Croydon charity to distribute thousands of free seeds

Wayne Starr allotment. Pic: John Whitgift Foundation

Croydon’s biggest landowner and the operator of three large fee-paying schools, the John Whitgift Foundation, has launched an ambitious bid to make Croydon one of the UK’s greenest boroughs. 

The Grow with John campaign sees the launch of a borough-wide programme to inspire residents to take up gardening. 

Announced on March 31 this year, in the wake of the charity’s 425th anniversary, the campaign will seed its gardening programme to all ages and backgrounds through a dedicated website where up to 400,000 Croydon residents can order a pack of free seeds.  

The project’s main benefactors will be Croydon schools and care homes.

Edward and Charlotte Grant. Pic: John Whitgift Foundation

The foundation, which began as a school founded in 1596 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, said they hoped to bring residents together and enrich the lives of those who have been most isolated throughout Covid-19.

To this end, they’ve launched a new website where anyone living in Croydon can order their pack of free mixed herbs and tomato plant seeds. 

The site is also packed with tips on how to get started on your gardening journey, and activities designed to inspire creativity.

According to the foundation, all of the website’s resources have been collected from residents across the Croydon community. 

Catherine Shirley, Head of Marketing and Communications for the John Whitgift Foundation said in a statement: “Celebrating 425 years of supporting people of all ages and backgrounds across Croydon, this is the biggest community project in our history and will bring the joy of gardening direct to the heart of our residents.

“The campaign will work to improve mental health, healthy eating, and sustainable living across the borough, and we can’t wait to paint the town green and see what residents get growing.”

Friends of Grangewood Park. Pic: John Whitgift Foundation

Timed with the arrival of Spring, the campaign has already received backing from celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh. He said: “Gardening is such a life-saver, both for individuals and in communities: it fosters our understanding of the natural world, feeds us and lifts our spirits. 

“Congratulations to the wise people of Croydon on the ‘Grow with John’ project which is a brilliant idea and one which I hope other schools and communities will learn from. Grow well!”

The importance of home growing 

Growing vegetables at home is a trend that has bloomed around the world during the coronavirus lockdowns. 

Sam Smith, founder of the Pot Gang, a London-based monthly delivery service of grow-your-own materials, from seeds to growing advice, said: “Growing veg and herbs from home really does your head some good. It’s such a peaceful, relaxing thing to get outside and go and water your pots for 10 minutes. It’s just time to yourself. And when you see your seeds start popping up, it’s such a happy moment.

“It can also be so tasty and varied. If you think about, say, the number of tomatoes on a supermarket shelf, there will maybe be 3 or 4 – when really there are hundreds of types and colours and flavours you can explore from seed!”

He added: “It does do a little bit of good for the environment as well. There’s no plastic wrapped around the veg, it doesn’t sit in the back of your fridge getting soggy, and there are no food miles behind it. You just pick what you need, and it’s grown metres from your kitchen.”

To get more information on ‘Grow with John’, and order your very own seeds, click here.

To find out more about Pot Gang, click here.

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