Chilly winter weather

After having had a busy autumn tidying and preparing all the gardens for winter most the staff and volunteers took a lovely long break for the Christmas festive period. Now we are back winter has properly set in, a bit of snow and plenty of frost have put the gardens to rest.

Llanidloes community food garden is all tidy and quiet with not many visitors now, so our Monday morning volunteer session has moved to the community wildlife garden next door. We are busy tidying the garden and this allows us to take cuttings and divide plants which are given to Seri on our nursery in Newtown to propagate and make us many more plants. In a couple of weeks we will be moving on to work on the back of Great Oak community shop where we have a plant sales area. We are going to give this yard a bit of a face lift so that we can expand the range of plants that we are able to hold at the shop.

archNewtown garden is looking good with crops still being harvested for the veg boxes and Tuesday market. Our winter project is to transform the front garden in to a sensory herb garden, with a selection of herbs for the kitchen and teas. We had a lovely frosty snowy time last week, too frozen to do anything in the soil, so regular volunteer Sasha and I set about weaving a willow arch to give an entrance to the new paving stepping stones leading to the front door. Regular volunteer day continues each week on Tuesdays 10- 4pm, with lunch at 1pm cooked by our chefs Chris and Alistair.

Seri has been busy on the Nursery potting on hardwood cuttings from last year, using all the compost as fast as we can make it. We stock a wide range of plants now, all grown on site. We are specialising in edible plants, alongside ornamentals for bio-diversity and native windflowers. The plant for the season has to be the dwarf daffodils and irises which are just coming up and will be in flower soon, Seri has arranged some in baskets with a bit of ivy which will make a lovely gift.

The food hub still has plenty of locally harvested food available, with veg boxes being topped up with organic produce from the wholesalers. The on-line shop is now up and running for ‘click and collect’, a wide range of staples are available to go with your veg and fruit order. If you haven’t tried it yet just click here it is very easy to use.

The lottery funded ‘Get Growing’ project that we have been working on for nearly three years is coming to an end. We have worked with many schools, we have established three community market gardens, helped with many others and linked people with local food. It is sad to see the end of the project, but out of this project has grown Cultivate co-op. The site at Newtown will remain our main hub and the other community gardens will come under the management of local volunteers and the community that use them. The Get Growing team want to thank all supporters, volunteers and customers by having a Get Growing celebration on Tuesday 3rd February. 3 – 6pm. Hope you can come.
3 – 4.30pm Feedback and Brainstorming about the future (please come if you can)
4.30 – 6pm PARTY

DSCN3106With the end of one project new opportunities arise. Cultivate is expanding and last week we went to visit Cultivate’s new site in North Wales ‘Moelyci’ . We are developing an eight acre market garden, shop and cafe as part of the 350 acre Moelyci Farm that Cwm Harry are taking on as an environmental, education,enterprise centre. The site already has two large multi span polytunnels and a veg packing shed/ shop. We will be expanding this to field scale crops and a one stop shop/ cafe with regular opening times. We came back with some lovely Welsh grown kiwi’s from a neighbouring farm, they are delicious and just ready to eat.

This Get Growing web site is now coming to an end, future blog update will be on our new Cultivate web site. You can also follow us on Facebook and twitter.

Happy New year to you all………..

Join us to Celebrate Get Growing and new beginnings.

Get Growing celebration on Tuesday 3rd February. 3 – 6pm.

Llanidloes open day

kitchen party

We had a final push to finish jobs in the Llanidloes garden yesterday before our open event in the afternoon. The weather stayed dry if a little windy, but we had around 70 people call in through the day to look at the transformed community space.

open day


We enjoyed pizza cooked in the cob oven, by our Newtown volunteer chefs, Chris and Alistair. We ate salad harvested from the garden.  On display was the photo diary of how the garden has progressed over the last year. Transformed into diverse habitats for wildlife, whilst providing food and sanctuary for all of us.

seed bombs



We made wild flower seed bombs for people to take home and spread around the place.





In the morning Dave, David and Brian put up the flag pole, we forgot to bring a flag so David quickly made one from scrap material. The flag pole was a request from the scout groups, so that when they are using the garden they can fly the Union jack. Most the time we will be displaying our Green flag award. If anyone is feeling artistic and wants to make us a community garden flag, please do. Brian and I finished the entrance sign off, attaching the waterproof clip frames, that will allow anyone to put up fliers and notices in the dry.

finished viewing platformRhys and I laid the paving in front of the viewing platform to give a smooth level surface to access this area. Whilst keeping an eye on the fire in the cob oven that needed to be lit three hours before we started cooking. Beryl arrived early for the open event and stepped straight in to help us out, planting the last of the plants in the bed for dye plants.


The garden is open at all times for anyone to visit, volunteer sessions are on Monday mornings. You can find the site behind Bethel Street Chapel in the centre of town.

Next week in the garden I will be teaching a two hour practical session on over wintering crops. Come an get stuck in, we will be planting and sowing a variety of crops that will give you a crop from May next year. Peas, beans, onions, garlic, salads, herbs. No experience needed, and it’s FREE. 10 – 12am. Booking is essential for this course, through the botanic garden of Wales.




New pond for Llani

We had another good day developing the wildlife area in the Llanidloes cocaroline & Rees- digging the bog gardenmmunity garden. Regular volunteer Rees started the day with the help of Caroline and myself weeding the apple terrace and path, clearing seedling brambles and rosebay willow herb. We then moved on to digging out the bog garden. This is positioned at the end of this area just under the edge of the corrugated roofs, where it will catch the drips to keep the soil moist for all the bog loving plants.

The day started wet, with some heavy rain showers, but that was just what we needed to fill the pond that we had lined last week. The rain stopped mid morning, so we finished filling the pond with a long hose. Once the pond was full of water we could then trim off the excess liner and start to bury the edge.

julie & Caroline bog gardenThe trimmings of liner gave us just what we needed for the bog garden liner. These were laid in strips in the prepared bog area with a few holes made for drainage. We want the bog garden wet but not flooded. Level 2 gardening students that had designed the area came back to help. Julie and Alison came to join Caroline in the afternoon to get the area finished. Last but not least the planting could begin.

new wildlife areaThe planting plan has been designed for year round interest for us whilst providing food and habitat for wildlife. Planting is mainly based on native plants with a few naturalised and non native plants for added interest or to restrict growth and spread. Choosing a variety of colours and shapes of flowers attracts a wide range of insects. Always selecting single flowers for pollen collecting insects, rather than being tempted by multi petalled hybrids, that often are missing the sexual parts of the flower that carry the pollen.

Julie pondA mixture of woody plants (shrubs and climbers) and herbaceous plants (soft stemmed plants) gives habitat for a range of insect and amphibians all year. This area is one of the shadiest places in the garden, which is not ideal for ponds. The design has ensured that the pond will catch any available sun and will not be further shaded by planting. Lower growing ground cover plants have been used on the east side, so as not to block the sun, whilst taller plants at the back of the pond give protected exit routes for pond life.The sun directly hits this area most of the morning, whilst the decking continues to catch some sun into the afternoon.

What is needed now is a selection of nice big river stones to go around the pond and bog area. These will hide the pond liner and give hiding places for a range of wildlife.

Volunteers always welcome on a Monday. Over the next couple of weeks we will be building an entrance arch and notice board. As well as helping new allotment holders build their micro allotments ready for the free practical planting course on Monday  3rd November. This Saturdays course (11th Oct) is ‘Extend your growing season’. Booking for both courses is essential.

Come and join us for pizza and tours of the garden on our open day Monday 27th October 12-4 pm.

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.

Forest gardens, compost and rainbows


Click to visit the course page for this one day event

Growing perennial plants like fruit trees and bushes although it demands thought and input at the point of establishment in general require much less on going maintenance than vegetable growing. So especially for growing projects in environments like schools, community spaces and the like forest gardens, that is mixes of trees, fruiting shrubs, herbs and vines have a very useful role to play.

The idea of the temperate forest garden was developed by pioneer Robert Hart, who had seen similar systems in Southern India where shade trees of coconuts, mango, tamarind and more were grown in amongst annual crops of rice an vegetables. In northerly latitudes such as here we are required to space plants much further apart as we have much lower light levels, but the principle still works well and it enables another layer of production to be stacked into growing systems, boosting productivity and biodiversity.

fg-plants Meanwhile, Emma and Seri on the Cultivate project here at Pen Dinas have been busy buying in plants to propagate which will be for our forest garden nursery, currently in development. There are a great many plants that suit the brief for forest gardens, however they are not always easy to get hold of.. so we are keen to develop our own supply. Lots of nurseries offer the top fruit but very few offer the under-story shrubs, bushes and herbaceous plants.

Rainbow over pen Dinas this afternoon

Rainbow over pen Dinas this afternoon

A great source to find out about these is the Plants for a Future database. The plants we bought in came from the Agro Forestry Research Trust, and nursery managed and owned by forest garden pioneer Martin Crawford.

One day compost course, a new offering from the Cwm Harry Skills department.

One day compost course, a new offering from the Cwm Harry Skills department.

Compost – the new black gold. Energy from waste is a buzz word in the world of sustainability and the best way to process waste is to turn it into compost. Nitrogen in manure and food waste quickly breaks down into ammonia and becomes a greenhouse gas, whereas once composted and incorporated into long chain complex organic molecules it becomes stable and much less mobile. Of course the composting process itelf generates a lot of heat and compost pioneer Jean Pain calculated via his experiments that composting can easily generate 10% more heat than combusting the same material, whilst of course leaving a useful residue in the form of compost that can be incorporated into soil to boost fertility, water and nutrient retention.

Of course Cwm Harry made its name via the food waste processing contract we had with Powys County Council and lead researcher Richard Northridge will be offering some of his experience on the one day Compost Masterclass we are offering on 1 Amrch at treflach farm, Oswestry

Written evidence on Food Security to the environment and rural affairs committee.

Authors. PJ Griffith BSc. MS, member of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants and TSW Jones BA. PGCE, director Sector39 partnership and CwmHarry. Both authors have an extensive knowledge of UK agriculture.


UK arable production is predominantly a monoculture based on cereals and specifically winter wheat. The lack of diversity in arable production places the UK farming sector at high risk to the impact of climate change. The intense weather conditions in 2012 turned the UK from a net exporter to net importer of wheat for the first time in over a decade. The HSBC Agriculture Forward Planning 2013 reveals that few farms would be profitable without the single farm payment. The current CAP reform gives the opportunity to directly fund agroecology systems. The World Bank and the UNCTAD report that agroecology systems are one of the best ways of developing resilience to food production in an increasingly unpredictable climate. Adoption of these practices within the UK with the emphasis on soil biota health and increased biodiversity should be an integral part of the National Adaptation Plan for Agriculture to climate change and food security.

  1. How secure is Britain’s food supply.

1.1.    UK land usage shows only 20% of the land area is attributed to crop production. Half the country is under some form of grass be that pasture or moorland. The percentage of land under urban use is almost the same as under woodland both being around 12% of the total UK land area. Only 1% of the UK is classified as fresh water.

1.2.    Half of the cropped area of the UK is under cereal production and of this wheat represents 60%. Therefore, a third of the UK cropped acreage is in one crop, wheat of which 44% is destined for animal feed.

1.3.    Over the last three years (2011 – 2013) 81% of the arable area of the UK has been in either cereals (66%) or oilseed rape (16%). Horticultural production of fruit and vegetables represents only 2% of arable land and of this 98% is grown outside.

1.4.    The fact that such a high proportion of the arable area of the UK is in either wheat or oilseed rape is a high risk strategy when it comes to food security.  A large proportion of the arable area is at risk from a breakdown in disease or pest control, either from weather conditions preventing timely applications of pesticides or of resistance developing to available products. Herbicide resistance is becoming a major factor in cereal production in areas where black-grass is endemic. Cereal disease resistance to the fungicides is well documented with the strobilurons no longer effective against Septoria tritici, a major fungal disease of winter wheat and triazoles also showing reduce activity. In the autumn of 2012 the wet conditions were perfect for the build up of slugs in winter crops which became almost impossible to control with existing moluscicides.

1.5.    The weather conditions in 2012 exemplified the vulnerability of UK agriculture with the current dependence on winter crop production. The harvest of 2012 after a dull, wet and cool growing season saw average yields drop from 7.8 tonnes/ hectare to 6.7 t/ha, a drop of 14 percent on the five year average . Yield losses were also attributable to an outbreak of Fusarium ear blight in the UK wheat crop. A report by Fera showed that nationally the non-toxin producing Microdochium species (M. nivale and M. majus) were responsible for the majority of symptoms; with 93% of crops and 35% of ears within a crop infected by these pathogens. High levels of contamination by Microdochium species will cause reductions in grain quality and yield and affect seed germination. Control from fungicides applied was almost non-existent as timely applications were almost impossible to achieve, due to the wet conditions at the time of ear emergence of these crops.

1.6.    The poor harvest was followed by a disastrous autumn sowing campaign. The Farming Online autumn sowing survey showed that across the UK only two thirds of the planned area of wheat was sown. The staggered sowing and unfavourable growing conditions also meant that only half of that sown actually established.  Figures from the NFU showed some 11.6m tonnes of wheat were harvested in 2013, down 10pc on 2012, for although the yields per hectare improved dramatically in 2013 this was not  enough to cover the shortfall in planted area.

1.7.    The net result of this change in climate was that the UK became a net importer of wheat in 2013 for the first time in a decade.

  1. The implications of volatility in global food supply and demand for UK food security;

2.1.    The UK is 80% self-sufficient in indigenous food (Defra Food stats).  But this figure hides the fact that although we have been self-sufficient in cereals and milk and over 80% self-sufficient in poultry we are below 60% self-sufficient in fresh vegetables and 20% of fresh fruit (Defra Food Matters). Fruit and vegetables account for much of the UK’s food trade deficit. In 2007 24 countries supplied the UK with 90% of its fresh fruit and vegetables – the UK supplied 19%.  The majority (36%) of imported vegetables were supplied by countries within the EU.  However, the figures for fresh fruit show we imported from 25 countries with 65% coming from outside the EU.  A recent report by PWC on the implications of Climate Change highlighted the dependence by the UK for imported food. A report by the World Bank also shows that new results on the impact of climate change published since 2007 suggest a rapidly rising risk of crop yield reductions as the world warms. Large negative effects have been observed at high and extreme temperatures in several regions including India, Africa, the United States, and Australia. For example, significant nonlinear effects have been observed in the United States for local daily temperatures increasing to 29°C for corn and 30°C for soybeans. These new results and observations indicate a significant risk of high-temperature thresholds being crossed that could substantially undermine food security globally.

2.2.    The implications of climate change on the production of food sources outside the UK could have an impact on our supply of those food products we import. This is particularly the case for fruit and vegetables sourced from outside the EU.  The countries we currently import from are considered at high risk of disruption to crop production. The risks are from high temperatures and droughts leading to lower yields and poorer quality. This will also result in diminished export opportunities from the countries concerned. The UK animal feed industry’s reliance on imported soya and maize from the South America and the US could see rising prices as shortages of these commodities results due to droughts in these regions.

2.3.    Dr Jason Lowe, Chief Scientist at the met-office speaking at last month’s event on UK climate change policy warned that in the longer term there’s a trend towards warmer wetter winters and hotter drier summers, summer droughts and more extreme weather events.

2.4.    The past three years weather has given us a taster of how climate change can impact on UK agriculture. The increasing unpredictability of the climate and more frequent intense weather events will test the resilience of any farming practice in play.

2.5.    The main factor that will influence any farms ability to adapt to climate change will be the condition of the soils on that farm. The soils will need to have high organic matter content to prevent erosion and compaction, increase water holding capacity and supply nutrients.  Any adaptation plan to climate change must include soil structural improvement.  A recent study on the soil biota and soil health across Europe identified that many of the soils in UK were at risk, the paper concludes that the high score (i.e., high potential threats) of several areas of United Kingdom and central Europe is determined by the combined effect of a high intensity agriculture, with a relatively high number of invasive species and an increased risk for the soils present there to lose organic carbon (2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Global Change Biology, 19, 1538–1548). The reintroduction of livestock onto arable farms and the use of organic manures are seen as key ways in improving soil health.  One system currently being promoted by two Nuffield scholars is the practice of “mob-grazing”.  Mob grazing is a school of ‘natural farming’ that seeks to mimic the movements of grazing plains animals on a farm scale. The approach is receiving attention around the world, thanks to pioneers who have put remarkable achievements down to mob grazing, and their claims that it can be used to replenish soils exhausted by monocropping or boost the health of pastureland. The Royal Agricultural Society of England is currently organising a series of workshops on this subject.

2.6.    The plan needs to look at water storage through rain water catchment systems and more on farm reservoirs. Flood defences are also paramount and although this is part of the Environment Agency’s National Adaptation Plan, flooding of agricultural land has not received enough attention. The influence of climate change on British agriculture will impact on food security for the UK. The UK Agriculture’s National Adaptation plan needs also to look at the current dependence upon a limited cropping or animal husbandry system which will increase the risk of failure in a climate prone to extreme weather events.

2.7.    The HSBC Forward planning in Agriculture 2014 highlights the importance of the SFP in maintaining farm profitability. The budgets compiled by the HSBC for a series of farm enterprises, arable, livestock and mixed farms identifies that without the current level of support many farms would be unviable.  The current CAP reform offers the perfect opportunity to link support payments to better resilience of farming systems by encouraging more diversity on farms and better soil management.

  1. Agro-ecology – building resilience into farming systems and mitigating against climate change.

3.1.    Agroecology has been defined as the application of ecological science to the study, design and management of sustainable agroecosystems.

3.2.    An evolution to agro ecological would provide many advantages, delivering food security and an increased resilience to climate change. Such strategies also offer greatly increased ecosystems services whilst providing a mechanism to sequestrate large amounts of both carbon and water back into the landscape

3.3.    Key Points:

  • Current agricultural practices are not sustainable as they depend heavily on fossil fuel inputs and erode the natural landscape. Top soil loss, depletion of soil carbon and loss of microbial diversity are all significant symptoms of this erosion of the biosphere.
  • A further limitation of agriculture is that it interferes with the hydrological cycle. Deforestation affects evapo-transpiration and therefore dehumidification of the atmosphere whilst ploughing, bare soils and soil compaction greatly affects infiltration of precipitation to recharge groundwater reserves. This is a significant long term impact.
  • Agro ecology and permaculture mimic natural systems, require decreasing inputs and offer a diversity of yields which also include a restored natural ecology
  • These benefits would enhance local social, food and monetary economies and could transform and energise economic activity.
  1. How Farming Can Reverse Global Warming

4.1.    The Green revolution has transformed farming from what it was 60 years ago. Increased field scale, intensification of cultivation, agrichemicals, machinery, seed technology and more has combined to create the present day system. However, there are some fundamental flaws in this approach and recent evidence is showing that a further transformation of farming will be required.

4.2.    Climate change challenges farming models on several levels. Not least the monoculture approaches are extremely vulnerable to variable climatic conditions and potential pest invasions. Agro-chemical inputs are also of course all derived from fossil fuels: fertilizer, pesticides, diesel for water pumping, farm machines and long supply lines are all extremely vulnerable to a rise in price for oil and of course their use also intensifies climate change.

4.3.    Land management patterns, based on the simplification of the natural diversity has also had significant impacts on wildlife and biodiversity which in terms can make crops more susceptible to pest invasion, without the natural self-regulation afforded by a healthy and diverse natural world surrounding our cultivated lands.

4.4.    The key factor to resilience in a natural system is biodiversity. ‘There is no redundancy in natural ecosystems’ In other words loss of any species in a system erodes the resilience of the whole system. Agroecology needs to, therefore , value the contribution of every species and not to concentrate simply the target species for production but to think far widely about cultivated an ecosystem.

4.5.    Agriculture of the type typified by the intensification of land use increases productivity but only in inverse relation to the inputs required to drive the system. At worst agriculture pits us directly against natural principles and creates an ever increasing dependency of external inputs to maintain a productive system and at the expense of ecosystem function. Agriculture is typically a net consumer of energy when all the inputs are factored in.

4.6.    The UNCTAD report, (supported by a great many others) points to the possibilities of agro-ecology, an evolution of our current systems to embrace much of our increased understanding of the function of the natural world. Small scale farms with wildlife zones and interconnected wildlife corridors provide an intensely rich patchwork of ecology, much more akin to the natural world. Water retention habitat creation, humidification, natural pest regulation and a multitude of other ecosystem functions can be integrated in to functional and highly productive landscapes. One of the report’s conclusions was that climate change will drastically impact agriculture, primarily in those developing countries with the highest future population growth, i.e. in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Against this background, the fundamental transformation of agriculture may well turn out to be one of the biggest challenges, including for international security, of the 21st century.

4.7.    Perhaps a key perspective in this discussion is whether agriculture and our whole approach to land management can be evolved to a) sequestrate far more carbon into the ground and, therefore, slowdown the onset of climate change b) to insulate and mitigate the possible impact caused by more extreme and variable weather patterns and c) to guarantee a rich diverse landscape consummate with long term conservation, ecological and ecosystems services considerations.

4.8.    Observations of natural world show that in many ways agriculture pits us directly against the ecology of the system. Nature builds diversity, builds soil and traps more water into a landscape, via increased soil carbon, wet lands and general rising biomass. Agriculture tends to simplify biodiversity, accelerate the passage of water through a landscape and dry out soils and allow more soil carbon to be oxidised and therefore return to the atmosphere.

  1. Potential benefits of Agro-ecology, permaculture and polycropping systems.
  • Decreasing inputs of fossil fuel derived chemicals and energy
  • Increased biodiversity of crops and wildlife, and therefore resilience to external climatic or pest induced stresses
  • Longer harvesting season due to reduced intensification and increased diversity of yields
  • Re stimulation of the rural economy
  • Create opportunities for more urban farming and gardening
  • Public heath benefits from greater social interactions and more exposure and involvement to local food production and recycling
  • Increased food autonomy and food security
  • Use of cover crops and compost to cover bare soils builds soil organic matter with multiple benefits
  • Sequestration of atmospheric carbon
  1. Embracing agro ecology and integrated ecological farming strategies would unleash a new economic wave of opportunity. It would serve to create relocalisation of a significant part of the food supply which would regenerate local trade and related services whilst providing a far greater degree of actual food security of the economically vulnerable sectors of the community.
  2. Perhaps because of the degree of capitalisation of agriculture, with its huge increases in investment in technology, machines and in working at an increasing scale policy makers are tending to look in the wrong places for possible solutions, strategies and ways forward from current challenges. When we evaluate agribusiness through a prism of energy return on investment what is revealed is that it is a net consumer of energy and not a producer at all and at a significant cost of erosion into the biosphere and the ecosystems services of water storage, purification, transpiration and so much more performed by natural wild systems.
  3. In the light of climate change and energy depletion it is likely that agriculture needs to evolve to take on board hard won ecological lessons. It should embrace far more diversity in terms of crops, varieties and wildlife whilst being much more closely integrated into human living recycling and energy systems. The application of a far greater understanding of the role of wildlife and biodiversity in regulating the natural world would serve to greatly reduce agricultural inputs and to enhance resilience and to ameliorate the worst excess of climate change.
  4. Restructuring subsides and incentives to reforest much of our uplands would act as a short term immediate response to the urgency of carbon sequestration, with better understanding it is likely that land management practices might have to prioritise this as the full impacts of climate crises unfolds.
  5. New economic initiatives might be developed that then build productive systems into these reforested area, such as honey production, fruits, poles for timber, biochar, construction, deer and other game. Just a few examples of the potential for going forward.


An estimate of potential threats levels to soil biodiversity in EU: Global Change Biology (2013) 19, 1538–1548, doi: 10.1111/gcb.12159

International Threats and Opportunities of Climate Change to the UK- PWC

UK Food Security Assessment: Detailed Analysis. Defra January 2010


Food Matters Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century The Strategy Unit July 2008


Farming statistics provisional crop areas, yields and livestock populations at June 2013, United Kingdom – Defra


UNCTAD – Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate September 2013


Terrace bed

steep bankWe do not have much open ground with good soil on this site, and the one area we do have is a steep inaccessible slope with a long drop off the edge. This is on the south side of the neighbouring houses so we can not plant anything too big or it will cast shade on their gardens below. So the plan is to terrace the area and plant apple trees trained as espaliers along wires and then a row of current bushes and some strawberries. This permanent planting will not require a lot of maintenance, so should not require a lot of people working right on top of the houses. Once planted a regular mulch to feed the soil and suppress weeds, a yearly prune and the best bit.. harvesting.

Brian placing wiresWe started by making the area safe to work in. Brain  got started will placing wires ready to train the trees. The next week the job was finished by local lad Rees, our regular volunteer.

We have been luck enough to receive nearly £500 and a days labour from a team of RWE npower renewables (RWE) wind farm engineers and office staff from Llanidloes have put their “green” fingers to good use in support of local Mid-Wales lottery funded project “Get Growing”.

RWE Operations manager Simon Ling explained that the team had heard about the ‘Get Growing’ project and was eager to work with its horticultural tutor Emma Maxwell to construct a series of terrace beds at the ‘Cultivate’ community food garden.

He said: “There’s a fantastic local ethos at Llanidloes. Almost everyone’s local and really keen to help the local community and businesses. When we heard about the work ‘Get Growing’ is doing in Llanidloes, as part of the ‘Cwm Harry’ group, we saw a great opportunity to do some team building work while making a real contribution to a really good local cause.”

Team work.The team undertook  some pretty tough tasks, helping to convert a plot of sloping, unloved, wasteland  in the centre of Llanidloes, into organised terraced beds, a footpath and wildlife gardens.

Added Simon: “There was a pretty substantial amount of work to do, but the team are all used to it, working to maintain RWE’s wind farms out in all weathers and conditions. It was cold, but luckily, the rain stayed off and we were able to crack on.”

Llanidloes is the home of RWE’s UK Wind Farm Service Centre, from which a team of over 20 mainly local engineers and support staff maintain the operation of the company’s fleet of wind farms across Wales, the Midlands and South West England. The staff regularly support the local community through charitable donations and support in kind, as well as investing millions into the mid Wales economy through employment and contracting local companies, from caterers to civil engineers, steel fabricators and transportation.

The work of all the staff and contractors at the facility, including a number of unique, highly skilled wind turbine Apprenticeships are entirely linked to the operation of wind farms in Wales, such as Gwynt y Môr, offshore, and Bryn Titli, Mynydd Gorddu and Carno onshore wind farms in Mid Wales.

Teraced beds.We have just received notification from Powys county council nectar tree scheme that we have been awarded 15 trees for  the site. These are coming from local nursery man Gareth Davies at Old Chapel Nursery Llanidloes. We will be getting 15 young apple trees that will be trained as espaliers along the wires, planting will be next Monday morning 9th December . We have also been donated a few current bushes from a local garden that we need to go and dig up and move to their new site. We have strawberries that we have be propagating at the Newtown community garden as part of the Cultivate plant nursery.

The area at the end around the corner of the building is going to be a wildlife area, with a small pond and native plants for biodiversity. This will attract a wide range of insects, birds and small mammals that will help with integrated pest management. Ladybirds and hoverflies to eat aphids, hedgehogs, frogs and toads to eat slugs and snails. This area is being designed and a planting plan created by students on Emma Maxwell’s level 2 gardening class. We are after ideas from anyone on fun workshops we can be hosting to develop this area, workshops in sculpture or wall art related to wildlife. If you know of anyone get in touch.


Designing productive public spaces

Site for the new Llanidloes public growing space, before being cleared by the Get-Growing team and volunteers

Site for the new Llanidloes public growing space, before being cleared by the Get-Growing team and volunteers

Urban areas are full of dead spaces. Disused land, vancant lots, verges ad roadsides and the spaces in between bigger buildings. They either require maintenance, become blighted and neglected or a just a wasted potential. With the prospect of escalating energy and food costs and tightening of government budgets it makes increasing sense to turn these spaces into productive ones that can be maintained and harvested by local residents.

Planning and building public productive gardens still takes some careful planning and consultation and to that end we have developed a 5 day how to design a community garden course. We use this learning process as a design workshop to design a real garden and as a way to train future community garden designers.


Study group working on the Llanidloes community growing space design at the Get-Growing project base in Newtown

We are really pleased with the outcome and the work on the new growing space in Llanidloes has already begun. The process is based on the permaculture design tools part of the permaculture design course, alongside intensive sessions on organic principles, soils and gardening for nature. The course was delivered by Emma Maxwell, Steven Jones and Sue Stickland.

We are currently using he same process to design a community garden on a high rise estate in Liverpool and working with local residents from the Stockbridge estate to design a build a community forest garden on top of what was the footings of where one of the 1960’s high rise blocks had been taken down.


Carole one of the volunteers on the Liverpool project, with some of the produce we grew on an unused space on the Stockbridge estate


The Denecliff high rise overlooks the area where we have been allowed to build our next community growing space.


Our project polytunnel in Liverpool is behind the service area of the local shopping precinct. We have been busy propagating plants for the garden there over the last year,