A great chance to come along and learn or develop your gardening skills and its FREE!!
2 Part course, Wednesday 20th September & Wednesday 27th September, 12.30pm-2.00pm at Cooper Park, Elgin.
This course has a limited number of places.
To book a place please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office 01542 888070
Hello there, Barney Thompson here, I’m back in the blog-writing seat, as one of the two Outreach Workers on phase three of this exciting project, aka Grow Elgin and Beyond; the other being the Community Gardening Queen of Moray, nay, Scotland surely (the world even?) – the inimitable Dorothy Allan. It has been a pleasure to get back involved with this particular project, even though I must offer my apologies for the tardy first installment of the blog – what can I say, we have just been so darn busy getting things rolling…
A lot has been going on and in this first blog I’ll report on what I’ve been up to; hot on its heels I’ll post a second blog letting you know all the splendid things that Dorothy’s been doing.
This year we have a focus on therapeutic gardening and a major part of this is developing food growing activities at Maryhill Health Centre. People can get referred by their GP or other health care professional to come join us in building the garden and growing tasty fruit and veg. Us REAP folks are well aware of the many ways in which doing this can be good for the soul – and one’s mental and physical health well-being – and we look forward to others seeing the benefit by joining in. I have been busy preparing a design for the garden, which we recently displayed at the surgery for everyone’s feedback – activities start next week!
AYP’s freshly planted bed
I’ve been doing sessions with many of the other groups I work with. Two Friday evening sessions at Elgin Youth Cafe as part of their summer programme proved lots of fun. Thanks to the hard work of the young people, there are now four new raised beds in their backyard space, sowed and planted up with french beans, peas, brassicas, pumpkins and various salads, to name but a few. Over at Aberlour Youth Point, the young people and staff have been really proactive in planning what they’d like in order to reinvigorate their garden – a couple of sessions there have resulted in lots of weeding with a wide variety of brassicas going in – such as purple sprouting broccoli, various kales and Brussel Sprouts – with various faster growing salads sown in between for a quicker harvest without being shaded out. We refreshed ourselves with freshly picked strawberries and blackcurrants – mmm…
And time spent with the mums and much tinier ones at a couple of summer sessions (one of which was put on by our friends at Earthtime) at Step-by-Step’s new home at Winchester House proved equally rewarding. We ate a local lunch of broad bean pate to give us strength to blitz some weeding (my, were they quick…) and planted out and sowed a good variety of veggies. As well as collecting poppies for their seeds, I left the workers armed with various veg and salad seeds for more sowing and am looking forward to going back soon to see progress and to put all the ready compost from their bin (collected by the previous occupants, Action for Children) into one of the beds, ready for sowing – truly closing the loop! Talking of composting, the youngsters at Seafield Primary had a fun afternoon totally revamping their composting system and looking for beasties, along with some tidying and planting, but I suspect their most favourite part was eating the freshly harvested strawberries.
The elder folk of Moray have been involved too – we had a lovely time at Gurness Day Centre doing some indoor planting up of containers and tattie bags, finishing off with a delicious fresh herbal tea tasting session – lavender, calendula, rosemary and sage makes for a tasty blend. I’m looking forward to tasting the rhubarb chutney they made on another occasion…
And I’ve been on the road with colleagues at a couple of summer events, promoting the project, giving away seeds and other freebies and putting on some workshops – lots of fun!
So it really has been a summer of working with people of all ages – fantastic to connect with you all!
REAP have just published a new report into therapeutic gardening in Moray, funded by the Moray Integrated Care Fund Small Grants. Looking at research findings from organisations such as Trellis and others, it collates desk top research on the benefits of this type of growing activity, some of the barriers to expansion, and some suggestions for overcoming them, plus the operating framework in Moray. Primary research is presented from work with local organisations and individuals, and highlights case studies and good practice locally, with suggestions for accessing funding to make ideas a reality.
“We hope this report will give a good start to the many groups we spoke to who are hoping to expand this type of activity in Moray”, said REAP Manager Ann Davidson. “There is no doubt that this is a growing area (excuse the pun!) with many organisations realising the benefits therapeutic gardening can bring to people they work with, and wanting to expand their services. We hope this report will help that process”.
We’ve had two of our bi-monthly community gardening sessions in Cooper Park, at the end of January and end of March. Individuals and families joined us to plant soft fruit bushes in a new bed next to ‘our’ raised beds in the park, as well as weeding the existing areas and harvesting herbs and kale still growing in the beds. These sessions are always great opportunities for volunteers to get involved with REAP’s work and community food growing and harvesting as well as learning new gardening skills and ideas for more sustainable lifestyles.
Work with schools …
Our growing and composting work with schools around Elgin continued through the end of the winter. Classes in New Elgin Primary School and the Eco group in West End Primary school made windowsill planters and newspaper pots from recycled materials so each class could start to grow vegetable seedlings indoors to be ready for planting out in Spring. A large raised bed in Moriston Road outside Bishopmill primary school has been adopted by their Eco-group and planted up with herbs and soft fruit bushes (picture below), and next door at Elgin Academy, their Eco-group and a lunchtime youth group have been busy clearing their raised beds for spring, planting more fruit bushes and installing a compost bin (picture below) to take compostable material from two caddies sited in the school. Seafield Primary School have had a refresher course in composting and have been out sowing veg seed, and Linkwood primary school, Elgin’s newest primary school which consists of one P1 class in temporary accommodation without permanent garden space have also started growing veg seed in homemade recycled windowsill, as well as outdoors in two whisky barrel planters kindly donated by Speyside Cooperage. St Sylvester’s primary P1s have been busy sowing vegetable seeds in their raised beds and the P4s have taken responsibility for a new wormery to compost organic waste from the classroom and staff room. And speaking of worms, we arranged a couple of performances of an eco-drama group from Glasgow’s play ‘The Worm’ which held youngsters from VIP childcare and a P2 class from New Elgin Primary enthralled with a lively story supported by imaginative props and music and two enthusiastic actors, as well as a chance to get up close to real worms in their wormery at the end (see picture below)
… and in the community
At the Elgin Youth Cafe we started to re-establish a food growing garden outside their new kitchen extension, by building and planting up a herb spiral with the help of some enthusiastic youngsters, as well as installing some large and decorative plant pots with vegetable seedlings. And on a beautifully sunny Saturday morning we planted 18 soft fruit bushes (red and black currants and gooseberries) with local residents in the South Lesmurdie area of Elgin. The bushes will nicely occupy the small round vacant spaces left in some decorative cobbled banks, and provide a healthy snack for any passing residents come the summer and autumn.
Food garden at Arrows
Arrows is the Drug and Alcohol support service of the Quarriers charity in Elgin, and during a very busy and physical day REAP staff and volunteers, assisted by Arrows service users, turned an garden area overgrown with heather and pampas grass around the back of the Arrows offices into four 2m2 raised beds planted with herbs and vegetable seeds, as well as a rhubarb plant and soft fruit area with currant bushes and raspberry canes. Not only will this new garden produce healthy local food, it will also be a great resource for Arrows service users to benefit from the therapeutic effects of gardening and learning new skills. One of REAP’s volunteers will continue to work with Arrows to keep the garden there going too.
Composting with individuals
As well as working with schools, charities and community groups we have also been supporting individuals to reduce their CO2 emissions by, for example making their own compost. As part of our work with primary schools we offered families a free compost bin and kitchen caddy. When we delivered the compost bins to these families we installed the bin in their garden and gave them a little workshop about composting, why it’s a good idea for the planet, and how it will benefit them, as well as the basic ins-and outs of composting such as what can and cannot be composted and how to keep the composting process in the bin active and thriving. We’ve now installed 20 compost bins in private gardens.
Learning new skills
As well as up-skilling people in all the above activities we also ran two more specialised introductory workshops. Nine participants learned all about apple tree pruning under the experienced and expert guidance of Chris and Vicky from Woodland Wanderer. Amongst a lovely small orchard of venerable old apple trees on a small farm just outside Elgin we learned about the theory and what specialist tool to use, and practiced and discussed pruning first hand on apple tree branches pruned from the orchard’s trees.
We ran an Introduction to Permaculture workshop for 11 participants ranging from novice to experienced gardeners. As well as discussing the basic principles of Permaculture, participants learned about forest gardening, a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems. Tutor, Jonny Barton spoke from personal experience of building a straw bale house. In the afternoon we visited the Gardenshare community garden to look at community food growing and composting locally, and how Gardenshare ideas and practices related to Permaculture ideas.
Edintore Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund has launched! Applications are invited from groups, organisations and social enterprises for local projects with social or environmental benefits. To be eligible, groups must have a constitution (governing document) and a bank account in the group’s name with at least 2 unrelated signatories.
Priority will be given to applications that benefit people living within a 5 mile radius of Edintore Wind Farm (see map below). For more information, application forms and guidance notes are available on the Edintore page of the REAP website or from the REAP office. Forms can be emailed or posted out on request.
The closing date for applications is 31st March 2017
Applications can be submitted to REAP at any time up to the deadline. At present it is expected that there will be 2 rounds of funding each year, in spring and autumn, but this may be subject to change.
If you’re not sure if your group or your idea is eligible, please get in touch via email@example.com or by phoning 01542 888070. You are also welcome to come by the REAP office at 177 Mid Street in Keith, although it’s a good idea to phone ahead to ensure staff are there who can help you with your enquiry.
Primary Area of Benefit Map (click to view a larger image).
Fruit seems to be the main theme of the last few weeks of Grow Elgin’s work. We continued to supply and help plant fruit trees, a variety of apples, pears and plums, and establish little orchards around Elgin. New Elgin Primary school planted half a dozen fruit trees in their school grounds, along with a similar number of currant and gooseberry fruit bushes. On the day we were due to plant the top layer of ground was frozen solid, yet when we postponed planting to the following day the temperature had risen by around 10 degrees and we could plant without a hitch! Moray Resource Centre also planted an apple and a pear tree, along with four fruit bushes within reach of paved paths so that they can be accessible to people with mobility problems. And in Cooper Park we had another community planting morning to add fruit trees to the orchard REAP and volunteers started last spring. A few days later youngsters from Earthtime’s outdoor nursery came along to plant a couple more trees there.
Our apple press also had a couple more outings, and at the Elgin Youth Café they even used some of the apple pulp which usually gets composted to make muffins and soup. We’ve tidied up the High Street herb beds and the raised beds in Cooper Park for the winter with the help of a some volunteers who harvested more kale too. Indoors we’ve taken some plant related craft activities to groups at ENABLE and Elgin Youth Café, making festive, decorative and above all aromatic lavender pouches as well as Christmas decorations and birdfeeders from pinecones.
And finally Dorothy had a successful Grow Elgin stall at Elgin Academy’s Farmers market, ably assisted by Academy pupil volunteers. This was an exciting opportunity to talk to people as well as handing out information in leaflets about the veg and herbs being grown and available for harvest locally. There was selection of pick n mix seed packets to take away as well as decorative seed sticks and seed mats to encouraged people to go and grow their own. We made lots of new contacts of interested people and ran multiple sessions of our ‘Where in the World?’ activity, with both adults and children. This activity makes people aware of the great distances a lot of our food is transported, from far flung corners of the globe to Scotland where we could be growing some of this ourselves and/or eating more seasonally cutting down on CO2 emissions and combatting climate change in the process.
We’ve worked with a variety of groups on a variety of activities, indoor and out this month, getting outdoors while we still can! We helped Spynie carehome build a herb spiral using recycled bricks in one of their courtyard gardens, where the herbs will not only be easily accessible for picking but the herb spiral can also be seen and appreciated from indoor seating areas. Once the plants have established the care home’s kitchen staff will be able to pop out to harvest fresh organic herbs with zero food miles! One of the carers mentioned she might like to make one in her own garden. Have a look at our website at http://www.reapscotland.org.uk/downloads/?did=116 for instructions to make your own herb spiral.
With young people at Elgin Youth Café we made Christmas crafts with local plant materials including decorative and aromatic lavender pouches and Santa decorations using local pine cones, which they can use to raise funds at Christmas fairs.
New Elgin primary school’s edible garden is coming on apace. We’ve now helped them build and install six metre-square raised beds, planted and sown with onions, garlic and winter salads like ‘Green in Snow’, Sessantina and Red Mustard. As well a compost bin for garden waste the P4/5 class now also have some new outdoor pets to look after in their newly installed wormery! The wormery will be able to process some of the children’s food waste from snack times and from the staff room (which would not go in their compost bin) to make nourishing worm-cast compost for their vegetable beds. The children now know all about what goes in their different composting systems and will be doing their bit to recycle compostable waste on site at their school.
tsi Moray organised an indoor pop-up market for social enterprise groups on the last Saturday of the month. Having our stall there was a good opportunity to spread the word about the Grow Elgin project and REAP’s other projects, our upcoming events and where people can harvest local veg and herbs. We had some hand-crafted stocking fillers and decorations for sale made from local plants, and made Christmas stars from willow withies with passing children. We also ran two herb tours around the nearby High Street herb planters, encouraging people to harvest local food.
November is also a good time for planting trees and we’ve been busy adding fruit trees and bushes to the gardens where we’ve helped set up raised beds. At ENABLE we planted an apple and a plum tree, and a couple of currant bushes with staff and service users, and also harvested a couple of turnips for the service users to take home – their lettuces were still going strong too!
At West End Primary School we spent a fruit-themed afternoon with their P6 class planting a small orchard of apple, pear and plum trees interspersed with red and black currant and gooseberry bushes. The pupils got stuck in with all aspects of tree planting, digging the holes as well as fitting tree guards around the trunks and stakes to support the young trees and mulching around the bases. ‘It was a whole new learning curve for me, planting a tree.’ commented James, one of the P6 pupils. The fruit trees planted were all varieties which grow well in the north of Scotland, including an apple variety called ‘Beauty of Moray’.
The pupils also had a chance to press locally grown apples by hand using a traditional apple crusher or ‘scratter’ and press and sample the delicious freshly pressed apple juice. The children learned that growing and making food locally reduces CO2 emissions, and so the impact of climate change. ‘I loved planting a tree. I think more people should start planting things like trees, fruit bushes and food. Let’s save the planet!’ said Hayley, one of the P6 pupils involved.
REAP’s Grow Elgin project will be having a stall at Elgin Academy’s Farmers Market on Friday 16 December from 10am to 2.30pm, promoting local food growing and with our ‘Where in the world?’ activity about reducing our climate change impact.
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.
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)
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.
Dorothy 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.
And 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!
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.
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.