Can you help hospice chef’s kitchen garden grow?

Categories: Care and Leadership.

A local Sue Ryder Hospice chef is cultivating a kitchen garden in the hospice grounds around her shifts, with the aim of producing more ‘hospice home-grown homemade’ meals for patients.

Sandra Galton, aged 56 from Biggleswade, joined Sue Ryder St. John’s Hospice just outside Bedford last year and had the tasty idea of growing the hospice’s own vegetables, fruit and herbs to give a wholesome, flavoursome ‘garnish’ to meals made for patients.

“When I first joined the charity someone mentioned to me there used to be a kitchen garden in the grounds, but over the years it has been lost,” Sandra shared. “I have always wanted to become more green-fingered but I haven’t got a garden at home as I live in flat! I hope I will get just as much enjoyment from the kitchen garden as our patients will.”

From this seedling of an idea, Sandra put a call out to hospice colleagues for donations of seeds and plants to get the garden started and she was inundated with donations, which are now growing in the hospice kitchen garden looking out onto the beautiful open fields of Moggerhanger.

“I have had so many offers of plants and seeds which have come through which is brilliant but I would really value some volunteer kitchen gardeners to help,” shares Sandra. “Everyone is welcome. It would be great to have you! We’re currently establishing what is already here and adding to it. We could do with some compost for our VegTrug too!”

Sandra is currently tending to the garden around her shifts in the hospice kitchen, but hopes people will come forward to volunteer in the hospice gardens to help the kitchen garden grow.

So far the Sandra has planted peas, beetroot, spring onions, carrots, radishes and assortment of lettuces and some spinach.

“We have added some blue cornflowers which were donated to us which I hope will act as an insect attractor. We have runner beans coming soon and there were some broad beans planted last year which are just coming to pod now. We already have some rhubarb and some currant and raspberry bushes – so we already have a really nice assortment. This month the kitchen garden has really got going!”

Sandra says the kitchen garden will be an ‘organic process’ as she plans to plant any produce as it is donated. “I don’t have a wish list of things we want to grow,” she said. “We’re just going along with it as donations arrive. I have been given some cherry tomatoes recently, which we have put in the greenhouse – whatever comes in we will have a go at growing it!”

And Sandra has already baked up some recipe ideas for the special dishes she hopes to create in kitchen for patients using the hospice-grown produce too.

“I have some recipes in mind already. I do a carrot, honey and ginger cake, a parsnip and lemon cake, and a lemon and potato cake too which is gluten free. It’s really helpful to have something different for people to try.”

Some patients have already spotted Sandra in the kitchen garden and have asked what she is doing. “When I tell them about the kitchen garden they are quite excited by it – everyone is interested which is lovely.”

Involving patients in all aspects of the care and services given by Sue Ryder is a priority for the charity, and Sandra says this includes at meal times too.

“Someone from the kitchen goes to each individual patient with our menu and encourages patients to pick what they would like. And if a patient wants something which is not on our menu we ask them what they fancy.

“We are led by what our patients request and if we don’t know how to make something we will Google it and give it a try! Traditional, real, home-cooked food is what people mostly crave and we want to deliver on that. The most popular thing we are being asked for currently it is bread and butter pudding!”

Going back to the kitchen garden, Sandra says spending time outdoors and tending to the growing plants has really helped to boost her wellbeing.

“It is so fantastic to see everything growing. I was so excited when I saw that first lot of peas come up – I had to take a picture of them! It is just so nice to be outside after I have done my shift in the kitchen. I love tending to the plants and seedlings before and after my shift and checking on how the plants are doing.”

Sandra hopes the fruit (and vegetables and herbs) of her labour will be a boost to patients’ wellbeing too.

“I can’t wait for the day when we can share our menus with our patients and say ‘we have fresh peas from the garden today!’”

If you think you can support Sandra in tending the Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice kitchen garden find out more about gardening volunteer opportunities at the hospice by visiting the Sue Ryder website or emailing

For more information on Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice visit


About Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice:

Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice is located in Moggerhanger, Bedfordshire, and provides expert palliative care, advice and support for people who are living with life-limiting conditions, as well as supporting their families.

Our inpatient hospice provides round-the-clock assessment and specialist care to help manage patients’ symptoms. In addition to our inpatient unit, we also offer community services for people who prefer to receive palliative care at home.

Our expert team includes doctors, nurses, care assistants, physiotherapists, occupational and complementary therapists, social workers and bereavement support workers. They all work seamlessly together to support people through the most difficult times of their lives.


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