Public growing space for Llanidloes

Cwm Harry have a reputation in Mid Wales for its passion about waste reduction and turning food waste into high nutrient compost for growers. What people know less perhaps is that Cwm Harry also has a passion for growing local food and the Get-Growing project, funded by the national lottery was a result of nearly three years of hard work developing a garden at the old compost factory on the Vastre estate.

Llani new garden site

So now we have established a public accessible space for growing in Newtown as part of our commitments via the Get-Growing project we are seeking to do the same for Llanidloes. Work is already underway clearing the site for the garden and Emma Maxwell have been leading a local team of volunteers over the last few weeks.

busy workers

clear site

The cleared site, ready for work to begin

Next stage is to come up with a design for the garden, and we are running the design process as a 5 day course which will mainly be based at the Pen Dinas garden in Newtown. Part of this includes a Public Consultation with local residents and potential garden stakeholders, which will take place on Wednesday 25th September.

Please Get In touch if you would like to contribute to this process. This is open to any one in the Llanidloes area who would like to help shape the garden design to better meet local needs.


The Pen Dinas Garden, one year on

The community garden at Pen Dinas is now a year old. We spent a week of July last year running our first Community Garden Design course here to design the 2 1/2 acre space here. One year on and we are getting close to having all the main elements of that design in place. It is hugely exciting and gratifying to see it all coming into place.

The potential for urban and sub-urban growing is absolutely huge. Organic techniques mean we are only really using what are currently considered waste materials and we are constructing highly productive and nature friendly environments in the process. And of course we have made lots of new friends… regular volunteers, students, apprentices, art classes and more.

Support the development of community growing via our Crowdfunder campaign


Please support our Crowdfunder campaign

Together with Cwm Harry Skills and Training, Sector39 Permaculture, and Project Dirt we are launching our first Crowdfunder Campaign

We want to invest in key project volunteers and participants by funding places on our up and coming Permaculture Design Course, in October. We have set the target of £2,000 to raise, over the next 4 weeks. Small donations and lots of them is what we are asking for!

It’s a great new way we can spreads the benefit and learning from great projects like Get-Growing. Permaculture and urban growing is the fastest grass roots movement around the World, help us play a more active part in that process.


There is a regular art club group who meet on Wednesday’s to sketch and paint in the Pen Dinas garden.


Bees on lavender, a contribution from this week’s art club


The tool shed is carefully placed where community gardeners and site crew can most easily access them, It s also in shady place that isnt much use for growing.


The Hugl Kultur beds have disappeared under the marrow, pumpkins and courgettes

Some of the crop, the box was too heavy to lift!

Some of the crop, the box was too heavy to lift!


Some lovely brassicae plants growing in the community garden micro plots.


Permaculture principles number 2: Catch and Store Energy. Water is a vital energy!


The wildlife is loving the garden, this slow worm is helping regulate garden pests,


One of our own designed raised beds with a bean tower which we made on one of the crafts courses here.


A regular contributor to the garden in Sue Stickland, who will be running day long workshop on Seedsaving next month, click image for details.


Finally the 2 polytunnels are going back up, Dave, Tom and Crew have been working hard on this..


Some of the community micro plots… it never ceases to amaze me how much produce can come out of a small space.


Catch and Store Energy #2. We copmp[ost everything, and are taking on all of the grass clippings from the next door college as well. It makes an excellent compost when mixed with card and shredded paper waste


Catch and Store Energy # 3. This is the water for the micro plots.. any excess will be channelled to the wetland area at the end of the garden.

The frist stage of gettin gteh Roundhouser back up is almost complete, thanks to all the hard work by Dave T and Colin

The frist stage of getting the Roundhouser back up is almost complete, thanks to all the hard work by Dave T and Colin.

NHS Report on the imperatives and potentials of Urban Food Growing. Click to enlarge

NHS Report on the imperatives and potentials of Urban Food Growing. Click to enlarge.



Busy week for community growing

NBGW (Col Logo)We finished our free 20 week course: Understanding natural systems and preparing for growing with willow weaving and food harvesting & preserving sessions in the final weeks. The whole course has been a fantastic experience and we are very grateful to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales for funding it.

Here is some feedback from one of the participants

Thank you for organising and running the 20 week gardening course (‘Understanding Natural Systems’), which finished on Tuesday. It was fantastic, very wide-ranging, and of a consistently high quality. I really enjoyed all of it and would recommend your courses to anyone. Good luck for the future!

Weaving a willow arch as part of our preparing for growing course

Weaving a willow arch as part of our ‘understanding natural systems preparing for growing course’

weaving willow hurdles

Weaving willow hurdles in the sunshine

Emma has started work clearing the new community growing site in Llanidloes and had an excellent turn out of helpers for the first of a series of regular Thursday afternoon sessions. Anyone interested in joining in should turn up at the Great Oak Cafe in Llanidloes from 2 – 4.30

The site will form a community food growing garden and is a perfect compliment to the courtyard and wildlife gardens already established as part of the Llanidloes co-operative.

Garden clearing team, Llanidloes

Garden clearing team, Llanidloes

The Cwm Harry food company is in the process of developing a local food hub is now well established in the shed at Get-Growing and the their veg box scheme is now operating out of the barn behind Pen Dinas on the Get-Growing site in Newtown.

Full permaculture design course, September

Full permaculture design course, September

Skills and Training

Cwm Harry Skills and Training is a new enterprise, part of the Cwm Harry group led by Steve and Jodie who are busy preparing for the next courses including permaculture design and community garden design. They have been to visit the stunning location for the September course, based on a 40 acre small holding in Mid Wales.

We are on a mission to being permaculture design into the mainstream and to offer a range of courses in different locations that make it as accessible as possible for everyone to get involved.”

Steve Jones founded Sector39 back in 2005 as a collective of permaculture teachers, artisans and event crew to stage permaculture design courses and to design and build gardens and edible landscapes. In April this year they formally merged with Cwm Harry to enable us to delve in the vast expertise of the Cwm Harry organisation to enable us to develop a comprehensive range of courses in developing a cyclical economy. We are currently developing courses on arange of subjects including: waste minimisation, composting, community growing, anaerobic digestion, housing co-operatives and affordable housing, water treatment with algae and more.

New courses up and coming

Gardening courses with Emma Maxwell

Gardening courses with Emma Maxwell

Two separate courses from Emma, Essential Gardening and Gardening progression.. both starting in September.

Full permaculture design course, September

Full permaculture design course, September

Next permaculture course led by Steve Jones with guest lecturers will in Newbridge on Wye on a stunning 40 acre holding. Click on the image above to book and for more info.

New community growing space for Llanidloes

The Get-Growing team is coming to Llanidloes to help establish a new food growing community garden. The new site will be at the back of Picton Street and Great Oak Street (behind old Benbows/ Benjis). There will be a communal growing space and micro allotments.

In September we are running a community garden design course so that the community can design their own garden. The course is £125 full price but places are available for £25  for volunteers and community members working on the project. This is a 5 day intensive course teaching elements of permaculture design, surveying, scale drawing and client interviews, resulting in a finished design of the site.

We are starting to clear the site now, ready to start building the structure of the garden during the autumn/  winter after the design course.

Volunteer sessions will be every Thursday afternoon 2pm – 4.30pm, Starting the 1st August.

Please tell your friends and anyone who may be interested to meet me (Emma) in the café garden (Behind the vegi café Great Oak Street), prompt at 2pm and I will show you where the garden to be developed is. In following weeks we will meet at the new site.

We look forward to working with you.

Here's one we did earlier. Wildlife garden in Llanidloes, designed by Emma Maxwell, of Get-Growing

Here’s one we did earlier. Wildlife garden in Llanidloes, designed by Emma Maxwell, of Get-Growing

Community Garden Design course

Community Garden design course 2013

Community Garden design course 2013

We ran this week long course last year to design the Pen Dinas community garden site we have here in Newtown. This year we are going to be working on a community garden site in Llanidloes as well as a school site Caersws. The 5 day course will be based in Newtown at the Get-Growing centre next to Coleg Powys. The course will be an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in community growing, garden design, permaculture and putting those interests into practice. Our towns and communities are full of odd unused spaces.. just going begging for someone with a bit of drive and imagination to see the potential it. Dead urban blighted spaces can quickly become attractive and productive wild life heavens.

With tutors Emma Maxwell, Sue Stickland (tbc) and Steve Jones you will get an insight in garden design process, drawing and presenting ideas as well as a thorough intuition into the principles of natural systems and working with nature and wildlife. Participants will get to take part in designing a real site, undertaking client interviews and in generating an integrated site design.

The resulting design will be implemented and there will be an opportunity for local residents to become fully involved in this process.


This community wildlife garden was designed and planted by course tutor Emma Maxwell 4 years ago.. it is jsut a few yards away from the derelict site we hope to redesign and shows the potential of what could be achieved

The focus for the week is fun, practical and in generating a real tangible outcome. This will give you the tools and confidence to go out and design a community garden for yourself. Full price of £125 includes lunches and the whole course.. but for those involved in community gardening, either actively or as a volunteer then there are places available on application for £25 only.

This challenging but excellent site has all the ingredients that we look for in a site and to a certain extent the dereliction and waste make it even more attractive in the light of the potential for transformation.


Emma Maxwell and volunteer contemplate the site at Llanidloes that we have been offered as a potential community garden.

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Garden week with mid summer solstice approaching

PrintOnce again we have the National Botanic Gardens of Wales to thank for funding our 20 week program of skills related to horticulture and growing.We have been receiving fabulous feedback from this course, and it has also given us the opportunity to work with several new trainers and workshop people, who we either haven’t worked with us before or who haven’t been to Get-Growing before. So this week it was Herbalist Mandy Dean, who told us loads about plant ID, how to work with common herbs we see in the hedgerows and who opened our eyes to the amazing world of plants and how they interact.

Herbs and Plant ID session with Mandy Dean

Herbs and Plant ID session with Mandy Dean

There are only a few weeks to run on this program now and we are already planning what we might like to offer next time around.

Meanwhile we have also been busy in the garden.. it is that time of year when everything is growing like mad and there is lots of tidying to do as well as planting, watering and staying on top of everything else.

We were very pleased to have three volunteers along to help us this week, Gwyddian, Lucas and Alex, as there is so much to be done. It gave us the chance to plant up the Hugl beds.. which we have planted with courgettes and pumpkins.. building the big, rotten wood filled raised beds was a lot of work, so we are very hopeful that it has been worth the effort. We have regular volunteer days every Wednesday and anyone is welcome, regardless of their level of experience etc.

Planting the Hugl bed

Planting the Hugl bed

We also spent the afternoon mulching the forest garden, there are lots of grasses and nettles etc pushing up through the mulch around the fruit trees etc so we built another layer on top using some of the nettles and grasses, as well as cardboard and woodchip. The idea is to keep knocking back the grasses and favouring the woody perennials plants until they are all big enough to shade out the grasses, so the mulching process if pretty critical in the first three years of a establishing a forest garden, and then favoured plants start to win out over the other ones. So this being the first summer for the forest garden it is pretty critical to stay on top of the mulching process.


Mid summer grasses in the afternoon sunshine

We have elected to leave some of our lawns to grow to their full height, we have mowed the paths and garden edges to keep it looking tidy, but we are very keen to promote wildlife, insects and birds as well as a diversity of meadow species.. all of these objectives require us to allow the grasses to fully mature and set seed, meanwhile it does look really beautiful, swaying in the evening sun! We would love to see councils and others responsible for maintaining public spaces leave the grasses and flowers for longer and to let them complete their cycle.. there being so few wild spaces left.. nature is getting pushed out of the intensively managed landscapes.

June at Pen DInas, Get-Growing and Cultivate


First new potatoes from the Pen Dinas micro allotments

It was a delight to see the first new potatoes from the micro allotment plots last week. Here is micro plot holder Tommy with the first of his crop.

We are sad to be saying goodbye to our work placement volunteers from Coleg Powys, Zak and Jono. They have been with us since our first weeks at Pen Dinas back in September and have help us build the garden.

Work placement recruits Zak ond Jono on their last day with us

Work placement recruits Zak ond Jono on their last day with us

It has been a real pleasure for us to work with a number of the college students, since our move to Pen Dinas one of the biggest pluses has been the chance to build an active relationship with the college and the students, hopefully this is just the beginning of that process.

One of our broader concerns, and it is not a criticism of the college per se.. is whether students today are being prepared for the future world as we see it. With dwindling fossil fuel reserves and an urgent need to reduce our CO2 emissions it is our contention that we are looking at a very different World going forward from what we have experienced previously. No one has a crystal ball of course, but with a 80% reduction in emissions targeted, the onset of Climate Change and all of its implications I do wonder if we are preparing the upcoming generation for what is likely to happen. What seems most likely is that with escalating energy costs and an increasingly uncertain energy future it is food production and travel that we are most exposed on hence our interest in the relocalisation of at least part of our food supply.

rose-bud_web The vision for our project is that we need to rapidly explore what this transition to a more localised food supply is going to look like. With our interest in community growing it struck us immediately that the community, with our support needs to take ownership and leadership in cultivating public shared spaces in order to build the first degree of food resilience.

This was the premise behind the whole Get-Growing project… the second key component is that we need to start building both the skill base and the resource base from which to do this. So step one for Get-Growing was to create a working model.. to show what community growing might look like and step two is to build a skills and training network to enable and empower the community to better be able to do that. Our first attempt at creating a community growing model being on the Vastre estate behind the old Cwm Harry compost factory, and then latterly here next to Coleg Powys in a much more publicly accessible site where we have build a diverse horticulture teaching environment, rich in biodiversity, flowering and ornamental plants as well as productive fruit and vegetable growing areas.

Wegeila, flowering shrub in the Cwm Harry garden

Wegeila, flowering shrub in the Cwm Harry garden

Get-Growing – Cultivate

Get-Growing is the project we launched on the back of investment from the National Lottery.. it has always been our aim to build a new organisation from that work and last week Cultivate was born. Our new joint enterprise with the Cwm Harry food company and the Get-Growing community gardening project will be known as Cultivate with a broad objective of cultivating both hearts and minds, local landscapes, food scapes and hopefully the imagination and drive to build a resilient local food economy for our area and to take a lead role reclaiming some of our underused public spaces and turning them into active components of a thriving local food economy. Without labouring the point, the realisation we have is that alongside a re-energised food economy we are in dire danger of losing much of our native wild plants. Wildflower meadows in Wales have all but disappeared in the last 60 years, along with many of the bird and insect species associated with them. This is a major problem and needs to be seriously addressed.. and in the light of this awareness we are redoubling our efforts to reach out into the wider community and to find partners we can work with to do whatever we can towards creating spaces from which we can rebuild our native flora and fauna.

Skills and training

We need to acknowledge and thank the National Botanic Gardens of Wales for supporting our training program, which we are running over 20 weeks on developing the skills Print

for growing. We recognised that aside from the basic horticulture skills and plantsmanship, there is a wider skill set required to be a successful grower, understand ecology, understanding design process and approach to growing. We have had some great feedback form the this course.. and we have been able to offer it for free with the support of the Botanic Gardens.. and we are very grateful for their support for this.

We realise that developing a skills and training enterprise is going to be central to our broader mission to build a sustainable future from the bottom up. The free course that the partnership with the Botanic gardens has enabled us to reach out across our community and to make many new friends and connections.

NBGW (Col Logo)

Click to visit the National Botanic Gardens of Wales

Permaculture design in Mid Wales

Permaculture is a global phenomenon. It is the fastest growing and most dynamic grass roots movement around the World. It is a bottom up development philosophy which focuses on empowering the individual to create change from the self outwards. Permaculture challenges us to observe and interact.. to actively observe the living planet and understand how it works and to accept that we are part of it, not apart from it and try and harmonise with its patterns and processes. The natural world is one of infinite bounty and possibilities.. and our current view of chopping it all down and turning into consumer durables is a very limited interpretation of what is possible.
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Permaculture One was a seminal book, one that literally started a revolution.. albeit a quiet, organic revolution. One that has been spreading its mycelium like tentacles under ground for the last 35 years.. joining together a growing body of people interested in finding sustainable and ethical ways to challenge and resolve the pressing problems of the era.

Climate Change, Peak Oil, economic turmoil, de-forestation, biodiversity, racism, gender inequality, the disconnect between the world of work and one’s own conscience and ethics. It all boils down to relationships and choices. .. seeing the problem or the solution, seeing the planet as a pile of resources ready to be exploited or a living natural system that we can harmonize with. Permaculture teaches us to value life in all its forms and to learn how to build a productive partnership with those processes that perpetuate nature.

The Permaculture Design Course (PDC) is a 72 hour curriculum that lays a foundation of understanding of how we can work together to build a society harmonious with the energy and requirements of the natural world. To discover abundance instead of scarcity, new possibilities beyond physical limitations.

Sector39 are a partnership of permaculture teachers, crafts workers, gardeners and horticulturalists working for sustainable world  built of social equity, cooperation and an active observation of natural organic principles. The Sector39 teaching partnership have been invited to become part of the Cwm Harry & Get-Growing family of enterprises working to create working solutions and responses to the challenges of the sustainability transition

PDC-advert-1 We are busy developing a series of courses for 2013 in a range of settings and with a slightly different target audience for each one.

A design course usually means 72 hours of study, camping or staying on a farm and enjoying a mixture of the Welsh countryside, theory sessions, practicals site visits and demonstrations. For many people it is a turning point in their lives, giving them the knowledge, tools and convictions to turn their aspirations in practice and to become part of that network of people working for change.

Permaculture is the study of natural systems and the application of that insight as a design system

Permaculture is the study of natural systems and the application of that insight as a design system

There are 2 week courses in May and October this year.. the May one is  farm based, and the October one is aimed at pioneers, project workers, key volunteers and activists working in the area of community growing, transition etc.. More of that later.. but we are working with The National Botanic Gardens of Wales to be able to offer 10 subsidised places for community activists and growers.


We will also be offering a summer special.. camping and activity based experience for families.. whereby there is an activity camp and learning by doing activity with a parallel PDC running for those who want to cover the whole syllabus. \more of this here. The fourth PDC of offer this year is based on a 40 acre small holding an we will using this as a focus for the design practical as we try to get to grips with the holding and find ways and opportunities we can use permaculture design to make a more productive, low maintenance and nature friendly environment.

Booking and more info here.
Permaculture Design Course

A promise of Spring

Very busy week last week for Get-Growing, with a promise of spring looming on the horizon there suddenly feels like there is a race on to get everything done in time fo a new growing season


Tool sharpening and working with knives and sharp edges.. first part of our 20 week gardening skills course

We are working with the National Botanic Garden of Wales who have provided funding for our courses program – the first of which is the 20 week preparing for growing course. It has struck us that there are many related skills around the subject of growing, not directly plant related, but essential skills for developing a garden. We are developing a course that brings together many of the background skills required to be a successful grower.. maintaining tools, basic carpentry, soil science all being good examples.


The Get-Growing micro allotment plots have been a popular element of our project.. we are delighted to see community gardeners developing their plots, each their own particular style


We aer developing our own product range of raised beds and garden furniture.. we are getting some of these in place in our own garden and will be trialling all sorts of gardening ideas here over the coming season

Longer term survival of the project requires to develop supporting enterprises where we can build income streams to build a project fund. One of these is the raised bed project.. which we will write more about soon… as well as developing beds for city and small plot gardening we are also developing growing trails and strategies for gardeners to follow and share and try out.. to make growing as accessible a possible and to spread the learning along the way


Some of our first sales of the raised beds has been to other growing projects, here is one being set up by residents of a housing association block of flats in Knowsley, Liverpool

For me it is really gratifying to see elements of our work in Newtown having an impact in other far away places and projects.. through my work on this Urban permaculture projectin Liverpool we have found a market for some of our raised beds and a chance to share some of what we have learned on the project here with folk further afield.


Part 2 of the 20 week gardening skills course is an inoculation to carpentry. this week we learned how to cut accurately, straight and at an angle to make a basic work bench


Course participants familiarising themselves with the basic tools and techniques of carpentry


Fun and interactive learning.. it has to be the best way to learn new skills and to make new friends


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Carpentry tutor Ritchie Stephenson with the trestle/ work bench we made on the first part of the carpentry workshop with him. Creating the right tools for working is essential so it was a very empowering workshop to learn how to do this for ourselves. Working out the complex angles got us all scratching our heads a bit but the final result was excellent.img_2931

We are also working with the Coleg to develop our range of products. Here is a model of a bench seat attachment to go on top of the raised bed, developed by the studentsimg_2939

Setting up a new raised bed.. it can go right on top of grass, slabs or anything really.. ideally contact with the earth is the best strategy, and a few layers of card to exclude light can help ensure you kill off the grass below and stop it from growing up through the bed once it is full of soil and compost. We have been filling them 50:50 with soil and compost to start them off. img_2941

The apprentices getting stuck in to moving a budlia bush, allowing more room in our intensive growing area. img_2945

Two of our regular volunteers working on the fruiting espalier edge to the area when the polytunnels will go.  img_2951 img_2954

Check the crumbs on that! A lot of the soil on site is pretty poor, so it was pleasing to find an area of excellent soil.. revealed by its lovely crumby texture, that will allow moisture to penetrate and preserve plenty of air spaces for healthy soil lifeimg_2955The new bed in place, filled with the lovely crumbly soil. the plan for this one is to not add compost, making it ideal for carrots and parsnips.