Cae Bodfach: Llanfyllin community orchard


Kelly and Diane and the fruit tree guild

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

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

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

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

Biochar growing experiments


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday in Llanfyllin


Plant selection at the Cultivate nursery in Newtown.

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

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

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

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


July at Pen Dinas


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

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

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

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


Biochar business

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

Working with herbs – a day in the Pen DInas garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

- See more at:

Why do we foul our own water supply?

There is not enough fresh water in the World for everyone to do what we do.. it is expensive, unsustainable and a waste of a potentially valuable resource. The answer? Compost it! Its clean hygienic and cheap and opens up a world of new possibilities. This is a really important and often overlooked technology that we should all embrace!

compostA must for community growers and allotment holders.

Learn about different techniques and compost toilet designs and find out what is suitable for different sites and situations. The workshop will include a hands-on construction of a  simple humanure compost toilet for use in the community garden.

Led by Steve Jones, permaculture teacher and compost enthusiast.
The course costs £30, which includes refreshments – some concession available for community growers.

Bring and share lunch

- See more at:

Snap shot of Pen Dinas

Selection of images from the Pen Dinas horticulture centre for BBC researcher.








Our location in Newtown, next to the Hafren theatre and Newtown College

Our location in Newtown, next to the Hafren theatre and Newtown College

View of the Cultivate horticulture centre

View of the Cultivate horticulture centre

Croeso, Welcome to our community gardening blog


Green power, broccoli man!

Green power, broccoli man!

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

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

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

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


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

cultivate logo + web

International evening in Llanidloes food garden

Photo-0102Llanidloes Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorer Scouts enjoyed a sunny international evening in the community garden Llanidloes on Wednesday 14th May. The younger Beavers and Cubs made bugs from around the world whilst older children made bunting to represent different nations.

international evening

The older Scouts and explorers sawed and chopped wood and made a fire in the cob oven for cooking pizza’s and made a fire to sit around. Everyone enjoyed traditional Italian style pizza from the clay oven, about 40 in all.  Stacks of pancakes with sweet treat toppings were consumed and drinks from around the world were tasted, such as: laasi from India and Ice tea from the States.


fire-pit seating area

Llanidloes Scouts are  fundraising for a trip to the international scout camp in Kandesteg, Switzerland. The 9 participants will be part of a jamboree camp with over 1000 Scouts worldwide. While individuals are paying for their own transport, camp fees and food, they are fundraising to take part in extra events such as staying in alpine huts high in the mountains and glacier walking.

willow fenceThe Scouts from Llanidloes will be sharing Welsh culture by inviting other nations to supper to share food, songs and games as well as exchanging Welsh symbols such as daffodil badges, rugby motifs etc while at the jamboree. They will also be visiting other nationalities to learn about their cultures.