Three years on.. slideshow of the Newtown garden

The Get-Growing team gathered for probably the last time this week to reflect on the achievements of the three year project and to identify ways forward from here. We are really grateful to the National Lottery for their support of this project and of course to the Newtown College for making the Pen Dinas premises available to us and for the people of Newtown and surrounding area for their support enthusiasm and involvement in the project.

Work will carry on on the two satellite projects in Llanidloes and Llanfyllin and in Newtown the Get-Growing project has evolved into a new organisation Cultivate, offering services in community garden development, horticulture training and volunteering experience. We have also developed three micro enterprises as part of Cultivate:
Local food hub and veg box scheme; a nursery selling edible, ornamental and native plants; as well as a raised bed enterprise, making high quality box raised beds for sale from local larch timber.

There are lots of opportunities for involvement and anyone interested in growing, or any other aspect of the project should get in touch to find out how they can become much more involved, With key project members moving on to new projects there will be enhanced opportunities for involvement.

Here is a slideshow with images of the Newtown garden mainly from July 2014 and Feb 2015 at the completion of the project.

This web site is no longer updated. The three year lottery project has now ended. To see the latest project info and blog visit or Cultivate website.

Llanfyllin High School students at Cae Bodfach

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Teacher Emyr Jones (left) with Steve Jones surrounded by Llanfyllin high school students. Pic by Dewi Morris

Many thanks to teacher Emyr Jones and his Land-based studies GCSE class for their continued hard work on the Cae Bodfach community orchard project. On what was a bitterly cold and rainy day 20 students joined us to start planting the phase three development on this orchard and forest garden project.

Students have designed their own fruit tree guilds, to support the apple trees they are also planting as part of their GCSE project. We planted 7 more apple trees, on M106 rootstocks along with comfrey, borage, mint and other flowering herbaceous plants which will help attract pollinating insects. On our next outing we plant to add black current, raspberry, chokeberry and more fruiting bushes to the collection.

We hope this will grow to be a great community resource as well as something to support local wildlife and help protect biodiversity. Plants we supplied by the Cwm Harry in Newtown who have developed a nursery as part of their Cultivate enterprise to support community growing such as this across the Mid Wales area. We were lucky to have a visit from Emma Maxwell, lead horticulturist from Cultivate, who gave us tips on tree care and planting as well as leading on the planting practical.

Emma Maxwell from Cultivate leads on the tree planting

Emma Maxwell from Cultivate leads on the tree planting. Pic by Dewi Morris

We are grateful for support from Cwm Harry’s Get Growing proejct, Keep Wales Tidy, Llanfyllin Town Council, Dewi Morris and Sector39 in this project

Fruit tree guild planning with Llanfyllin High School

It is hugely exciting to have the opportunity to build on the work we did with the school and local community last year, planting a forest garden in Cae Bodfach, the community managed field by the health centre car park.

Students from year 11 at the High school have been busy researching forest gardens, the beneficial relationships between plants and working on their own designs. They are planning to enlarge the garden by adding 7 more fruit tree guilds, inspired by the work that was done last year.
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The idea behind a guild of plants is the understanding that plants work together, while some like comfrey are deep rooted and can access nutrients unavailable to shallower rooted trees and shrubs, while others like the leguminous plants fix nitrogen and increase soil fertility, whilst the flowering plants help attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

A good mix of different types of plants not add colour and diversity it also actually helps the garden stronger as a whole. whole

Keep Wales Tidy
The project is supported by a £500 grant from Keep Wales Tidy and working to this budget the students have designed, costed and are now ordering the plants for their fruit tree guilds.

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Next up, we will working in the field marking out areas and calculating the correct spacings for the trees before we go ahead and plant the guilds.

A big thanks to Emyr Jones, Dewi Morris and the Land based studies group at Llanfyllin High School for all their work on this project.

News bulletin from Llanfyllin’s Cae Bodfach: The young forest garden well and truly on its way!

Over the summer the Cae Bodfach volunteers scythed and made sure that there was a good mulch to protect the trees from overgrowth and would rot down to feed the young Forest Garden. The young forest garden well and truly on its way

This Wednesday 24th September Dewi Morris: a local freelance environmental educator will be visiting the Land Based Students of Llanfyllin High School and delivering a series of lectures and practical session out in the Forest Garden. Emyr Jones: the course tutor has committed his students to engage with a programme of learning centered on Llanfyllin’s Forest Garden project – Cae Bodfach.
Over the course of the academic year, the land-based students will learn about the principles of perma-culture and community gardening in particular forest gardens. They will then research and design the second phase of the forest garden. The student will have direct access to the funding made available to the project by Llanfyllin’s Town Council and potentially Keep Wales Tidy. They will use these funds to procure the next phase of plans from the Cwm Harry Cultivate Project based in Newtown.
Dewi Morris will then train the students to lead planting sessions in the forest garden over the coming months for themselves, the eco schools committee and fellow High School students. The project also has the support from Llanfyllin’s Green Hub: a project based in the workhouse Llanfyllin, who have a considerable workshop full of tools for the job. High School Students will also organise guided educational visits by the nearby Primary School and for members of the public.
There are ambitions to organise a series of public seasonal events in the Forest garden starting with a Wassail in the New Year.
Watch this space for more news:

Dewi G Morris
Steve Jones Cultivate/ Sector39

Cultivate co-operative launched with a share issue

First workers shares for Cultivate were issued on Friday – celebrations followed the formal welcoming of these founding shareholders. Looking forward to more joining the formal cooperative and joining in with our local food journey. Cultivate worker cooperative has evolved from the team who have delivered the Get-Growing project. We are committed to developing a strong local food economy and believe this to be an essential component of a future sustainable society.

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

Cae Bodfach: Llanfyllin community orchard

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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

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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

July at Pen Dinas

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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

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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

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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..

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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.

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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.