Fruitful End to 2016 – December ’16 blog

sam_1416Fruit 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. 

d-at-stand-farmers-marketAnd 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.

Branching out this autumn

Grow Elgin November Blog 2016

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.

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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.

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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.

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REAP at Elgin Academy Farmers Market

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.