Exciting new things at Village Garden

Jenny Findlay, founder and director at the Somerset West Village Garden with garden volunteer, Hennie Paulse from Macassar.

With the new year in full swing, and with some of the lockdown restrictions lifted, there are a few exciting things happening at the Somerset West Village Garden (SWVG) located in New Street, Somerset West.

Jenny Findlay, founder, and director of the SWVG, (a registered NPO) spoke more about these inclusions.

Good news for schools is the return of the garden’s Education Days after being suspended during the hard lockdown. Schools or groups of children, can once again come out to to the garden for an informative Garden Tour.

The educational tours are presented on Wednesdays from 9.30am to 11am and no entry fees are charged, schools, if possible, are only requested to bring a jar of peanut bar as donation.

Then with good rains received, things are going well with the crops, says Ms Findlay. She excitedly shares how they have now for the first time, planted and grown, morogo. “This is an indigenous plant and it’s very nutritious, people consume it almost like spinach, so this has grown very successfully.”

Their Bokashi composting programme is another new inclusion. “It’s all about sustainability and keeping waste out of the dumpsites or rubbish dumps. So, we encourage people to participate by putting their kitchen waste into this Bokashi programme.”

She explains how participants in the programme are given a bin to put their waste in and a special sawdust which needs to be added to it.

“That then disintegrates over two weeks and then they bring it back to us and we incorporate in our compost. They can use it on their garden as well, but a lot of people live in flats, and they don’t have a garden so then they can bring it here and we give them a stamp and for every 10 buckets they bring we give them a bag of compost as incentive,” Ms Findlay elaborates.

The garden has partnered with a company from which participants can buy the bins and sawdust to partake in the programme.

The garden continues with their weekly donations to various organisations. “At the end of the first lockdown which was at the end of 2020, we had donated one ton of spinach to the various shelters and other projects.”

Formalised training programmes is another new addition planned for garden volunteers as a means to equip them with formal qualifications. For this purpose, the garden will team up with the Provincial Department of Agriculture. “So that can also be put on their CV when they go out and look for a job.”

The garden continues to assist other organisations starting their own community gardens with necessities and expert guidance and advice.

“With Covid we’ve noticed there is a greater need for people wanting to start gardens in informal areas, so we donate seedlings, compost and mentor them.”

Ms Findlay is currently assisting with the start-up of a garden at the Family Shelter, where the plan is to start a chilly project by planting and selling chillies.

“When we first started the garden programme 6 years ago our purpose was to help the homeless, to give them a step up, not just a handout and in doing so give them their dignity back so that they can get back into society and start living a normal life,” she reflects on their initial goal and emphasises this is still what they aim to do.

The garden is open on Tuesdays from 9am to 11am when fresh produce are sold.

The garden is currently in need of volunteers to assist with their Social Media and Marketing. Contact Jenny on info@swvg.co.za or visit, somersetwestvillagegarden.co.za for more information or to volunteer.

Jenny Findlay says with their bore water and good rains the plants are indeed flourishing. The corn plants, in particular, are the garden team’s pride and joy.