We’re sharing monthly updates on the Stretford Community Dye Garden on our blog. Here’s the latest one…

In collaboration with the Friends of Victoria Park, Stretford, and funded by the RHS and Greater Manchester Green Spaces Fund, Stitched Up are growing plants to create natural dyes for use by the local community and Greater Manchester textile network.

Stretford Community Dye Garden site, located in Victoria Park, Stretford

Stitched Up have long held a dream to grow and use their own natural dyes, and now, in collaboration with the Friends of Victoria Park, Stretford (FOVPS) and with the help of the RHS and the Greater Manchester Green Spaces Fund, we are making this dream a reality!

On a bright, dry morning at the beginning of February, project worker Jo and three eager volunteers began work clearing the garden site in Victoria Park, Stretford.  The area allocated in the park for the dye garden is located on a slight slope, in front of five well-established trees, and measures a very generous 10x10m which means – fingers crossed – lots of dye plants providing a range of different colours!  It also means a lot of work…

Unusually it wasn’t raining on that first outdoor session – as we now know, February was the wettest February in the UK since records began.  This was very much felt throughout the rest of the month’s volunteer sessions, as volunteers worked on soft, saturated ground and around areas of standing water – muddy boots were guaranteed!

Volunteers on the first outdoor volunteer session in February 2024

Armed with rakes, forks and wheelbarrows however, volunteers persevered and by the end of the month we had cleared the site surface of loose debris, removed and transplanted various plants from a smaller flower bed located within the garden site and made aeration holes in the ground to aid drainage.  We discovered and worked alongside lots of wildlife too including earthworms, centipedes, woodlice, lawn shrimps, grubs, spiders, frogs, robins and blackbirds.

Coming across a variety of insects, and in such good numbers, we’re happy with the health of the soil on site; to combat future waterlogging though, we will be moving in more topsoil to even up the slope and we will also add further enrichment in the form of compost and leaf mould.  

As well as encouraging wildlife into the dye garden we also want to encourage the community to get involved too – the clue is in the title after all!  To make sure it was a true community garden from the outset, engagement with the public began last year, with the first of three project volunteer sessions.

In November 2023, we held an information and activity session where volunteers were introduced to, and became familiar with, botanical inks, made from plant materials such as red cabbage, white onion skins, woad seeds and turmeric.  Then in January 2024 we had a design session, looking more particularly at how the dye garden might be arranged and which plants to include.  The third session was held at the RHS Bridgewater where staff members Nina and Sarah showed us around pointing out various features and highlighting the dye plants they grow.

All of the ideas and suggestions gathered from project volunteers and professional gardeners will inform the finished garden design along with practical considerations to maximise space, account for growing conditions and cater for a range of user needs. 

If we’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to know more please email hello@stitchedup.coop, and if you’d like to get involved in volunteering, please go to the ‘Book groups and activities’ section on the FOVPS website where you can sign up for all our dye garden volunteering opportunities.