Welcome to the Food Growing Hub – Dundee Botanic Garden

 

Celebrating 2017

“We all have a passion for growing our own food, whether this is to save money, have a healthier diet, because we love being outside and caring for plants, or because we want to ‘save the world’.  As a Food Growing Hub, we are a community food growing space based at the University of Dundee Botanic Garden, in Dundee, Scotland.”

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Bumble bees busy away on the thyme

“This food growing space is comprised of raised beds and ground level food growing spaces – comprising 14 plots in total! There is also a seating area, a shed, and an orchard of apples, plums, pears and cherries planted by the Dundee Urban Orchard project.”

“We, the individuals at The Food Growing Hub, are a wide mix of local residents. We are aged from the 20s to the 70s; some of us are retired, and some working or studying. The Hub is also enjoyed by garden visitors who come to explore, enjoy, and be inspired by the food that is being grown.  Garden staff also take an interest in what is being grown, offering us some of their spare plants and knowledge, as well as sharing in some of the produce.”

“In the Spring of 2017, Jade Cawthray-Syms approached the garden with the offer of co-ordinating some community activities, including starting to run some food growing experiments in the Hub as part of the GROW Observatory. Very soon Jade was joined by a GROW staff member Alice Ambler and the two forged forward in a bid to bring us all together to share knowledge, skills, experiences, resources, and fun.”

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Alice weeding in Summer 2017

“Looking back on 2017 we have been amazed and delighted to see how much we have achieved together in just a 6 month period.  Here are our highlights:”

We Got New Members

“Interest in the Food Growing Hub and the demand for spaces has been consistent throughout the year, leading to two new members joining the Hub and growing our community to 11 individuals.”

Food, Glorious Food

“We have grown sooo much wonderful, fresh, and incredibly tasty food this year:  Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, squash, peas, beans, courgettes, beetroot, cabbages, broccoli, pak choi, spinach, salads, radishes, onions, herbs, strawberries, and raspberries!  It’s been an absolute delight.”

Lots of Support from the Botanic Gardens staff

“We’re getting to know the Botanic Garden staff really well! They have been consistently open and generous, leading to a number of improvements at the Hub.”

New Composting Area

“Prior to this year, we used the Garden’s composting area, which was a fair walk from the Hub. We did have a composting container, but it was not fit for purpose. We now, thanks to Alasdair (the Garden curator) have our very own composting area, built by the garden staff.  The composting area has three spaces:  one for compostable material; one for compost brought from the gardens supply for our usage, and one for stony and woody rubbish that needs disposing of. Because we do not produce enough garden waste for composting, the garden staff remove our composting material, and add it to their composting piles.  Dan, one of the garden staff members, took the time to talk us through the composting system and what types of materials we should and shouldn’t be composting.”

Shed

“The shed at the Hub was well overdue a coat of paint and starting to look at bit shabby.  Alasdair agreed to buy us some wood stain and equipment. Ray, Mhairi and Jade spent a September afternoon painting the shed.  The colour is quite different and the coating not as thick as we’d hoped, but it looks a lot brighter than before and will keep the wood in good condition through the winter.  The next job is to get the inside of the shed tidied up.”

Building friendships

“Before Jade and Alice arrived the Hub members didn’t really know each other, but since then we’ve started to have regular meetings and friendships have started to blossom.  We’ve had three group meetings across the Summer and Autumn where we’ve got to know each other and discussed how we might work together.  Now when we bump into each other at the plots we stop to chat and share our stories of food growing experimental successes and failures.  Ann even started a Facebook page so that we can share photos from the allotments, and relevant events.”

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Jade and Mhairi planning 2018 over tea and biscuits.

Developing our knowledge

“During this summer at the Hub many of us were challenged by Potato Blight. With the guidance of Dave B we took measures to protect our potato crop and prevent the spread of the disease. We then realised that, beyond it being bad, we didn’t really know what potato blight was, or if we had managed it correctly. With the James Hutton Institute on our doorstep, we decided to invite a Potato Blight expert to come and talk to us about what they know of the problem.  David Cooke joined us and gave an absolutely fascinating presentation on what potato blight was, and how it is managed at the industrial farming scale. He was fantastic at answering our persistent and eager questions. We discussed how the knowledge developed for large-scale farms could be applied to our own practices in the Hub.  Cutting off the infected shaws as early as possible and keeping the leaves of our potatoes dry during warm humid summer weather was the best option.”

Late Night Opening

“Throughout July, August and September we had late night opening. This meant that we could stay at the garden late on Wednesday evenings approximately every fortnight. This provided the group with a well needed opportunity to visit the Hub after work hours through the week. It was certainly a lovely way to spend the end of a Wednesday, especially with the long, sunny, Dundee evenings.”

Applying for Funding

“There are a few things the Hub would like to buy, to make life that little bit easier.  We would like to have a greenhouse so that members can start plants off earlier than the Dundee growing season allows.  We’d also like to get some equipment to support our members with physical challenges, to help them with gardening tasks.  We need new tools to replace old ones and books to help us improve our gardening practices.  The Hub discussed funding applications to raise a little bit of money for these ambitions. After a sadly unsuccessful application to a community fund, we’re keen to try again this year.”

Hosting other food growers

“At the end of the summer, the Food Growing Hub, along with the Garden, hosted a group of families from Discoverin’ Families – a Dundee based charitable project which helps families to improve their quality of life and be involved in the community. The group had decided to start food growing to provide their families with fresh, healthy, and low cost food.  They were visiting different food growing projects to see how they had set themselves up, and to try and learn some tips and tricks. Clare, from the Garden staff, showed the group the edible foods in the greenhouse. Jade and Ray showed them the Food Growing Hub, helping them to identify the vegetables, and even taste a few.  Lastly, the children planted radish, spring onion, and spinach seeds in pots to grow at home.”

Experimental Science

“The Food Growing Hub is supporting the GROW Observatory – a European Commission funded citizen science project.  This observatory spreads across the whole of Europe, working with food growers like us to conduct experiments that will help us to learn about and develop regenerative practices – practices that protect and enhance the soil, rather than degrade it. The Hub has been supporting the GROW Observatory in the development of informational materials that go to the project participants. As well as providing a space for filming and photography, we have been testing out their scientific protocols.”

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GROW Observatory volunteers harvesting veg at the Food Growing Hub

 

An even bigger, better 2018

“After a really successful 2017 for the Hub, we have now built some strong relationships and lots of enthusiasm and momentum to do more in 2018.  Watch this space for regular updates on all our veg and fruit growing antics.”

Jade and Alice

 

 

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