Croeso, Welcome to our community gardening blog


Green power, broccoli man!

Green power, broccoli man!

Scroll down for posts on latest project events, courses, news tips and much more!

We are based in Newtown Powys, next to Theatr Hafren/ Newtown Coleg  & work all over North, Mid Wales and Marches region promoting community growing.

We have an organic market garden and horticulture training centre and are open to visitors and volunteers Monday to Thursday every week.

In 2014 we rebranded as Cultivate and we remain part of the Cwm Harry family of enterprises.


Snapshot of the Cultivate team in the Newtown Community garden, home of the Get-Growing project

cultivate logo + web

Get in! Day

Here is a video of Cwm Harry’s ‘Get In’ Open Day which was held on Wednesday, 23rd of October, 2013. Young local people were invited to attend the Cwm Harry Pen Dinas Community Garden to learn more about the local food economy, self-sustainability and more. The day was a great success and this video demonstrates the learning outcomes.

Much thanks to Gary Mitchell, Anne Marie Pope, Kerry Lane, members and volunteers of the Cwm Harry Group and of course every attendee on the special open day.

Filmed and edited by Jamez Wilson

Summer craft workshop

Grow wild-summer craftsAs part of our summer season of Grow Wild workshops we have Terri Sweeney this coming Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th August, in Llani community food garden.Come and get involved making a mosaic tiled mural for the kitchen wall. Hang out in the sun and discuss future potential for this exciting new space. To keep younger children entertained and anyone else, we will be making wild-flower seed bombs to take home.

Please tell your friends and anyone who may be interested, families, artists, cubs, brownies, scouts etc.. Bring your own lunch. This FREE summer crafty workshop for all, is between 10am – 3pm on both days.

Then this will be followed by Insect sculptures on the 26th and 27th August with Irene Gardiner.

Throughout the summer as part of our Grow Wild summer season we will be creating a wildlife area.  Following the design produced by level 2 gardening students from ‘WEA Cymru Llanidloes’, the area will include a pond, planting, viewing platform and fencing. We are looking for donations of native plants, building materials, peoples time and skills. Please contact the Cultivate’s ‘Get Growing‘ team if you can help. Or visit us in Llanidloes on a Monday 10am – 4pm.

For anyone interested in Getting Growing we still have some micro allotment spaces left and we have a selection of growing courses coming up. From taster half and one day practical courses to regular weekly lessons.

11.10.14- Extend your growing season 10am- 1pm – Llanidloes

25.9. 14 – Level 2 gardening 22 wks each Thurs 9.30- 3pm. – Llanidloes

26.9.14 – Essential gardening 12 wks each Friday 9.30 – 12 – Llanidloes

26.9.14 – Essential gardening 12 wks each Friday 1- 3.30pm – Newtown

3.11.14 – Purely practical – overwintering crops 10am-1pm Llanidloes

9.1.14 – Garden design – design your own garden. 12 wks Friday Morning

20.2.14 – Organic gardening, 20 wks Friday afternoons

21.2.14 – Extend your growing season 10am- 1pm – Llanidloes

21.3.14 – Back garden edibles 9.30 – 1pm – Llanidloes

30.5.14 – Summer pruning 10am – 4.30pm – Newtown

Poster gardening courses 2014

Record breaking Welsh cake


Last weekend was the Llani chartered market 734th birthday and to celebrate they made the biggest welsh cake ever, aiming to smash the world record.

_MG_7315Chameleon Engineering made the 6 foot pan to cook it on, whilst Welsh Oak Frames donated the wood for the fire. The fire was prepared and kept going by the Llani scout explorer group in the Llani community food garden.   A large scaffolding tripod was made as a trivet shown here.  A whooping £50 worth of ingredients was donated by the Co-op and mixed up in giant mixing bowls.

_MG_7481 copy Once cooked the pan was carried down Great Oak street, weighed and cut with pastry cutters to make ordinary sized welsh cakes for all to try.

When cooked it weighed a massive 26kgs. A world record – was made by a group of volunteers and then cut up and distributed in aid of Air Ambulance.

The last four were saved to put on eBay, buy one here.

 It was Yummmmy. Well done all involved. See moremoremore.

Grow Wild- wall mural

Wall art LlaniLast week saw the first of our ‘Grow Wild’ summer art workshops. The good weather and the start of the school holidays saw a good number of youths getting involved. Thanks to Irene Gardiner for leading the workshop based on creative art to do with biodiversity and wildlife.

We have two more workshops coming up….. mossacia tile walls for the kitchen area with Terry. Followed by insect sculpture with Irene. Come and join in,bring a picnic and stay the day, these workshops are free to all.

This summer we will be finishing the wildlife area and pond. There will be some more top soil coming out of the pond area, so the perfect time to fill a raised bed and there are still a couple of plots left if anyone wants one please get in touch with the cultivate team.

Cae Bodfach: Llanfyllin community orchard


Kelly and Diane and the fruit tree guild

It was too hot this week for more than an hour’s work in the garden, where we are collectively scything and chopping the grasses and nettles growing between the orchard trees to mulch around them and reinforce them. The biggest threat currently is the local sheep who in the summer period have learned to ford the river and get in to the community field, Cae Bodfach. The idea that sheep eat grass is a bit of a misunderstanding, because given the choice they tend to go for anything else, especially tender herbs and juicy fruit tree leaves. So thanks to Richard and Dewi who chased out some 50 sheep the other day and hopefully have since managed to fence them out.

Lovely picture above on Kelly and Diane from Meifod, who popped by to see how the fruit tree guild they planted is developing.. and we talked about the possibilities of doing more of that kind of thing as it had worked so well.

We also met with Andy Lee at the Workhouse this week to discuss further plans for the Green Hub who have some resources still for further workshops and to continue the development of this another bio-diverse and productive community spaces. I am very keen to offer a series of Forest Garden workshops in the Autumn, and building some more plantings over the Autumn and Winter season.

Anyone interested in getting involved either pop along on Thursday mornings. 10 – 1.00 when we are usually there or get in touch directly via this website.

Biochar growing experiments


Seed pots with a coir and perlite mix with biochar added at three different concentrations. No plants nutrients have been added yet, so at this stage this is purely a germination test.

We have been experimenting with Biochar as a soil amendment over the last few months and today we have set up a pot trial to test germination rates and growing rates for three different mixes and for three different brassica plants: Kale, Cabbage and Mibuma. 15 seed pots in total

B1 = Mix of coir and perlite with a this topping of vermiculite

B2 = Mix of coir and perlite with approx. 1/3 by volume biochar. We made a batch of biochar on a burn at Pen Dinas in June as part of the PDC course we were running at the time. Also topped with a this layer of vermiculite. 12 pots in total

B3 = We used the same I mix as above but extended the mix with more coir and perlite to make 18 pots in total. Also topped with a this layer of vermiculite.

All the pots have been placed outside and will be treated exactly the same. We are specifically interested in germination success and rare, plant development and plant health. We will add a liquid feed to all the pots when they develop their first true leaf. This will be a nettle and comfrey ‘tea’ mix.

1.2m square bed with 1 wheel barrow of Cwm Harry compost added

1.2m square bed with 1 wheel barrow of Cwm Harry compost added

The other test is a straight growing test in 2 identical raised beds, one with the addition of 1.2 Kg of biochar, both have 1 wheel barrow of Cwm Harry compost added. They have been been planted with 9 Oca plants, at equal spacing.

Oca may not be the best choice of plant to get a clear result, but i chose it as it yields a tuber which is therefore very easy to measure and compare.  Doing some simple growing tests has also taught me that growing test are difficult to do accurately, as there are so potential variables to eliminate.

1.2m square bed with 1.2Kg of biochar and 1 wheel barrow of compost added

1.2m square bed with 1.2Kg of biochar and 1 wheel barrow of compost added

Thursday in Llanfyllin


Plant selection at the Cultivate nursery in Newtown.

After a 2 week break, as I have been away running a permaculture design course we are back at Cae Bodfach, the community field in Llanfyllin for Thursday volunteer sessions. We are usually parked in the bottom car park by 10 am and work on the community orchard until 1 pm. There is a little team of 3 or 4 of us each work, joined by whoever else might drop by.

Thanks to Seri from the Cultivate Nursery in Newtown who donated a mixture of perennial plants this week, which we planted along side the 35 or so fruit trees and 80+ support trees we have already planted.

Its a very informal affair.. people are welcome to drop by and join us on a Thursday morning, where we are scything grasses and mulching the trees as well as adding bee friendly pollinator plants, fruiting shrubs and herbs to the orchard.

I might remember to take my camera next week.. and I will add some shots of beautiful meadow down by the Cain river where we have planted the orchard.


July at Pen Dinas


Cultivate grower, Rachel standing by the Hugl Kultur beds which once again are producing a stunning yield

The Cultivate centre’s community garden has never looked as good as it does today. Dripping in fruit and veg at every turn, it is testament to all the hard work that has gone into the place over the last 2 years. Now constituted as a worker co-operative we are trying to make the difficult transition from being a funded project to an enterprise able to stand on its own feet financially. a long way to go yet.. but we have established a

The roundhouse now has an extension, housing the cob oven we made on a workshop 2 weekends ago

The roundhouse now has an extension, housing the cob oven we made on a workshop 2 weekends ago


Biochar business

Steve Jones from Cwm Harry/ Cultivate together with colleagues from Garden Planet Biochar at the Hay festival

Steve Jones from Cwm Harry/ Cultivate together with colleagues from Garden Planet Biochar at the Hay festival

If you still haven’t got an understanding of what biochar is and how it is so important then it might be worth watching this BBC Horizon documentary that puts it in its historical perspective


It is similar to but different from charcoal… made from biomass that has been pyrolyzed within a specific temperature range and set of conditions. The resulting char is pure carbon with all the potentially poisonous volatile substances driven off and combusted and has a gigantic internal surface area. A teaspoon of the material can have a potential internal surface area of 2 acres… creating a perfect habitat for soil microbes..


This is our mark 4 kiln… each time we make a new one we are learning from our mistakes. The next version will be in stainless steel and will be able to better withstand the high temperatures achieved during the burn

Together with two friends, local stock farmers we have been developing our techniques for producing the substance. It has remarkable potential in that not only does it increase soil structure, stability and fertility it also helps sequestrate atmospheric carbon into the soil in a very stable form. Last month we were invited to the Hay festival to present our ideas at their ‘Green Dragon’s Den’ forum, sponsored by Unlimited. We had a simple three minute pitch opportunity to impress the competition judges and a keen audience.. an extremely challenging experience! We were one of the runners up and have been listed to receive at least some of the funding we hoped to win. Next up we will be going to the British Biochar Foundation conference in Oxford where we will be having our product and burner scientifically tested as part of a demonstration and competition they are running. We will be trading in future under the name of Garden Planet Biochar.


Char made from our biochar kiln, whole pieces and crushed for use in growing tests we are undertaking at Pen DInas

We hope to be able to sell our product from Pen Dinas in Newtown as perfect complement to the riased beds and plant nursery.. we want to be able to offer a complete growing opportunity for people that keeps us all at the cutting edge in organic growing.

Food security, relocalised food production and low carbon methods of production seem essential strategies for development and often simple practical solutions such as these are overlooked in favour of high tech and high investment options.

Working with herbs – a day in the Pen DInas garden

Amanda Dean, Medical herbalist and transition trainer is an inspirational teacher

Amanda Dean, Medical herbalist and transition trainer is an inspirational teacher

Make your own herbal remedy, understand how to use herbs to support health and to identify different herbs in the wild.

The focus of the day will be starting to develop practical skills and confidence in becoming a “household herbalist”. In centuries past most households would have had at least one member with a working knowledge of medicinal plants. In current circumstances, with pressing issues such as antibiotic resistance and increasing levels of cuts in the NHS, having some knowledge of how to treat or prevent basic ailments at home will once again become a valuable asset. Even without these issues, having some basic skills in how to care for our family and friends using natural remedies is both pleasurable and rewarding.

10am to 4pm, Bring lunch to share. Max group size – 16

With Medical Herbalist, Amanda Dean. Full day taster course £30

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