AN innovative project to match garden owners with people seeking land to grow food has been launched by Truro City Council and Transition Truro, and is calling for volunteers.

Truro Garden Share aims to pair up people with gardens they can’t manage but don’t want to see go to waste, and those who would like to grow food but don’t have the green space to do so, and now have an alternative to the allotment waiting list.

The intention is for produce to be shared between garden owners, volunteers and, where agreed, local food banks and larders. 

The not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) acts as a coordinator, not only matching garden owners with gardeners, but also helping them to decide a few basic arrangements, such as how often the gardener will tend the garden each week, whose tools will be used and how water can be accessed.

The community project was the brainchild of city councillor Nigel Unwin, who lives in Truro and works at Exeter University’s Cornish campus in Penryn.

“The potential benefits are multiple, including help with managing gardens, gains in mental, physical and social well-being, and increased provision of fresh produce,” he said.

“In addition, our approach to gardening is organic and wildlife friendly with the associated gains in biodiversity and soil health.

Nigel was the first volunteer gardener, working land owned by Lesley Vingoe. “Lesley was put in touch with us about a year ago when we were first thinking about starting a scheme,” said Nigel.

“She had recently moved to Truro and had bought a property with a lawn and an overgrown vegetable plot at the back, which Lesley felt she couldn’t manage on her own.”

Lesley’s garden became the pilot with Nigel as gardener. “The ground was prepared over winter, with a cover of mulch ensuring the overgrown vegetation rotted back into the soil. We’ve currently got broad beans and chard growing, and this month we will be planting out seedlings of beetroot, kale, spinach, courgettes, French climbing beans and more.”

Nigel visits once a week, and they often speak about what is being planned for the plot. “It’s a relief not to have to worry about looking after this part of my garden,” said Lesley.

Truro Garden Share would like to see the project developing as a community run “patchwork garden farm”.

There are currently two gardens on the books, and more gardeners are required. Experience is not necessary: “With just three or four volunteers, we can work together as a group sharing experience and learning from each other,” said Nigel. “With sufficient interest, we can look to arrange training sessions with established growers.”