Llanidloes community food garden

What’s cooking in the new Llanidloes community food garden?

Garden clearing team, Llanidloes

Garden clearing team, Llanidloes

Wiith lots of help from local volunteers. In association with the Llanidloes Scout Explorer group the Get Growing project has just been awarded £1000 from the Russell commission youth led grants scheme. This will fund the construction of a sunken seating area and a clay pizza oven to be built during a series of volunteer days and workshops over the next 2 months.

A 2 day workshop will be held 24th & 25th February to construct the clay oven, followed by a pizza party in March once the clay has hardened. These workshops are open to all ages with a particular emphasis on teaching new skills to Llanidloes young people.

Building a cob oven, one we done  earlier

Building a cob oven, here’s one we did earlier

During November RWE Renewables donated time and money to build terrace beds which Llanidloes Level 2 gardening students have now planted with fruit trees awarded by Powys County Council Nectar Tree Scheme. These trees have been grown locally by Gareth Davies of Old Chapel Nursery and will be trained as espaliers so that they do not cast shade over the neighbouring houses.

Emma Maxwell, lead horticulture tutor at Get-Growing visiting the Wakelyns organic rwsearch farm

Emma Maxwell, lead horticulture tutor at Get-Growing & cultivate visiting the Wakelyns agro-forestry research farm

Emma Maxwell local horticulturalist and trainer will be delivering a fruit tree pruning course on the 15th Feb 2014 for anyone who has their own orchard or is interested in growing fruit trees. Regular volunteers Rhys Williams and Brian Marsh have been busy on Mondays planting a bed of strawberries that were donated by local residents along with fruit bushes and other perennial food plants.

Space is available for micro allotments so that local people can have a go at growing food crops and enjoy the harvest for themselves.  These small plots can be amazingly productive and allow you to Get Growing without it becoming a chore. Now is the time to get busy preparing gardens for the coming year by building structures, planting perennial plants and planning your summer vegetable growing.  On Monday 27th January we will be launching the micro allotments and anyone interested in Getting Growing should join us at 11 O’clock for enrollments and a cup of tea.

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

Weather you have never gardened before or you have lots of experience there lots of fun to be had and always more to learn. Get involved in community growing or enroll on a course or workshop with the Cwm Harry Cultivate team and Get Growing.

If you have any plants you wish to donate, you want to get involved in volunteer or have your own micro allotment, please contact Emma Maxwell for more information: emmam@cwmharry.org.uk.

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.


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

Sustainable agriculture.. a visit to the Wakelyns

Every facet of the modern industrial economy is predicated upon cheap energy. Not only that but an expanding supply of cheap energy, to enable economic growth. A key facet of the economic growth paradigm is that we free the workforce from the chore of food production by creating vast surpluses via industrial mono-cultural food production systems. Agri business. There is of course a fundamental flaw in this system.. or several in fact.. that the energy supply can endlessly grow is an obvious weak point in the plan, and the thought that by replacing the complexity of biology with the simplicity of monoculture that we could actually build something sustainable using these methods. Agribusiness burns 10 times more energy in the form of fossil fuel than what it produces in food and it does it at the expense of diversity which turns out to be the key mechanism by which nature and evolution flourishes.

The Wakelyns, is no ordinary farm, it is one where they have been exploring the alternatives to monoculture, and more importantly they have been producing the data to back up most of the key premises in permaculture design. That diversity gives resilience, that feedback and natural selection allow plant populations to evolve and respond to a changing environment. So it was tremendously exciting to be invited there to speak on  the subject of Permaculture, agriculture and energy to help set the context for the vital research and experimentation they are doing there.

Wakelyns is no ordinary farm, as you can see in the picture below the narrow strips of horticultural land is protected by strips of agroforestry, in this case 2 rows of hazel trees each side, forming a living barrier to wind and pests, also providing habitat for beneficial birds and insects and contributing significantly to building an ecosystem rather than a constantly degrading agricultural system.

Wakelyns field trip.. 20 years of agroforestry research underlines the importance of biodiversity for long term sustainable farming methods

Wakelyns field trip.. 20 years of agroforestry research underlines the importance of biodiversity for long term sustainable farming methods

The fields are all trials of different aspects of working with biodiversity.. exploring the relationship between crop yields, nature and wildlife, soil stability resistance to disease and much more. Apart from anything else their work challenges the idea of ‘produce’ – we only usually measure the yield of a farm in terms of how many KG per acre.. rather than in terms of what we have produce sustainably, or what is the yield in terms of how much wildlife have we also supported, or top soil accumulated, which in the longer term are of course much more telling measures.


I am particularly fascinated by the work being done by the Elm Farm Research trust at Wakelyns as they are generating the data, the statistics ad research work that provides the evidence to support the core of the permaculture design theory. Sharing a platform with Dr Wolfe speaking a few weeks ago was very interesting as our talks almost cross referenced each other.. i provided all the bigger picture examples that he had the data and research to support. It is this academic rigor that in many ways has been the missing ingredient in permaculture.. we havent had the time or resources to do the hard research.. not least because first you have to build the farm or project before you can collect the data. This is very fruitful ground to be exploring, and of course the other dynamic is that permaculture is catching up as finally the academic work is being done as the subject matures and reaches ever wider appeal and involvement.

Emma Maxwell, lead horticulture tutor at Get-Growing visiting the Wakelyns organic rwsearch farm

Emma Maxwell, lead horticulture tutor at Get-Growing visiting the Wakelyns organic rwsearch farm

Emma Maxwell, above is an experienced RHS grower who is currently doing her MsC in Organic Horticulture at Schumacher college. SHe is moving moving between a world of research and scientific papers whilst bringing a huge body of practical and observed first hand experiences to the academic world. The edge between bological and horticultural research and small holding and community growing and as well as urban and guerrilla permaculture is a very interesting and potentially fruitful one.

Martin Woolfe, outstanding in his field.

Martin Wolfe, outstanding in his field.

Potato intercrop at the Wakelyns

Potato intercrop at the Wakelyns

Potato trials


David, who has become a regular volunteer at the community garden with a sign for the compost area he has made for us

img_3762Suddenly the sun is shining, that bitter winter a distant memory and it is all go in the garden. We had a great team of volunteers this week for our regular Wednesday session at Pen Dinas and having spent the winter building the paths and raised beds we can finally turn our attention to planting the main crops.

We believe strongly that it is our role to try out different ideas and to test different varieties, growing strategies and methods as part of the garden’s contribution to local growing. Emma our lead horticulture trainer is also currently studying for her MSc so we are all encouraged to be more scientific in our approach to the work here.

Last week we firstly ploughed and then rotovated three areas of ground ready for planting our main crops in. We are very keen on zero tillage methods  but with a field of pasture full of couch grass to contend with we have to make a start somewhere  We hope that if we stay in control of the land and keep it covered when not in use that we wont have to plough it up again. We have also discovered in the process that much of our land has very thin soil with a very compact clay layer underneath it, so it is going to take some work, muck and compost to improve it and make it suitable for horticulture.

img_3750 So our approach here is informed by challenges, firstly shallow not that good soil, and secondly that the muck we are using is really fresh and would burn the potato shoots if we were to plant them in contact with the fresh cow manure. So we have dug a series of trenches, in which to put the muck, which we then covered with a thin layer of soil, before mounding them up into ridges.

A lot of work.. but it will be worth it in the longer run, as it will deepen and improve the soil a well as giving us a crop of spuds.

The potato trials using varieties such as Sarpo, newer varieties bread for blight resistance as well as resistance to weeds will form part of a much bigger series of test looking at the viability of certain new varieties. What we are testing here specifically is resistance to weeds.. and we are testing 5 varieties.. planted in a grid in a random patter, half of which will be weeded during the growing season and half not. This should give some clear results which can be fed back to the wider national survey.


Big pile of muck from the Coleg Powys farm

We used muck from the Coleg Powys stock farm.. who have an intensive unit raised beef cows indoors and feeding them on silage and grain. We have to say that we are not convinced by such methods that they are sustainable.. but it represents what is seen as the cutting edge of intensive meat production. This is an area we have not been involved in before.. with our main interest in horticulture or integrated systems like permaculture.

Anyway we are very happy to sue the muck that comes from it as it will be ideal for building our and its fertility.



Stopping for an choc ice break


It is fantastic when we get a whole team of people like this, hard at work on a big task together. We have 2 work experience students, a Wwoofer, some of our regular volunteers and staff.


A hand potato ridger tool and the finished beds


Beautiful blossom on the flowering currents


Raised bed with seat… designed by Coleg Powys students and made on a training day here at Pen Dinas



Regular community gardener Chris is testing to see if there is a discernible effect of reiki energy treatment on plants. ” beds have been planted up identically.. but only one is receiving special attention.

Organic growing course starts this Feb

The Newtown course will run at Pen Dinas, Coleg Powys, each Friday from 12.30 – 3.00 pm. Please contact Emma directly for details, or email via this website. This is an excellent course for all novice and intermediate growers, and runs during the growing season offering a mix of theoretical and practical knowledge to get you growing successfully and with confidence.
Organic growing course

New shoots

young asparagus plants

Young asparagus plants

We weeded the asparagus bed today and exanded the bed by transplanted some new seedlings that were sown in February.

The one pictured is a two year old plant, we still have to resist eating it for another year, to allow it to get fully established.

Meanwhile we are busy working on the trial beds we have set up over the last few weeks.