We are working with a group of water industry professionals, the city council’s allotment team and others on a dynamic project looking at water use across Bristol’s allotment community with a focus on Speedwell Allotments as that is where Cultivation Place is based.
Water is a precious resource and with hose pipe bans being implemented in the UK how long before watering allotments during the summer becomes prohibitive? As growers working with and supporting nature isn’t it up to us to reduce our mains use and look at cultural processes to hold water in the soil?
The aim of this project is two fold.
Aim one is to look at how much water we use and how much water we would need to save to never have to use mains water again which sounds like a big ask but we already know that in June we use approximately 1 Intermediate Bulk Container, or IBC’s worth which is 1000litres, and so assuming May, July and August need similar, that we are absolutely able to collect that water from sheds on site. However, we are also in talks with the Housing Association that runs the flats where the old Speedwell Baths are, to look at utilising water from their roof spaces which would enable far more water collection for the entire site, at no extra cost to plot holders.
Aim two is more about cultural processes within food growing and how they can support soil to collect and store more water that is available to plants. There are two reasons to look at this which are firstly that sustainable growing practices need to be quantified as water becomes a less abundant resource due to climate change. Also rain water is undoubtedly better for growing plants and saves on fertiliser use due to it’s chemical makeup and so it is always preferable to utilise what falls from the skies.
Of course it goes without saying that what we are really talking about is healthy soils, another important action to mitigate climate change.
Once we have the results we will, of course, let you know, but we’ll update here regularly.
During Food Justice Fortnight, run by our friends at Feeding Bristol, we held an evening of food and conversation based around soil, access to soil/land for growing and social justice.
At EdibleBristol we believe that everyone should have the right to grow some of their own food if they wish to, and we know also that those most at risk of food inequality are those who feel lest able to access that. Our conversation began with our founder, Sara, talking about horticulture and agriculture, and how access to land for anyone was a struggle despite land being all around us. Food justice comes from grassroots activism that begins on the land and we have seen over and again how communities in deep need will take what land they need to grow food when people are hungry. Cuba, Detroit, and others all grew themselves out of hunger using lost, unloved and unused land. Not asking for permission but asking for foregiveness if needed!
As a wealthy city Bristol’s food inequality figures are startling. 1 in 20 Bristolians are at risk every day and that become 1 in 7 in the disabled community. Whilst no one should be expected to become self sufficient overnight, local communities can support each other where land is available. And support both climate and biodiversity crises at the same time.
There were lots of thoughts, but the general take away points seemed to us to be……
Access to allotments isn’t accessible and we need more.
We need a pesticide free future for our city.
That there is a new policy/planning commitment that developments of over 60 homes should have allotment space allocated within them, and that perhaps this ought to look like community outdoor space rather than individual plots.
That sadly allotments rarely foster a sense of community although there are exceptions.
These are all things we will begin wider conversations around!
Chatting about food and soil
Food metres rather than miles-all from the garden at Cultivation Place
Flowers from the garden
And we’ll keep you informed here!! In the meantime some photos of the evening……
Never has it been more important to create an equitable food system where individuals and communities can take back control of the way they buy and eat food. Food growing skills are being lost, and despite being in a city that has more than 91 languages spoken with in it, and that is rich in food cultures access to education to learn land based skills is patchy and often expensive. Add to that an explosive housing market and more and more people finding themselves in unstable housing, many people come to the conclusion that food growing, gardening or even a career on the land, is just something that feels like a pipe dream, totally unrealistic and unaccessible.
But we want to show people that that is not the case-growing food and gardening is for everyone and to begin with we would like to address the issue of how to learn the skills needed when it feels that any learning opportunities are out of reach. To do this we are teaming up with Yeo Valley Organic who are supporting us to support more equitable learning opportunities by giving us the opportunity to offer free spaces on our How To Grow courses to people from BPOC backgrounds. Starting in mid July our courses will return to being in person at our Cultivation Place in Speedwell, as well as still being available online again from September.
The course, which we call How To Grow, offers 6 weeks of learning, both practical and theoretical, and each participant will learn what we like to think of as the building blocks of growing. We cover soil and soil health, seeds and seed sowing, propagation techniques, composting knowledge and how to work with wildlife to create a healthy ecosystem in your space, whatever that space might look like. Whether you have a balcony, a window box, a space for a few pots, or a tiny urban back garden, or even no space at all but are still interested in learning, this course is for you and what we hope will happen in the long run is that the mainstream gardening media will wake up and see that gardening isn’t all chocolate box and perfection, but sometimes is a fight for land and for somewhere to grow!
So if you have a BPOC heritage please do get in touch and let us know why you would like to take part. The first in person course begins on Saturday 17th July and all you need to do is commit to 6 Saturday sessions from 11 to 3. Interested? Send an email to email@example.com and we will get back to you to confirm your space!!
As we head into 2020 we thought it might be good to look back at our achievements in 2019 and look at plans coming in 2020. In many ways 2019 was a difficult year so before we go onto achievements we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone across the city who helped and supported us through last year.
Last year saw our work with Severnside Community Rail Partnership increase as we supported the creation of the Secret Garden at Avonmouth station, working with community payback groups and corporate volunteers. The garden, under the supervision of our facilitator Luke, has gone from strength to strength, and is supporting lunch clubs at Avonmouth Community Centre with vegetables. This year will see us continue to work with the local community to grow more food and the garden continue to support outdoor learning and experiences in the Avonmouth area.
The work across the Urban Food Trail continued and the gardens are now becoming well established. The trees in Millennium Square saw their first good crop of fruit and many of the perennial plants really began to crop well. As we move forwards the Millennium Square gardens will be seeing a redesign over the next months, but we will ensure they remain as productive as possible.
Work in the Bearpit was put on hold for most of last year as we felt it was an unsafe space for our volunteers but once Bristol City Council had cleaned the space and it became safer we spent a few work parties down there, beginning a big tidy up and bringing the garden back to where it ought to be. Again as we step into 2020 we will be continuing this work, bringing food and nature to the city centre and working to create an urban harvest that is available to the whole city.
Another project we were thrilled to be a part of was the city centre’s Business Improvement District’s Greener Bristol campaign, which saw 36 individual raised beds installed a cross the city, all growing fresh herbs, fruit, salads and vegetables for people to help themselves to. This has been a fantastically successful project and we look forward to working on the beds as the year continues. We will be adding both nature friendly plants that support pollinators in the city and more vegetables and edible flowers to the beds over the coming months and invite everyone to help themselves to the crops.
We also engaged with our first team of core volunteers who are all committed to joining us at least once per month and to whom we offer some more structured learning about all things food growing and Incredible. We will be taking in new core volunteers every six months or so, with the next team being advertised for later in January and it has been fantastic to meet and work with such a great bunch of people and support them to learn more.
Finally this year will be the year we open our Learning Zone at Speedwell Allotments, where we will offer courses and workshops as we were doing previously. We have achieved a massive amount of progress at the site, and will continue to do so in the first few months of 2020, and we are excited to officially open the site and begin to support more people to grow in spaces across the city, and grow well and successfully!!
So as we move into 2020, Happy New Year to you all and here’s to a great year of growing both food and community!!
In 2015 Bristol gained silver status as a Sustainable Food City, and decided recently to become one of the first 2 cities to try to achieve gold standard status. The work is focused on local procurement and food waste, but circling around those subjects are of course many others, and upscaling urban agriculture, supporting more community gardening and getting people growing in their own spaces, whether that’s a back garden, an allotment or an kitchen windowsill, they are a vital part of the city’s Going For Gold work. To get involved in this work take a look at the new Going For Gold website where you can log your actions and see how else you can get involved! https://www.goingforgoldbristol.co.uk.
As we are keen to support this amazing work, being coordinated by Bristol Food Network, we were thrilled a couple of weeks ago to get to spend a day with Going For Gold ambassador Miranda Kestovnikoff, TV presenter on many nature programmes and president of the RSPB. Not only is Miranda passionate about nature, but is also a keen food grower in her own garden, and is very interested in the work going on across the city from allotments to small scale producers and city farms, all of whom are work agro-ecologically to support both food growing and our precious natural environment.
We started the day at the Farm Cafe in St Werburghs where owner and chef Leona talked to us about the importance of uber local food to her and her clientele. She buys from Purple Patch, which is less than half a mile from the farm, as well as does interesting swapping with local allotment holders. We then went on to Propagation Place at St Werburghs Farm where plug plants of veg are grown for selling online and onsite, to people who are growing their own, but who struggle growing from seed, or choose not to. This a brilliant example of social enterprise supporting the local economy and supporting more people to grow their own, where ever they can.
After that we visited Purple Patch. Less than half a mile from the farm in St Werburghs, Purple Patch is a CSA that feeds 25 families across the city, and grows fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs on a tiny but super productive site. There is also a space for children and an amazing polytunnel that 10kg+ of salad per week is cropped from. Not only were the crops amazing but the way the land is managed supports a huge variety of wildlife and we stood at the pond watching dragon flies, listening to the gentle buzz of late flying bees and the incredible birdsong that surrounds the farm. It’s only when an intercity train flies across the viaduct that you remember you are in the centre of a large city! Miranda spotted various creatures as we were shown around by owner Mary, and we talked endlessly about how important this type of growing is for the city and all its populations.
After that we wandered along to the Bearpit. By now it as beginning to rain but still there are crops available, and plants flowering to ensure there is city centre forage for pollinators that are still flying. We talked about the space becoming a city centre space for food growing, for nature and for people, with Miranda being really interested in not just what we grow, but how we grow it and that it is a harvest available to everyone in the city. We talked about the change edible landscaping could bring to the city, and how it would support a nature rich city, and then it began to pour so we all went in our different directions, excited by the conversations and people we had met during the day.
Firstly we’d like to thank Miranda for being so interested in everything we do, and also for getting involved as an ambassador for real change. Thanks also to Bristol Food Network for organising the day and inviting us along. We would encourage everyone to get behind this incredible project, that is setting the bar for other cities across the UK, and is really pushing the boundaries on food procurement and food waste. Please take some time to get involved if you can!
We were thrilled last week that our exciting project, supported by the Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District, was launched as a part of the #GreenerBristol campaign. We have been planning and working on the raised beds for several months, working with a local carpenter and maker to design the beds especially for the city centre.
There are 35 beds in all, and the project will bring several things to the city centre. All of the plants in the beds are, of course, edible, and we will share lists of what is in each bed on a separate page along with instructions of how to harvest and when. Whilst none of the beds contain what we might see in allotments or market gardens, they are filled with plants we regularly use in our edible landscaping and are all fairly low maintenance, and so super useful for those wishing to grow some food but short on time.
The joy to us of this project, as well as the opportunities for collaboration it has brought us both with the Business Improvement District and the organisations who have supported us by offering some maintenance, is that it gives us the opportunity to bring seasonality to the city centre. Many of the plants, whilst being perennial and coming back year after year, are only harvestable for a short period whist they are fruiting, and equally for some once they have flowered it’s wise to stop harvesting, and leave them to concentrate on growing. This is why it’s so great to have the signs on the beds that we can change as the plants go from season to season. and let everyone know what’s ready and what isn’t.
It’s also fabulous that we can do projects like these as it means we can support local growers and nurseries. All the plants were grown in the Bristol area and bought through Riverside Garden Centre in Southville, another local collaborator and social enterprise.
Whilst the plants bed in and begin to grow please bear with us. It won’t be long until you can harvest a few berries, some herbs or some leaves to take home for your tea!!
Recently we worked with Bristol Waste on their Waste Nothing campaign, supporting the families taking part in the Waste Nothing campaign to learn some gardening and food growing skills. The aim of the campaign is to cut these families waste collections , not just of waste going to landfill but also cut down the amount going to recycling, especially of single use plastics. You can learn more about the campaign here.
The aim of our afternoon with the families was to introduce them to some growing techniques and talk about what sustainable gardening looks like. Most of the families have some experience of growing so we chatted about lots of things that we think might be interesting to everyone. We are super aware that whilst we all assume gardening is green, it really can be absolutely the opposite and we wanted to work through that with the families so they were confident moving forwards.
We began by talking about plastics and as we recently wrote a blog about this, we won’t repeat ourselves but we will just reiterate that Bristol Waste are not recycling any plant pots so the best thing to do is recycle them yourself by growing plants in them, or giving them away to community gardens, groups or schools where you know they will get used. Our blog about plastic use is here
We also spoke about compost. All the families have been given wormeries as part of the campaign but we would always suggest a compost heap of some type as wormeries will provide a very limited amount of compost. There are lots of compost bins available to buy, from the plastic dalek type to some very plush numbers that ensure your heap heats up fast, producing compost faster than a standard heap. You can also make your own with pallets and soon we will be, we hope, supporting better composting through workshops and a project we are working on with some UWE students who are looking at ways to heat your heap that are both sustainable and affordable. In the mean time we will shortly be putting together a blog on how to get the best from your heap as we believe it’s a vital part of creating a circular system in the garden. However, most people struggle to make enough compost and have to purchase some, whether it’s for seed sowing, containers or as a soil conditioner. We would urge everyone to ensure the compost they are using is peat free, and therefore not taking peat out of our precious peatfields that are the UK’s equivalent to rain forests in that they capture carbon and support rare and endangered flora and fauna. We use either SylvaGrow or Dalefoot Compost.
We are aware that some people are keen to garden in line with vegan principles and in that case there is a product called Fertile Fibre which is certified as a vegan product
Away from plastic we spoke about buying plants. Many large garden centre groups buy plants in from abroad, despite there being a healthy local supply of plants to access. When these plants come in there is no knowing what they might have been sprayed with, whether they could be harmful to bees and other pollinators or even if they will survive in our climate. Shortly we will put together a list of nurseries and local garden centres that we support at Incredible Edible Bristol. And then of course there is the subject of seeds. The global seed market is run by 3/4 enormous organisations, interested only in profit and selling their product. In the last few years there has been an emergence of local, UK based. open pollinated seed growers and we would always suggest you buy from them first and support an industry that is working on creating seed sovereignty for the UK. For more information about seeds and seed sovereignty take a look at the Gaia Foundation, who are leading the work being done.
Of course saving our own seeds is also a vital part of creating circular economies within our gardens, and is something we can all do. There is loads of info about seed saving at the Real Seeds website.
For Incredible Edible Bristol a sustainable future where we can all share the skills we need to learn more about growing food, creating habitats for nature and supporting the creation of more edible landscapes is key to what we do. If you’d like any help or support to create a garden in a lost or unloved space in your community, where we can support you to create a healthier community, just get in touch!!
Designed to help boost the local economy, GWR invited bids from its Customer and Communities Improvement Fund (CCIF) last Summer, and today we are one of Bristol area winners to have been revealed, including funding for a community food growing and learning space.
Welcoming the award Severnside Community Rail Partnership’s Heather Cullimore said:
“We are delighted to be a recipient of the GWR Customers and Communities Improvement Fund. The award enables the Severnside Community Rail Partnership to expand our successful partnership with Incredible Edible Bristol for the development of a new community food growing and learning space on a disused part of the platform at Avonmouth station.
“The garden will be tended by volunteers and produce shared with members of the community most in need via the North Bristol Foodbank and the Avonmouth lunch club. We aim to help build food security by creating a horticultural learning environment where the local community will be supported to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs and experience the associated benefits to their health and wellbeing.”
Bristol North West MP Darren Jones said:
“It’s great news that Avonmouth Station has been awarded funding to become a food growing and learning centre. It’s even better to hear that the produce grown will be shared with residents via the excellent community centre’s lunch club, homeless shelters and the local foodbank.
“These organisations work incredibly hard and their services are in great demand – anything that helps gets healthy food to vulnerable residents is to be welcomed. Well done to all involved.”
This project will enable young people, mums and toddlers and those at risk of isolation to get involved in a dynamic food growing and gardening project that will turn a lost and unloved space into a vibrant, productive and beautiful garden. We are thrilled to be able to continue our work in Avonmouth and with Severnside Community Rail Partnership with this garden!
As you will all know, we are a part of a large movement of Incredible Edible towns and cities that span not just the UK but also the globe. This movement was inspired but the work of Incredible Edible Todmorden and has been supported by the Incredible Edible Network, founded by Pam Warhurst, since around 2012. Our founder, Sara Venn, is also Vice Chair of the IENetwork and along with others involved has been working very hard to bring together a project called Roots and Branches that will see 6 Beacons across the UK help to support new groups to form and established groups to bloom.
Incredible Edible is not just about food growing or community gardens, but is about spinning the 3 Incredible Plates. Those plates, of community, business and learning mean that in every place across the UK the work is done differently whilst the ethos is the same. For some the business plate is about supporting local, for others it is about working with businesses around funding. For some learning is all about schools when for others it is about upskilling communities. It’s about finding the way to create your local solutions to global issues and bring your communities together. It’s a powerful tool!!
Recently the National Lottery agreed to fund this work, and we were all excited to announce this project yesterday.
So what can you expect? Well, business will be as normal but we will be in a position to support more growing in public spaces both in and around the city of Bristol but also further afield in the south west area. Sara and the other Beacon leads from across the UK will be ensuring that there is available information on a new Incredible Edible Network website for new and interested groups to be able to access for information about how to get involved with Incredible Edible where ever you are in the country, and more importantly share the mistakes they all made to ensure new groups have a smoother ride!!
The Incredible Edible Network has received £400,000 for this work, of which about £12,000 will be available to Incredible Edible Bristol over 2 years, and with which we will be supporting new groups and individuals to learn more about becoming Incredible Edible and about growing in general. If you would like any further info please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!
Plants are always one of our biggest challenges and we are very fortunate to have some local nurseries and garden centres who regularly donate to us, either stock they can no longer use or plants that we have cheekily asked for. However, gardens such as the Bearpit and the Quakers Burial Ground, our Edible Park, are large and often what appears to be a large number of plants actually really don’t go very far.
The other challenge with the Quakers Burial Ground is it’s shade. A magnificent plane stands in it’s midst which throws shade across most of the garden and although that is of course welcome on a hot day, it’s a challenge to find plants that will be happy to live under and around it.
So imagine our absolute joy when we were offered an entire show garden of plants from RHS Tatton, by garden designer and friend of Incredible Edible Bristol, Giulio Passarelli. I met Giulio in Sheffield on my trip to meet Ron Finley in 2014 and we have remained in touch and when he found out that he had been given the opportunity of making a show garden this year, Giulio was determined that we have the plants.
Now some people have assumed that what this means is that we will be recreating the garden, but that could not be further from the truth. there will be no putting down of an unwanted, and unconsulted about garden in a space where it is assumed local volunteers will look after it. That has been done far too many times and sadly often ends up with a sad looking garden in an even sadder looking space. What we will be receiving is the plants to do with as we will. To spread out amongst our gardens and to make change in the spaces that we are already working in.
The plants are not edible so will not be appropriate for many of our gardens but for spaces such as the Quakers Burial Ground and The Bearpit Garden, where beauty jostles with productivity , they will add an extra dimension to what we already do. And they will continue to help us not just to create beautiful and productive gardens in lost and unloved spaces, but they will support us to continue to challenge and question the ways in which public space is used in our cities.