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Permaculture Coming to Elgin, gardening in harmony with nature

Permaculture course for beginners!
We are delighted to announce that Jonny Barton will be joining us for a Permaculture course on 5th September and 3rd October in the Elgin area. Permaculture is living in harmony with nature, thoughtful observation and using natural patterns towards sustainable living. This course is £10, book now as limited spaces.gqt pic6

Barney’s Blog 4 – Grow Your Own

A couple of months in and I keep encountering new types of sessions in my post: my first raised bed party, the first of our Grow Your Own courses and my first meet up with the steering group. That’s what I call interesting variety in a job!

Just finishing off the paths

Just finishing off the paths

Sow and Grow was the focus of our first session down at Elgin Gardenshare on Forteath Avenue last Saturday. In no time at all we converted an empty 3 metre by 3 metre square of soil to six wee beds with loads of different veggies and simple woodchip paths in between.

Where shall we put them?

Where shall we put them?

We showed how easy it is to implement a simple crop rotation – for brassicas, legumes, aliums, roots, squashes and some salad crops thrown in for good measure. In a crop rotation we move around the group of crops in a particular area of our garden plot each year – this ensures healthy plants as it minimises the risk of diseases that attack certain crops e.g. potato blight and clubroot on brassicas, from building up in the soil. Also, each type of plant uses different nutrients and some – the fantastic legumes – actually add nitrogen based nutrients to the soil from the atmosphere. Nature ain’t half clever.

Hard at work

Hard at work

Brassicas include cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower; legumes are peas and beans; aliums include onions, leeks and garlic. Roots are – as the name suggests -those we eat the roots of, such as carrot, beetroot, parsnips and tatties. Also spinach and chard are in this family. Tatties often have their own place in the rotation as we want to allow space for lots of them. The squash family includes courgettes, pumpkins and summer squash. Crop rotation with salads such as lettuce, rocket and (my favourite) the oriental greens is less important, you can even stick them in before and after your main crop.

A taste of the Mediteranean

A taste of the Mediterranean

Participants learnt some good techniques for sowing seeds and planting out wee plants into their final destination. We built structures to support the plants and covered plants with netting where needed. And for good measure we put tatties into the adjoining square of ground, just digging the weeds and grass into the trenches so as to add some lovely nitrogen into the soil and avoid weeding first – so quick and easy.

 We finished off by planting up a Belfast sink with a selection of Mediterranean type herbs, making sure we mixed a good bit of gravel in with our lovely peat free compost to aid the drainage.

Drill For Victory!

Drill For Victory!

Last week I joined in my first raised bed party with the Elliot family – we built one of our metre squared beds made from decking and filled it with a variety of plants and seeds, finishing off with netting it from the cheeky birds; even me snapping one of the willow hoops didn’t spoil things – a roll of tape is always good thing for a gardener to have to hand for such moments! A mint filled welly also joined in the fun.

And a return to Action for Children yesterday – assembling two raised beds with the kids – to be filled and planted next time – before carrying out some evaluations with them to get a taste of how they’re finding the sessions.

I’ll keep putting in a few tips or ideas of my own into the blog – but of course there are as many opinions about gardening as there are gardeners… if you have any good tips you’d like to share please do get in touch.

The second Grow Your Own session is this Saturday 27 June 10am at Forteath Avenue – focusing on raised beds. Worth getting out of bed for!

Barney’s Blog 3 – oot n aboot

Hello good Moravians, it’s been a wee while since my last installment.

A helper at Home FarmLast time I told you a little about our preparation for the Open Day at Home Farm, Pitgaveney. A cracker of a day was had! Sheepdog trials, sheep shearing, a farmers’ market and bicycle powered smoothies were just a few of the attractions. Our raised bed and (especially) our herb spiral drew countless admiring glances and tempted many folk into the marquee for a blether. They were most chuffed to hear how quick and easy these are to build. Free seeds and factsheets on the above as well as composting were particularly popular take-aways. We learnt lots ourselves, hearing some great tips and stories and a good number of people were keen to get involved and signed up for our mailing list.

Signing up folk at GreenfingersDorothy and I were ‘oot and aboot the previous day too. We were down at the Greenfingers project at Cooper Park nurseries, for a sale of lots of very healthy looking plants straight out of the polytunnels and cold frames. Not surprisingly, the folk from Elgin and beyond were there in their droves, picking up a bargain or ten. And so we got in on the action, spreading the word about how easy and tasty it could be to put aside even a wee part of your garden for growing your own grub, to accompany all those bedding plants…. Folks took away some seeds for germinate – of ideas as well as veggies.

Seed sowing at Greenwards PrimaryA few days after our weekend bonanza we headed down to Greenwards Primary School to spend the morning with Miss Taylor’s year P4/5 class. We went on a Where in the World? journey with them, tracing their supermarket food back to source and looking at the many contributions to its carbon footprint in getting from field to supermarket shelf. The kids showed great geography knowledge when looking at the labels, and were surprised that food was coming from as far afield as Vietnam, Chile and Kenya! After that we headed out with them to the Allarburn Farm Shop, where there was such a contrast; local butchers selling their products from Huntly, garlic from Nairn and local veg grown in farms just a few miles from the shop in Elgin’s Edgar Road.

There was a return to Action for Children last week; unfortunately I was laid low with the lurgy but Dorothy and Ann had a fine time by all accounts, filling pots with herbs, rocket and strawberries, transferring veg into the filled raised beds we made last time – so there’ll be plenty of lettuce, cabbage, leeks, onions and kale soon. Patrick and Kaden found a 1936 one penny in the soil, treasure, what a great find! Then the lashing rain put paid to our raised bed party at Pitgaveney last Sunday – please summer, come soon – but we’ll be heading back for the rearranged fixture shortly, as well as starting the first of our four Grow Your Own gardening courses at Elgin Gardenshare on Forteath Avenue this coming Saturday 13 June from 10am – 12noon. It’s called Sow and Grow and we’ll be on hand along with some other gardeners to give a gentle introduction to people doing it themselves. To book a place just contact the REAP office. This course will run every fortnight taking you through sowing to harvesting. See you there?

Barney’s Blog 2 – Tuesday epic

Hello it’s Barney again and time for my second installment, where I’m going to tell you about my busy day last Tuesday. It was a day of varied activities (and weather!).

I joined Dorothy in the morning at Home Farm, Pitgaveney just outside Elgin. We were doing the preparation for the big Fun Day they have this coming Sunday 24th May. Get down if you can – there’s going to be a lot going on. As part of it we’re going to demonstrate raised bed construction and seed sowing for windowsill propagation and help the wee ones to make paper pots, sow bean seeds and make bug homes. We’ll be promoting this project too.

We had a most pleasant morning, firstly building a herb spiral from unused bricks which we then planted up with a wide range of culinary herbs. We celebrated its completion with a lovely cup of lemon balm and grapefruit mint tea, freshly harvested and bursting with freshness. We moved on to building one of our legendary metre squared raised beds. We filled this with lovely peat-free compost and then a smorgasboard of veg seedlings and young plants – including kale, carrots, leeks, salad onions, lettuce, mixed leaves, radishes, garlic – to show how easy it is for people to starting grow their own veg. We had some help from Jim Grant the friendly marquee man who gave us a shiny new drill bit. What a man!

Herb spiral being built

Jim helping with raised bed Home Farm

Raised bed building with Jim to the rescue

sprial and flower bed

All done!

After lunch we met up with our manager Ann and new volunteer Sophie at the Elgin Community Allotments site on Wards Road and then went on a tour of possible sites for community allotments and orchards in north Elgin. There is such potential round there to get growing and work towards a whole edible trail.

And then it was on to the final destination, Action4Children on King Street. We joined the kids and staff in preparing the ground for two raised beds, which we then put in place and filled with topsoil. There was just time for a few tatties to go in – more sowing and planting to follow. They all showed amazing enthusiasm and perseverance in the face of some chilly rain and wind. Such keen diggers and shovellers – excellent work guys.

everyone planting

Never mind the rain, let’s get stuck in!

planting tatties

Tatties being tucked into their new bed

A weekend of fun beckons at the Home Farm Open Day after working alongside the Greenfingers crew at Cooper Park for their open day on Saturday. I’ll report back when I can – bye for now.

Barney’s Blog

Hello everyone, my name’s Barney Thompson and I’ve just started as a Project Assistant on the exciting new Grow Elgin project that REAP is running. I’m going to be writing a blog of what I’ve been up to – to give you a taste of the project and maybe encourage you to get involved in whatever way you can.

I’m a keen gardener and composter and love growing food organically, so I’m really looking forward to joining the people of Elgin – young and old – in the activities that we’re going to be running in various locations. Amongst other things, we’ll be developing and maintaining community gardens and orchards, sowing seeds, building beds, composting and, of course, harvesting the tasty produce. We’ll be getting our hands dirty and having lots of fun!

Last week I went on my first visit with my lovely colleague Dorothy. We had an excellent time at Elgin Academy with two classes, Mrs Sutherland’s and Miss Ainsley’s classes from S1.

The Academy already has a food garden underway, developed with our help . They are ready to build some composting bays, so we took time to work with the young people, developing their composting knowledge. We looked at which things from your garden and kitchen you can and can’t put in your compost, as well as techniques for making a good balanced compost mix. Students looked at some compost that we’d already ‘made’, both from a compost heap and a wormery. The worms were more popular with some students than others!

elgin academy 05 (4)

Dorothy explains some of the joys of compost

The Academy has some splendid raised beds and students also sowed some seeds, for many this was the first time they had done this. Beetroot, carrots, potatoes, parsnip s, radish, leaf beets and lettuce will hopefully be making their appearance when they’re ready at the Academy. Students also had a go at pruning fruit trees that had been damaged by the wind.

elgin academy 05 (3)

Seed sowing and chatting about favourite veg.

If you need any help with composting, we have a handy simple leaflet you can download here. There is also other information you can download about about food growing.

That’s all for my first instalment folks. I hope you enjoyed reading and I’ll be writing more soon.


DIY Draught Excluder

What with the cold weather setting in, I thought it would be the perfect time to make a draught excluder.

We have a knitting pattern for a draught excluder that can be downloaded here. But if you’re like me, and you can just about tell one end of a knitting needle from the other, here is an alternative method using the leg from a pair of old trousers.

Step 1. Cut the leg off the old trousers and turn it inside out. 


This gives you a tube of fabric that you’ll stuff.





Step 2. Lay the tube flat then stitch the two edges of an open end together.


This will form a tube that is closed at one end. How neat you make it is up to you, but the important thing is that the stitching is secure so to keep the stuffing inside. If you’re like me and are not great at sewing it can look a little rough, but that doesn’t matter because it will be hidden when you…



Step 3.  …turn the tube inside out again.

Step 4. Stuff the tube with a suitable material.


I used the polyester filling from an old pillow but shredder newspaper, plastic shopping bags, polystyrene beads, and bits of old garments also make good filler.




Step 5. Close up the remaining end.


I sewed it but  it would have been quicker to fold over the ends and secure them with safety pins. That way the stuffing could be removed and the fabric outer washed if needed.

And that’s it. It took me about forty-five minutes from start to finish, with the sewing accounting for most of that, and it works pretty well.



Things I will do differently the next time:

If aesthetics are a factor I’d use a more attractive piece of fabric. I pulled the polyester for the stuffing apart and this caused a lot of mess. Next time I will cut it into small chunks or use one of the other materials mentioned above. I also used too much stuffing resulting in the excluder being too firm. You want it to be a little soft so that it sags and increases the contact with the floor and where it touches the door. And finally, I’ll use safety pins for the reasons mentioned above. It would also make it easier to take out some of the excess stuffing and cut down on sewing time.


Here’s our wee slideshow with just a few photos from the Apple Day. Roll on next year!

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