No experience required – we’ll be on hand to help and can provide tools and gloves. If you’ve got green fingers come along too and share your expertise. We’d love to see you there – just let us know you’re coming so we’ve got enough cups of tea and tools.
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
All are welcome along to a talk on How to Grow Your Own Food – FREE in February. The talk will be hosted by Keith Library on 10th February from 3-4pm and delivered by our Dorothy, and on 18th February from 7-8pm in Cullen library by Ann.
For more information, contact Keith Library on 01542 882223 or Cullen library on 01542 841140. We’d love to see you there.
They say all good things come in threes. Or is that bad things? Or buses? Well, since the topic in question is my blog – with three in a couple of days, no less – then surely it is the former…well, the many thousands of people sending emails missing their fix and begging for their resumption can’t be wrong! In the previous two I have gone back in time to the balmy days of British Summer Time. However, in this one we’re firmly rooted in November, though strangely in weather more reminiscent of summer.
Sunglasses and shirtsleeves made an appearance during the glorious couple of days spent last week at Greenwards Primary, Bishopmill Primary and Elgin Academy. Dorothy, Lynne and I were joined by orchardier John Hancox, who had come up the A9 trunk road with a car jam-packed full of young fruit trees and shrubs, stakes, ties, guards, as well as an apple juice press and a selection of his apples. And a rather splendid spade I cast envious glances at, plus a mallet, for banging those stakes in.
Elgin Academy kindly provided the large array of spades and forks; plenty were needed as the kids were out in force to help us. There was no way we could have done without their help, with ten trees plus soft fruit shrubs to get in in each session!
Miss Bailey’s eco-schools group at Greenwards were first up on the Monday, a lovely bunch of little ‘uns, thirty or so of them, along with a crack team of student reporters. Lynne got them warmed up in her magic way and then they split into groups of three. We laid out the trees in rows so the lawn mower can navigate easily through to cut the grass. And we positioned them a good four metres apart – remember, although they are wee little things now they’ll grow a lot bigger and we don’t want two trees getting tangled or shading each other. Did you know – the final height that a fruit tree will grow to depends on the type of standard rootstock that it has been grafted on to? This will control the vigour of the tree, as well as potentially improving disease resistance.
And so a rather nice, if we say so ourselves, fledgling orchard appeared right near the entrance, with a variety of apple trees suited to the Moray climate, such as Katy, Laxton’s Fortune and, yes, Beauty of Moray. The odd plum and pear tree provided a bit of variety, as did some young gooseberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, tayberry and raspberry shrubs planted close to the trees to give them a bit of company.
The following morning we were at Bishopmill and an even bigger group of cute wee ones, led by Mr Stewart and Mr Stuart. We sited our orchard on a slope to the side of the school for the parents to see and near to their biodiverse play area, again with a selection of apples and other top fruit, plus a row of soft fruit bushes, next to the path.
Digging here was tricky near the bottom of the slope, where the soil was very stony, especially for wee ones, but they did a sterling job, whilst being careful to handle the tools safely. We were digging out a square about 80cm wide (half that size for the soft fruit), first putting the turves to one side, then digging further down and removing the soil to about a spade’s depth. Then we put the turves in the hole upside down; ‘why?’ you ask. Because the soil near the surface and the grass is rich with nutrients but we don’t want the grass to grow. Then we position the stake and the tree, before backfilling the hole with the remaining soil.
The final shebang was after lunch, next door at Elgin Academy, where Mrs. Campbell’s class took to the field. Again we were on a slope, adding to the existing fledgling orchard which is part of their brilliant food garden, and facing stony soil in places. The teenagers did well and their stakes were well done, put in with some gusto. It’s important to have a stake in place for the early years of a tree, in order to support the wee thing against the wind and dreich weather. When we put a stake in, it’s not in the middle of the hole as that’s for the tree but close enough so that they can be tied loosely together with the special ties. And we must put a guard around the base of the tree to stop rabbits, deer and other pesky furry critters from munching the bark, otherwise it’s game over for the tree…
And did you know (I didn’t until John explained) that research has shown a square hole is better than a round hole? This is because the roots find it easier to grow into the corners of the un-dug (more compacted) soil. There was just enough left in the Academy’s water butt to ensure the trees started their new life with a good drink. The trees should start producing fruit in the next couple of years, so not too long to wait.
As a small bonus for all the pupils, they got to have a go at using John’s stylish vintage apple press to get some juice; enough for a wee dram for everyone – so much better than your carton stuff!
It was fantastic to see all the pupils engaged in outdoors learning and planting trees for many in the future to enjoy and get healthy free food, and all on the school doorstep. Big thanks to you all – and your teachers – for your hard work and enthusiasm. And thank John!
Gooooood morning Moray!
I trust November finds you well. As the days draw right in, this can be a fine time to go inwards to reflect and contemplate. But of course also make sure to get outside to see the fantastic autumn colours before all the leaves fall. I really enjoy being out gardening at this time of year, taking in the precious daylight and feeling the garden and nature slow down.
However, today I’ll tell you a wee bittie about a fine classroom experience I had back in October, thanks to the inimitable Jonny Barton.
Jonny is a Permaculture Diploma tutor from just over the border near Huntly and he has headed to Elgin twice in recent months to deliver an Introduction to Permaculture day workshop for us. On the second one I was lucky enough to help hold the session and soak up his knowledge and enthusiasm. I completed a Permaculture Design Certificate back in 2012 and this was a perfect refresher for me, learning from a highly qualified and experienced tutor.
What is permaculture? is a common question. I’m not going to attempt to properly answer that question in this short blog! Perhaps, I could just say that it is short for permanent agriculture or permanent culture. It combines an ethical framework and an understanding of how nature works with a design process; and the whole point is to provide practical solutions to support the creation of sustainable, healthy and agriculturally productive settlements. I hope we all agree that this has got be a good thing!
Jonny went through the ethics (Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share) and the various nifty principles inspired by nature that underpin it all. A permaculture approach can be helpful with many aspects of life. It’s not just about, for example, growing ‘low effort’ perennial crops or designing your garden better; it could be how you invest your money, how you build or retrofit your house, your approaches to medicine, health and education, how your business is set up etcetera etcetera…
Questions and issues relevant to each participant were looked at and for the last bit we headed out to the Gardenshare site to see some permaculture in action and get our hands dirty.
There is the splendidly marvellous UK Permaculture Association, which has a wealth of information at www.permaculture.org.uk.
But what you probably need at this point is a bit of Jonny in person to really inspire you and get you started down this road – that millions round the world are now travelling on, with a smile on their faces.
And good news…Jonny will be back by popular request, early in 2016, dates to be confirmed – if you contact email@example.com you can get yourself on the waiting list for a place and of course get further information. I thoroughly recommend it!
Hello, yes…I am still alive! I’ve been holding back on a blog I wrote a few weeks ago until we got permission to use the photos; no joy yet so let’s just post it and I’ll add the photos later. So, here you go:
I write this fresh back from a trip to Sypnie Care Home, on what is a proper summer’s day , in very late September! About time eh? Bring it on!
It was a lovely morning with the staff and residents, spent in two of the courts provided for outdoor enjoyment for the residents. Pauline and all the staff had already spent plenty of time getting the space in lovely shape with many an ornamental plant – so time for the REAP posse to cruise in to ‘food it up’.
To start with we broke into two teams: half us of us – in little more than a blink of an eye – rustled up a 2 x 1 m raised bed and filled it with peat free compost, free top soil from the flood alleviation scheme and chicken manure pellets; and the other half planted a brace each of apple trees and blackcurrant bushes, giving a decent amount of space around them to grow into. We spent a bit of time looking at where the sun would be at different times of day and in different seasons and which plants might shade others (which could be a good as well as bad thing, say, in a hot summer). These are things people often forget and then regret afterwards….
We joined forces for the planting up (and seed sowing) in the raised bed with all sorts of hardy plants to grow into the autumn and beyond: oriental greens like mizuna, pak choi and ‘green in snow’ (the clue’s in the name!); a selection of classic brassicas such as spring cabbage and kale; aliums in the form of chives and onions; and the ever popular spinach and parsley. A smorgasbord to ‘cut and come again’ for the dinner table as the nights draw in. We put the longer lasting and/or taller plants where they wouldn’t shade the others from the precious autumn and winter sun.
What a lovely site this is, sheltered from the wind on all four sides but with plenty of sun due to its good size combined with the low height of the buildings around. A microclimate that is a growers’ paradise!
We finished off here by whacking in (not literally) a compost bin for their fruit and veg peelings, teabags, cardboard and shredded paper. We gave the lowdown on good practice and again we sited it carefully – in an area with plenty of sun to get the bin nice and warm and near to the building door to make it convenient for people to nip ‘oot to pop in their contributions.
We then trundled over to t’other court – somewhat a different kettle of fish being much shadier and with stonier soil. But a lovely spot in its own right, very pleasant for quiet contemplation. Also there were a sheep, pig and chicken hanging out there – miniature plastic ones, (un)fortunately. Blackcurrant bushes are quite amenable to the shade so in they went along with a few strawberries desperate to get in the ground. Let’s see how they go on in comparison to those in the other location – gardening is always an experiment. (I’m hoping they do well as I am a fiend when it comes to blackcurrants and strawberries and now I know the door code…)
A big thank you to the staff and to the residents – Peter, John and Fred amongst others mucked in as much as they could and supervised most excellently when the kneeling got too much. We look forward to coming back to see how it’s going!
Well, September has come around quickly and a blog is well overdue!
In later August Dorothy and I were reunited in true celebratory style at raised bed parties across the fine city of Elgin. Here’s a couple of photos:
I’ve also been getting involved in a side project developing a new community garden at SACRO’s young person’s accommodation in Covesea Road, as well as continuing visits to Action for Children, both with Ann and unfortunately with no camera in tow!
Instead, photo-wise I have some of the delectable Dorothy spreading her magic, developing Elgin Youth Cafe’s splendid new backyard garden and leading the final of our Grow Your Own workshops on Harvesting and Preserving.
Bike-powered smoothies were the order of the day at our final session, courtesy of the leg work of some of the younger attendees but all got to indulge in the fruits of their labour. And Dorothy rolled out a selection of classic locally made preserves and pickles for a taste test; naturally they passed with flying colours! My, was I kicking myself for missing this session!
This Saturday is the first of our Introduction to Permaculture days – more from me soon on this…
Well, the sun has gone missing again soon after it finally peeked its head out from between those stubborn clouds. Here at REAP we’re currently taking a couple of weeks’ break from Grow Elgin sessions and either taking a well deserved holiday or getting fully caught up with all our desk based work.
Since my last blog I have however made it out and about a little; two raised bed parties and the third round of our gardening courses to be precise. As a starter, here’s some photos of Pitgaveney:
Round three of the gardening course was all about composting, a subject most dear to our hearts. We started off with some questions: why, how, what, where…
And then we showed off the great system at the Community Garden, lots of bins in series, each at a different stage of readiness, as well as separate containers for leaf mould and comfrey and nettle teas. Tina the chief composter onsite provided some great tips too. Ta ta for now.