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Growing into Autumn

A bit of a bumper blog for September and October as we haven’t had an update for a while, though if you’d like to see regular shorter updates the Grow Elgin project has a weekly (usually!) post on our Facebook page.

Busy times for the Grow Elgin project as the balmy summer weather extended into September and a mild and colourful autumn.  We’ve continued our work with the ENABLE charity, returning to help them harvest leafy vegetables, some turnip thinnings and herbs. The taller planters are now in place too and we helped sow and plant them with winter  salads, late potatoes, onions and garlic to grow over the winter. The service users have been taking the fresh produce they helped grow home too and that means more fresh healthy local food being eaten and fewer food miles too. The compost bin is filling up too, with the veg scraps from the ENABLE kitchen,  the roughly chopped garden waste we gathered whilst harvesting and some shredder; we gave it a good water before putting the lid back on.

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Filling the compost bin.                                                      Parsley, mint,  spring onions, turnips, and  lettuce all                                                                                                           harvested from the ENABLE garden

We had a lovely sunlit day out at our Gardenshare allotment with groups from West End Primary school’s P1 class, learning all about the far flung places in the world our food comes from and then seeing how we can grow lots of it right here in Scotland and even on our doorstep. It was great to see the wee ones getting stuck into digging and weeding and planting and sowing on the REAP  community plot, and composting their play piece too. Hopefully they will return next spring to see what their gardening has grown into.

We also returned to St Sylvester’s Primary School, to plant and sow herbs and winter crops in their vegetable and herb beds, collect and save seeds, make mini-beast homes, and discover the potato crop which hadn’t been completely lifted! (see pictures below)

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We’ve been establishing a community garden including half a dozen raised beds at New Elgin Primary School too, with the help of Mrs Oakley’s  P4/5 class and the schools  Eco Group  building the 1m squared beds, filling them with peat free compost  and sowing winter veg in them, as well as planting and weeding  the herb garden.  We are looking forward to setting up a wormery and  planting up an orchard in the school grounds following the very detailed plans the group drew up.

The Elgin Youth Cafe wellbeing  group have been making Herb posies, pouches and teas using the herbs gathered from the Cooper Park raised beds and the planters in Elgin High street.  The herb planters now have QR codes on them so that anyone with a QR code reader on their smart phone can now find out all about the herbs and how to use them from a new page on our website.

We’ve also built a herb spiral with Action for Children’s  Krazy Kids Club, a fine 3D addition to their edible gardens. If you would like to make a similar one, it takes about 65-70 bricks to make and three bags of peat free compost to fill, and we have instructions you can download on our REAP web site.

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library-cafe-veg-delivery-from-cooper-park-raised-bedsDorothy and Paul, the Grow Elgin project workers, didn’t get any company on the bi-monthly weed-sow-harvest session at the Cooper Park raised beds, but then the rain was fairly chucking it down! Not to be put off though we weeded the beds and harvested about 1.5 kg of lettuce, kale and herbs each for Elgin Youth Café and the Moray Resource Centre. Dorothy had early harvested some salad and herbs for our friends in the Cobbs Café in the library too. Forget food miles, we’re talking food metres!

The raised beds we put in at the Moray Resource Centre are also thriving since we gave them some protection from the rabbits (!) and the three service users there who have taken on a bed have been learning to sow and plant a variety of winter veg including oriental winter salads, garlic and broad beans. They’ve also been learning about weeding and thinning, and harvested a small crop of radishes to take home.

dscn0123And finally we had a very successful Elgin Apple Day in Cooper Park at the end of October. Our apple scratter and press were kept going full time making  fresh local apple juice from apples brought by visitors from their own gardens, or from the bags of apples which had been donated from local gardens around the Keith and Elgin area and from Wester Hardmuir Farm near Nairn.  There was also a display of locally grown apple varieties from Pluscarden Abbey, apple dookin’, a longest peel competition, facepainting, plant-a-pip, apple trees for sale and Elgin Youth Café’s smoothy bikes. We had about 80 visitors during the three hours, and lots of enthusiastic and positive feedback, so hope to have another bigger and better Apple Day next year! 

July with Grow Elgin in pictures

As a picture is reputed to speak a thousand words, we’ll let some photos we took during July do most of the talking with some short descriptions, to let you know what the Grow Elgin project has been up to during July

At ENABLE (a charity for adults with learning disabilities) in Elgin making windowsill planters and newspaper flowerpots and sowing them with vegetable and native wildflower seeds, in preparation for the installation of raised beds in their garden.

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Community gardening at the raised beds in Cooper Park, weeding and harvesting kale, strawberries and a variety of herbs. We have these sessions every two months or so, and all ages are welcome (!) to join us for a few minutes or an hour.

At Aberlour Childcare trust’s Youth Point in ELGIN we’ve worked with some of their young people to make plans for a grassy area to be turned into a garden with a variety of uses – watch this space. We built and planted up a raised bed, made a ‘Lazy bed’ or ‘Lasagna bed’ by building up layers of different organic material on a cardboard base on the grass. This was planted with a few potatoes, and we’ll continue to add layers of different organic matter as the potato plants grow. Similarly we planted potatoes on soil inside a recycled tyre, and we’ll continue to add layers of different organic matter as the potato plants grow. Similarly we planted potatoes in soil inside a recycled tyre, and will add further soil-filled tyres on top as the potato plants grow.

Strathisla Pipe Band are the smartest!

Strathisla Pipe Ban Uniforms for website

 

 

Strathisla Pipe Band were the best turned out at Forres Highland Games. They successfully applied for funding to the Hill of Towie Community Benefit Fund, which supports groups and organisations based in Keith, Boharm and Botriphnie. If you’d like to know more and find out if your organisation is eligible, please take a look at the community grants page or call the REAP office on 01542 888070. The next deadline for application is 26th August 2016 The decision making panel usually meet twice yearly to consider grant applications. Demand on the fund has been high this year so you may wish to check before applying. The next deadline is likely to be in spring 2017.

Grow Elgin June news

The Grow Elgin project continues to find its way into new places to grow food locally with all kinds of people. The last week in June found us at Spynie Carehome, where we were joined  by some of the residents and their carers to harvest the last of the spinach, garlic, cabbage and kale(about 3kg in all) from the 1m square raised bed we installed last autumn. In their place we planted potatoes, lettuces and garlic chives and sowed a line of carrots. The care-home had also put a couple of raised planters in their courtyards for people to be able to work at standing up, which we crowded with a mixture of herbs, salad plants and strawberry plants. For at least one of the carers it was the first time she’d ever planted and started to grow any kind of vegetable and she was enthusiastic to do some more, which is great ‘cause that’s what Grow Elgin is all about!

We ran another of our small and personal gardening courses last week. During an afternoon participants had a chance to look around the GardenShare allotments, and learn how easy it is, with a little ‘knowhow’, to grow all kinds of vegetables. Participants asked questions, learned how to take cuttings, divide and pot-up plants, how to make compost. At the  end of the afternoon we all sampled some  freshly picked raw edible leaves in the salad we made,  and the participants were be packed off with their  cuttings and  potted up plants, information pack, seeds, and in this case loads of enthusiasm to get going in their own gardens! Watch this space for more ‘Grow your own food’ gardening courses coming soon!

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We’ve also been approached by two other organisations to help them establish vegetable gardens in raised beds. ENABLE in Elgin, who work with older adults with learning disabilities, have a small garden all laid to lawn which they want to make most of for their service users, so we will be working with them to install some raised beds, taller planters for access by wheelchair users, compost bin and, in the autumn, some soft fruit bushes and a dwarf fruit tree.

Similarly, children’s charity Aberlour Child Care Trust have asked us for help converting their larger grassy area at their Youth Point for teenagers in Elgin into a garden that will include vegetable plots and fruit trees as well as an area of wildlife garden with miniature wildflower meadow.

As with our other projects the service users with both these charities will be involved with the construction of the raised beds, planting, sowing, weeding, growing plants indoors for later planting out and of course choosing what edible plants they want to grow as well as eventual harvesting.

Finally, the herb planters in and around Elgin High Street are thriving! The Elgin Fire Brigade kindly came and filled the reservoirs in the bottoms of the planters, small signs have been attached to the planters making people aware that all the plants are edible, and a leaflet about the planters with pictures to help identify the different herbs (we’re presuming everyone knows what a strawberry looks like!) is about to go out to various venues around the town, and you can download the leaflet here.

Raised beds

REAP’s raised bed video is now on the website here and available for viewing, with thanks to Christy Kail film and the Climate Challenge fund. The raised beds leaflet has been updated and is available for download as a pdf here.

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Herbs in the HighStreet

It’s been a while since the last Grow Elgin Blog, but that’s not to say we haven’t been busy! The good news is that we have secured funding for the Grow Elgin project for another year, which means more community gardens, more raised beds in schools, more home composting around Elgin and more gardening and composting courses. All this is encouraging more people young and old to grow their own healthy veggies, which will cut down on food miles and greenhouse gas emissions and help look after our lovely planet home.

So what have we been up to? Well, next time you’re strolling through Elgin town centre have a closer look at some of the planters around the High Street. Elgin invited us to adopt some of these planters, and because we are about growing food locally we’ve planted up eleven of these planters with herbs like parsley, marjoram, rosemary and mint, as well as strawberry plants and little black currant bushes. Once these plants get established and take over the planters we’ll be encouraging people to browse these plants and have a nibble. They’ll not just be nice to look at but will become part of an edible landscape around Elgin!

And whilst on the subject of an edible Elgin we ran a successful community event at the start of March planting small community orchard in Cooper Park. About 25 volunteers came along on the day to help us plant 12 young fruit trees which will be bearing home-grown apple and plums for local people to enjoy in a few years’ time.  We also planted the 4 old rose beds with fruiting bushes and herbs for everyone to help themselves to as they pass through the park.

Last week we visited West End Primary School in Elgin. Their Eco club are very keen to grow their own food and compost stuff from the staff room. Having made some plans on paper for their new garden, they were soon outside enthusiastically putting together their new wormery, which will take the teabags and raw food scraps (apple cores etc.) from the staffroom. With a bit of guidance they were soon using electric screwdrivers to put together their raised  beds, filling them with compost and planting some herbs and vegetable plants, whilst learning about how  growing their own organic food will help make their own contribution to  combating global warming. It was great to hear from the kids how many of them were already aware of some of these issues.

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In a similar vein we have been establishing local raised beds for food growing at Spynie Hospital, and have we are just in the process of drawing up plans for a small edible garden for ENABLE’s day care centre for adults with special needs in Elgin. Watch this space!

Grow Elgin 1 Climate Challenge Fund Report

The final report on year 1 of REAP’s Grow Elgin project is available here on the downloads page. It covers the events held, carbon saving targets hit, composting collected, raised bed parties held, community planting days, electric bike adventures and photos of just some of those who helped make it such a success. We are already underway with Grow Elgin 2, another year of saving carbon, doing our bit to combat climate change and spending time with brilliant people sowing, growing and celebrating local growing and composting.

Edible Garden in Cooper Park

Community planting day 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all those who helped out at the planting day. We had a great time and now there will be fruit trees and herbs for years to come for everyone. Why not make a harvest of herbs as you pass through the park? Ultra low food miles, no plastic wrapping to go to landfill and as fresh as a daisy. What could be better?