The Lemon Tree Trust runs annual home garden competitions in refugee and IDP camps across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to increase awareness about the benefits of gardening and to encourage food growing.


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was not possible to run our garden competitions in the same way as previous years. However, as people self-isolate and stay home, home gardens have become more important than ever. Continuing to support people to grow for food and pleasure while camps are locked down during the outbreak has been a key priority for us.

We launched a ‘virtual’ home garden exhibition in April to recognise and reward the beautiful small spaces being lovingly tended by residents of camps across the KRI. Home gardens have long helped residents stay connected within their communities and keep busy. Gardeners have been invited to share photographs of their plants and home garden spaces via WhatsApp and Facebook groups. Our Lemon Tree Trust garden facilitators in each camp then choose a ‘winner’ each week and we are celebrating them by sharing their photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. All our winners this year will receive a lemon tree and all participants will receive packets of food and flower seeds.

“Our guiding principle has always been to encourage home gardening by distributing seeds. It’s a simple, but beautifully effective response to the ever-growing refugee and IDP crisis. As we all adjust to life in lockdown, watching as Covid-19 forces our daily lives to slow and adapt to a new kind of ‘normal’, we are driven more than ever by a desire to spread joy, hope and purpose through the distribution of packets of flower and food seeds. Thank you to everyone who supports our work and joins us in our celebration of gardens and gardening for everyone.” – Stephanie Hunt, Founder and CEO, Lemon Tree Trust.

Find out more and view our Flickr photo galleries.


Competitions took place in a record seven refugee and IDP camps in 2019, with nearly 1,500 gardens in the running for prizes. A combination of cash prizes and gifts of seeds and plants, with certificates for all the winners, were awarded at celebrations in every camp.

The Lemon Tree Trust Founder and CEO, Stephanie Hunt helped judge some of the competitions and said:

“I continue to be inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of people living in situations of forced migration. Their love of plants and gardening and their keen desire to bring beauty to their surroundings is what drives us at the Lemon Tree Trust. I loved visiting some of the winning gardens this year and look forward to watching them continue to grow and flourish over the coming months.”

Read more about the 2019 competition and browse our gallery of garden winners.

Aveen Ibrahem, Lemon Tree Trust Community Outreach Manager, pictured with Subhi Batal, winner in Domiz 2 camp and overall garden competition winner 2019.
Stephanie Hunt with one of the 2019 garden competition entrants in Gawillan camp.


Running in parallel with our refugee show garden at RHS Chelsea, our 2018 garden competitions welcomed more than 1,000 entrants across five refugee and IDP camps. The consistent annual increase in participation confirmed the interest in gardening in refugee and IDP communities in the region, and further validated our garden competitions as wonderful opportunities to introduce gardening to more communities in the future.

In addition, a new “Gardener of the Month” program was planned to recognize camp gardens and showcase innovation and creativity throughout the year.


Holding a garden competition in 2016 and 2017 helped to encourage the further development of home gardens and innovative approaches to growing in small spaces. It also enabled us to meet people who were interested in growing and, through conversations and interviews, to discover the significance that gardens held for them.

The 2016 competition had approximately 50 entries and the 2017 competition 138 entries, (87 from men and 52 from women). Cash Prizes (1st $300, 2nd $200, 3rd $100) were offered for the best overall garden with 7 additional categories of $50 prizes for best garden in a small space, using recycled materials, rearing livestock and community gardening among others. Runners up received $20 and all participants were given a lemon tree.

Best Home Garden 2016

Winning Garden 2017

Winning Neighbourhood Garden 2017

Winner Best Innovation Garden 2017

Best Food Garden 2017

Best Ornamental Garden 2017

Help our gardeners to grow at home

The Lemon Tree Trust welcomes one-off and regular donations. 

To make a donation, please go to:

Our core infrastructure costs are fully funded so 100% of your donation directly supports gardening projects and initiatives in refugee communities.

  • $1 / £1 can give a family a packet of vegetable seeds 
  • $5 / £5 can provide a family a basket of nutritious produce 
  • $10 / £10 can buy a chicken for a community garden
  • $25 / £25 can fund a Home Garden Starter Kit for a new family arriving in the camp, containing a Home Garden Manual, seeds, tools, a grow-bag and a children’s gardening activity
  • $100 / £100 can give 5 families a lemon tree providing shade and fruit
  • $500 / £500 could provide 10 schools with a Children’s Garden Starter Kit for classrooms
  • $1,000 / £1,000 could purchase a new poly tunnel for one of our community gardens

The Azadi Community Garden in Domiz 1 camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, is run by a small team of gardeners headed up Aveen, our Operations Manager. We asked team members Ismail and Shalal (pictured below) some questions about their work in the garden and their favourite plants. Ismail “I’m Ismail, a Syrian refugee. … Continued

Huge gratitude and thanks go to Erin Benzakein, Becky Crowley and all the team at Floret Flowers. As well as a generous donation of Floret seeds to our emergency ‘Gardener to Gardener’ Seed Appeal, Erin has published a lovely interview feature with our founder Stephanie Hunt on the Floret website. In the feature, Stephanie chats … Continued

Our heartfelt thanks go to Bridget and Henrietta at The Land Gardeners for donating profits from the first issue of their new pop-up magazine to Lemon Tree Trust. In this beautiful digital magazine, The Land Gardeners share what to plant and how to grow in lockdown. Plus, read about Erin Benzakein’s favourite pink flowers, Paul Bangay’s most-loved garden book, Kay … Continued