Community garden design

We are thrilled to be able to offer this course without charge, thanks to funding accessed by the Llanfyllin Green Hub project.

Cwm Harry Skills and Sector39 Permaculture have developed this course over the last three years and have used it now to design and build a series of community gardens. There is a huge opportunity to be had in finding productive, low miantenance wya to manag public spaces, to be able to do that we need a mechanism with which to be able to resolve the many different perspectives and constraints on any potential situation.

It can be a real challenge when a mixed group of people with different objectives, priorities and concerns to come together to try agree about how to manage and develop an asset such as land, a farm or small holding.

This is an ideal opportunity for permaculture students working towards their diploma, Transition trainers, managers of public spaces, project developers, communards and more.

We have developed a collaborative, consensus based design process, based on the principles of ecology, permaculture and cooperation. Using this informed and ethical based design system we can develop wonderful diverse gardens, landscapes and public spaces that meet the needs of people, nature & biodiversity and are attractive, beautiful and easy to manage. Permaculture is sustainability by design, a conscious informed process that invites feedback and deliberately aims to meet the requirements of all stakeholders. This is a great an practical introduction into this design system for regeneration and abundance.

Clay oven workshop

Oven building 1Today was the first day of our 2 day clay oven workshop and open day. It was a lovely sunny day, which was a relief after all the wind and rain.

Oven building 2People of all ages came to have a look around the garden, sign up for a micro allotment and get involved with making the clay oven.

In the afternoon we had time to get started with the sunken seating area. We finished removing the inner breeze block wall and soil. The youths enjoyed smashing up the blocks to make hard core needed for the floor base. We are now ready to start rendering the walls tomorrow, weather permitting.

Looking forward to another action packed day tomorrow, when we will be adding an insulating layer to the oven then more clay. All welcome to come and join in.

Oven building 3


Cob oven workshop

We are holding a cob oven 2 day FREE workshop in our LLanidloes community food garden. 24th & 25th February, 10am – 4pm. All welcome, wear suitable old clothes and boots. Shelter & drinks provided.

brian and oven baseBrian and I have been constructing the base for the cob oven. Neither of us are brick layers, so we learnt as we went along. We had to choose a day when the weather broke for a bit. Luckily it was like spring on Sunday.So we had a long day in the garden. A couple of other volunteers joined us and we had lots of visitors coming to have a look. On Monday the weather wasn’t so great, but we filled the base with rubble to act as thermal mass. We then started to play around with reclaimed paving slabs, working out how to construct the base that the oven will sit on. We have decided to slab right the way across and then put a layer of sand to bed in reclaimed house brick followed by block paviors, these will be cemented around the edges to prevent them falling off.

Rhys & Brian tidying upWe have been working hard in all weathers to finish clearing the site of unwanted bits and pieces. The last area to be cleared is the proposed area for the kitchen shelter and eating space. It is so good to see the last bit of rubble and rubbish cleared up.

We have mains water on site so we are hoping to install a sink and kitchen units so food can easily be prepared on site.  Then cooked in the cob oven.

Kichen area clearedThe main thing missing from the garden at the moment is a permanent shelter, but now this area has been cleared we can start to think about how this will be constructed.

Dave removing mud from the entrance

Lynda, a regular volunteer of the llanidloes wildlife garden came to help tidy the site on Sunday, raking up gravel ready for use on the entrance which was cleared by the two David’s on Monday morning.






Cooking on (wood) gas

If you heat up woodchips in an enclosed space they will yield volatile gasses.. which can be combusted and used just like the gas in your cooker. The advantage however is that is is sustainable source of fuel potentially, and the residue left over is pure carbon… in the form of charcoal. This residual charocal can either be burned as well or converted into biochar, which is a powerful soil improver. Could this type of technology give us a tool to tackle climate change and our fast encroaching energy problems? Find out more on our up and coming Charcoal making course.

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

New year at Pen Dinas

Drainage trench across main growing field

Drainage trench across main growing field

We have had regualr problems with our drains at Pen Dinas so the time to replace the existing pipe has come around and it is very interesting to see a proper soil profile across the field. Makes us think we should have done this at the beginning, not only is there only about 2 or 3 inches of topsoil but there is also a huge amount of rubble, bricks etc under the turf of the field. Our choice to build up raised beds and hugl kultur type growing strategies turns out to be a good call as these thin soils would otherwise never produce any decent vegetables.

tweetWe kicked off the year with a trip to Jesus College Oxford for the Real Farmers conference, the parallel event that runs along side the mainstream farmers conference for smaller scale growers, organic and more community and environment orientated initiatives. There was lively debate across many topics and if you would like to pick up on any of the threads of discussion there was a lively conference presence on twitter. They also launched a manifesto for new agriculture.

Pic below taken at Pen Dinas in December is of a head of broccoli, and anyone who has studies permaculture or environmental design will recognise the Fibonacci patterns, I found myself gazing into this shape for ages.. fractal mathematics in nature.


Romanesque broccoli growing at Pen Dinas

training-day Finally I should mention the fantastic trainers and practitioners day we had on Dec 16th which brought together 25 local people from the Mid Wales region who are potentially interested in working with us on developing skills and training provision. An important new venture for Cwm Harry is to be the delivery courses and learning opportunities across the broad range of topic areas we are interested in, from waste management to organic growing, permaculture to green wood craft. There will be lots more on this soon as we are busy working on an extended courses programme for the coming year.

Here is a fundraiser visit from School Farm CSA in Devon, freinds of ours, who we bumped into the Real Farmers Conference who are running a really ambitious Community Supported Agriculture Project near Totnes.

Here is an impassioned speech on the potentials and importance of small scale farming and a relocalised and vibrabt local food economy and culture.

Latest from Newtown community garden

Plenty of activities planned for November in the Newtown community garden. There is now list on the right hand column of the home page with all of our up and coming training events, many which will also get featured in the blog.


We are also planning a full day course: Composting Masterclass which at the moment is planned for March 1 st next year, if you are interested in this then please let us know. This will be based at Treflach farm near Oswestry, which is a 100 acre stock farm who are dedicated to finding organic solutions to their farm waste and input challenges and there will be a chance to find out about farm scale composting processes, the possibilities for heat recovery from compost and much more. Of course compost is subject very close to Cwm Harry’s heart and Richard Northridge will also be contributing to this event, who developed Cwm Harry’s food waste composting systems in our work with Powys County Council.


The Cwm Harry staff outside the Ludlow Anaerobic Plant

It has been an incredibly busy month for the whole Cwm Harry organisation, we managed to have a staff get together to discuss plans and strategies going forward. Since Cwm Harry ceased its food waste collection and composting services for Powys council we have been busy diversifying into other areas. We have launched Cultivate.. the new organisation which will manage the Get-Growing project, plant nursery and veg box business. We are also merging with Sector39, the permaculture training partnership developed by Steve Jones over the last year and are now offering training drawing from right across Cwm Harry’s skills base, food, composting, affordable housing and much more.


Beautifully patterned romanesque broccoli, growing at Pen Dinas in Newtown


Patterning in the roof of the new erected roundhouse in the Newtown garden

The Newtown community garden is developing past and it has been a great to see the roundhouse going back up, which was a focal point in the old garden on the Vastre trading estate. This will serve as a shelter for our community mico plot holders and we are planning a series of courses to complete the sides using a range of traditional techniques such as wattle and daub, rammed earth, hemp and lime and more.


Rhys and Jonno working on the turf roof on the roundhouse


Volunteer Alex with one of his beautiful hand crafted garden gates


Late crop of grapes in the Newtown garden

Essential Growing Skills

Cultivate is a new enterprise with a community focus that manages the Get-Growing project and delivers training and project support for community growers, organic horticulturalists and permaculture students. We are passionate about local food and sharing the skills and building networks for local food security. We run regular courses and training events, one off visitors welcome or get involved with some of regular local and outreach work.

Booking essential, via the Get-Growing website, £7 for a day course, only.. please ask.


Seasonal craft events coming up in Newtown



Some of the participants and products of the wreath making workshop we ran previously

With the Winter season fast approaching we are pleased to be  announcing a couple of seasonal craft courses which we will be running at the Get-Growing base, Pen Dinas in Newtown.

We are excited to be working with crafts artisan Beryl Smith from Llanidloes, one the regions most versatile and experienced teachers and practitioners.

Follow the links for more details. Advance booking required.

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,