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 makers.

Blue skies over the 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!
March began where February left off: wet! So wet that the first outdoor volunteer session of
the month had to be cancelled. Fortunately, the weather which defined February didn’t last
and March was drier and milder – blue skies and the sun even made an appearance (see
photo above for proof)!

Over the month, the volunteers working on the garden site were given two main tasks to
focus on: the first was to clear any remaining plants, roots and other loose debris from the
site; the second was to start adding extra earth to level up the site slope and aid drainage.

Of course, removing plants from the site does seem to be counterproductive – shouldn’t we be adding plants in to a garden?!

Many of the plants already growing on the dye garden site were part of an established flower bed, containing ornamental plants such as hellebores, primroses and daffodils; other plants such as bramble and nettle had made their own way onto the site. Notably, some of these plants can be used to create natural dyes – daffodils can yield yellow dye while nettles give green dyes.

However, the location of the flower bed overlaps with the dye garden design and amongst the useful plants are also problematic ones – species such as creeping buttercup and couch grass spread quickly and can take over large areas of ground, pushing out other plants and taking up valuable nutrients from the earth. By removing such plants, including their runners and roots (and transplanting beneficial plants elsewhere), we can give the dye plants we want to grow a better chance to grow and thrive.

Some of the plants already growing on the garden site: (L-R) mini daffodil, stinging nettle, primrose

By mid-March, the site was clear of plants and the outdoor sessions shifted to our second
major task, to move extra earth to level up the slope on site. This extra earth was already
available to us, having been moved from different parts of Victoria Park over time and put
into the park’s compound area. Admittedly, it has been there for a while, as grass and
bramble had started to grow on it! This was no problem for our volunteers however, who
happily took up the task to extract the earth using spades, forks and a mattock.

Before and after: volunteers work on extracting earth from the pile in the park compound

As well as dealing with the plant life, the earth itself had to be screened to remove smaller
roots, stones, brick and pieces of concrete. We also came across various insects including
woodlice, centipedes and spiders.

L-R: Volunteers look over their work on site; common garden spider

With the site progressing, project workers Jo and Sarah headed over to RHS Bridgewater in
late March to gain advice for the next steps of the dye garden – namely dye plants and where
to put them! RHS staff Nina and Sarah received our plant list and design ideas
enthusiastically and gave us notes on ground maintenance, plant growing requirements in
relation to our site conditions and offered us recommendations on sourcing seeds and
materials. Using this information will help refine our final garden design and what we grow
and we look forward to seeing the dye garden spring into shape in April!

To learn more about the Stretford Community Dye Garden, and to get involved, please email