Derek’s story

Derek volunteers in our hospice gardens. He shares some of his gardening tips that he's learnt from volunteering with St Ann's.

Derek in his garden wearing gardening gloves.

Following my retirement from full time work, I decided to pursue my interest in the outdoor world of gardening and help a charity at the same time. 

Having lived in Gatley for over 25 years, I already knew of the good work done by St Ann’s. I decided that it would be a very good opportunity, and St Ann’s is local and in walking distance, so just over a year ago I applied to be a volunteer gardener at St Ann’s in Heald Green. At the same time, I also took on an allotment just down the road, because my main interest was in vegetable and fruit growing.

I’ve learned so much in my first year in the flower gardens at St Ann’s under the expert guidance of Ken, the Head Gardener. I’m now putting that knowledge to good use in my own garden, for example on how to care for dahlia tubers over winter and re-planting the following spring.

There’s also a small vegetable plot at the hospice which, along with 2 other gardeners, we’re developing to create more produce for the kitchen and staff. It’s only a small plot but last year we managed to have strawberries, raspberries, potatoes and courgettes.

I would highly recommend anyone to try and grow their own fruit and vegetables. Being able to just go out into your garden or the allotment and pick your own fresh fruit and vegetables gives great pleasure and you know where they have come from.

Having the allotment and volunteering in the garden also leads to meeting new people and share experiences.

During my first summer at St Ann’s, it gave me great pleasure when patients, visitors and staff were able to venture out into the garden areas and experience the colour of the various flowers, and when they shared their appreciation with us. The possibility of getting outside seemed to be of a great benefit to them all. Having worked in an office in a city for 36 years, I know how important it is to be able to have some time outside during the day.

Some of the flowers I've potted up in my own garden

Here’s some of my gardening tips:

  • Buy spring flowering bulbs and plant in pots in December, which give a good display the following Spring and then you can plant them in the garden for future years flowering
  • You can grow fast producing items such as radishes, tomatoes and courgettes
  • A south facing wall is ideal for growing tomatoes in tubs outdoors. You can also grow potatoes in tubs
  • Double-up on your crops by growing fast yielding crops in between slow yielding to make best use of space, for example growing radishes between rows of parsnips
  • It’s important to rotate your crops from year to year so as not to grow the same crop 2 years running in the same area. To help with this, keep a plan of what you grow where each year
  • Use a cold frame or mini greenhouse to get flowers and vegetables seeds to germinate and grow before planting out to give them a good start
Derek's allotment

Some of my allotment planting

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