautiful space which nourishes the body as well as the soul.



We created a new signage and garden record-keeping system. Each plot is numbered on a map, so they’re very easy to find. The whole space is divided into five sections, each of which has its own colour. We have notebooks which correspond to each of these colours, and after every session, we write down what we did so that it’s easier to keep track of what happened in each plot. It’s been working really well – it adds to the fun and makes communicating easier.


  • Finally, over the last few weeks we’ve had really good garden planning sessions. From coming up with a list of things we’d like to grow, to choosing particular varieties and mapping out where they need to go, to writing down the order, it’s been great fun and quite a large group of people got involved. The whole process made it clear that OxGrow really is a community garden where a group of people, rather than one or two individuals, take responsibility for how it develops, so it’s been really wonderful to be part of that.


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Phew! And that’s in addition to all the usual garden activities! Yes – lots and lots happened over the last 12 months. We really feel like the garden is going from strength to strength, both in terms of what grows there and in terms of the group of people involved in the running of it. So, we all look forward to 2017 when more of this good stuff is going to happen! As a sneak preview, here’s a few things to look forward to:

  • getting new seeds in early February. Some of the less usual seeds for 2017 include cucamelons, okra, scorzonera, cardoons, mangel, and we’ll probably get another ‘lucky dip’ wacky selection of heritage plants from Garden Organic
  • our Annual General Meeting in February or March (tbd)
  • More ‘Art in the Garden‘ sessions and more festivities
  • More courses, workshops, and skill-share sessions, from indoor mushroom growing to using herbs to cooking and preserving food

So book those Sundays in your 2017 diary now and make sure you come along! OxGrow Community Garden is a unique space and a unique community: a group of humans who do their best to look after a patch of land, nourishing and caring for it and getting some nourishment and caring for their bodies and souls in return. Being there every week in 2016 has given us a wonderful sense of purpose, stewardship and belonging, both in terms of the place and the community. We feel very lucky to have OxGrow in our lives and our one resolution for 2017 is that we will carry on loving it as much as we have in 2016.

Enjoy your winter breaks everyone and have a Happy New Year, and see you all in 2017!


Team OxGrow


OxGrow Monthly – November 2016

“Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,
With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,
Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,
Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.

Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing
Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;
‘Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered roaming,
Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.
Watchful and stirless the fields as if not unkindly holding
Harvested joys in their clasp, and to their broad bosoms folding
Baby hopes of a Spring, trusted to motherly keeping,
Thus to be cherished and happed through the long months of their sleeping.

Silent the woods are and gray; but the firs than ever are greener,
Nipped by the frost till the tang of their loosened balsam is keener;
And one little wind in their boughs, eerily swaying and swinging,
Very soft and low, like a wandering minstrel is singing.

Beautiful is the year, but not as the springlike maiden
Garlanded with her hopes, ­rather the woman laden
With wealth of joy and grief, worthily won through living,
Wearing her sorrow now like a garment of praise and thanksgiving.

Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,
The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;
Rich with the gifts of the night, sated with questing and dreaming,
We turn to the dearest of paths where the star of the home-light is gleaming.

(November Dusk, LM Montgomery)”

November has that unique poetic quality of sharp contrasts: the howling wind and the chilling rain belong to it as much as the warmth of our kitchens and a cosy time with a cup of tea and a book. It can be quite difficult to pull yourself out of the house, especially as the days are getting rapidly shorter, but when you do manage to get outside, it feels all the more rewarding.

We managed really well throughout the whole month to carry on getting together on Sunday afternoons to continue with our work, and the garden is looking really well. Loads of people I’ve spoken to seemed surprised that we are still doing anything there, so here’s a short list of what we achieved for those who think we must’ve already stopped for our winter break:

– pulled out all the dead or dying plants (having harvested all the edible parts of them first): corn, potato and squash plants outside, tomato and melon plants in the polytunnels
– cleared most of our raised beds
– cleaned the algae off the Small Polytunnel
– cut down and dug in green manure
– cleared the former ‘bottle green house’ which had turned into a bit of a junk pile; we’ve recovered lots of usable wood and are thinking of using it to build a little shelter there
– harvested: chard, spinach, herbs, swedes, salsify, parsnips, beetroots, salads, lettuces, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks
– planted: broad beans, garlic, onions (to be harvested in spring), green manure


We also did quite a bit of organisational work. Over a couple of sessions, we painted numbers on wooden signposts so that they match our map of the garden – it’s now a lot easier to identify which bed is which. We also started a new record keeping system: we have five books, each devoted to a particular section of the garden, where after each session we write down what we did. We hope this will help us track what we’ve done and avoid making mistakes. We also had a few garden planning sessions, starting with a Friday evening gathering of 12 volunteers who talked about what to plant next year and what challenges and opportunities there are. Each person took on a group of plants to investigate and they will then try and plan with Judy where and when to plant everything.


We also took part in the annual Community Action Groups Skill Share where our own Penny and Marta represented OxGrow at the Gardeners Question Time, and participated in other sessions where they learnt some really useful and pertinent stuff about the ways to strengthen and diversify community groups. Thanks CAG!


Despite all this hard work, we didn’t forget to celebrate and have fun! We started the month with a lovely Pumpkin Day celebration – we cooked and ate some delicious soup and pie, using our own pumpkins – making literally zero mile food! We also had a couple of bonfires and at least one spontaneous pub outing.


So it’s been really great: productive, fun, heart and body-warming, relaxing and stimulating! November doesn’t have to be gloomy after all, and we’re looking forward to the rest of this season of slowing down – bring it on, winter!