The Big Dig is all about getting people involved in their local community garden.

We hold national events to promote edible gardens and encourage people to volunteer.

Big Dig Day 2013

Despite rain, sleet, snow and a biting wind across much of the country, 2,100 hardy volunteers turned up to their local community garden and got digging.

Thank you to everyone who came along and the 280 gardens that took part


Big Dig Day was renamed the Big Snorkel with only three gardens not under water by midday.  Unbelievably, all three gardens had volunteers who arrived in wellies and thick rain jackets mostly pleading for cups of tea.  Slades Farm Community Garden managed to dig six new potato beds and plant a range of different tattie varieties.  Ironically the single parents at SMILE garden had asked for help digging a drainage system in their brand new patch – at least they were able to see if the volunteers’ hard work had been successful at the end of the day.  New Leaf Community Allotment also welcomed volunteers who dug over and planted their rotational vegetable beds all with badly needed and fabulous refreshments on site and a portaloo to hide in when the weather got really bad. 

The Big Dig Day was brilliant for us.  It got us really focused on what we were doing, why we wanted to do it and share that vision with new volunteers.  Through it we met a child minding group who also had a garden.  They were losing enthusiasm but after seeing our garden, working together, feeling they were part of something bigger and support was out there they are re-enthused.  Now we are exchanging volunteers, ideas and seeds!”  Rebecca, Volunteer SMILE Community Garden, Bournemouth


At London Road Station Garden in Brighton everyone agreed it was the maddest day to be out gardening, but a hardy crew turned out and were joined by Mayor, Bill Randall and local MP and neighbour Caroline Lucas.  How much work got done? In all honesty, not that much because of the vile weather, but 20 people turned up and swapped advice and ideas about pruning fruit trees, compost and planting parsnips in drain-pipes to name but a few. It might have been the Big Chat rather than the Big Dig but it was great to see that there are so many people inspired by the idea to get growing together.

 “It was so lovely to arrive to such a warm welcome from Saskia. Coffee and homemade cakes in the poly-tunnel to warm us up on a rather wet and miserable March day and get the energy levels up for digging over the green compost patch and weeding ready for the courgettes to be planted.  I really enjoyed helping out and have subsequently signed up to become a regular volunteer there” Vicky, North Portslade Community Allotment volunteer, Brighton


At Wor Lotty in Newcastle  the nine volunteers who came along worked incredibly hard and all said that they wanted to come back for more! As a result, the group is planning to organise a regular Saturday work session in addition to their regular mid-week session to try to harness this enthusiasm.

"The volunteers were fantastic and we achieved a huge amount. We planted raspberries, created a new growing area with beds and paths, dug in green manures, weeded, and cleared over wintered crops. We provided homemade soup made with produce from the site and I think everyone really appreciated the gesture. What a great bunch of people! Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves, and they all said they would like to come back and do some more." Garden Leader, Wor Lotty, Newcastle


Despite looming clouds the sun came out just in time for the start of Big Dig Day in Oxford and kept coming back throughout the day. Forty eight people came to transform OxGrow - fuelled by an amazing local seasonal feast. The raised beds were completed, along with a brand new pizza oven and a freshly installed compost toilet.

The site transformation was completed by the beginning of a plastic bottle greenhouse. Across the city at Barracks Lane Community Garden well over a hundred people came along to take part in the annual seed swap, a fantastic event which marks the opening of the garden and a great way to pick up new skills and ideas as well as new seeds to take away and plant!


A grey weekend in March was brightened up in Sheffield when eight growing spaces across the city invited volunteers to help out as part of The Big Dig Day. From Nether Edge to Shirecliffe, communities throughout the city had an opportunity to find out more about local projects and get growing. From tree and potato planting to path building and making compost there was something for everyone.

"Hazelhurst was very pleased to take part in the Big Dig as it helped us to connect
with other groups that are working in a similar way. The online map ensured that we could be located by more volunteers, who we hope will turn up on a regular basis in the future. Plus, we are delighted and proud to be part of a such an inspired national event, and we look forward to further 'Big Digs' in the future!"
 Stella Hunt, Hazelhurst CSA, Sheffield, Volunteer Coordinator


Big Dig Day was also used by in some places to launch new gardens. In Southend Growing Together Shoeburyness community garden opened its gates to the public for the first time. Despite wet weather, 35 peopple came along to plant a new hedgerow, garlic and onion sets, cut back brambles and scrub and clear rubbish at the site. The garden is a former allotment site that has been disused for at least 15 years. Trust Links is developing the site into a community garden, primarily for adults with mental health problems and young people disengaged from education. It was brilliant to see so many members of the local community, who were delighted to engage with the new project.

Elsewhere in Southend at Growing Together Westcliff all the digging and planting was followed by a Gardener’s Question Time which gave volunteers and members of the public the chance to find out about about gardening and also have a well earned cup of tea and cake!


The Big Dig

The Big Dig is a nationwide project which aims to get more people involved in community food-growing. The Big Dig is a project of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.

The Big Dig
C/o Sustain
Development House
56 - 64 Leonard Street