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Courgette pasta at Aberdeen Park

Courgette pasta at Aberdeen Park

By Master Gardener Dorothy

Aberdeen Park is an 11-bed rehabilitation unit, part of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation in North London. It offers support with independent living for people with high needs and intensive recovery and rehabilitation for people who have been in acute services.

The unit is housed in a beautiful Victorian house in a leafy residential area. It has a large garden, much of which is shaded by big trees and privet hedges.

 

Gardening sessions were initiated by Anna, the occupational therapist. Sessions were attended by Master Gardeners Anita and Dorothy, Anna, one or two students or staff members and up to four residents, one of whom moved out to a less supported placement but continued to come back for some outreach sessions and two who came from another mental health ward for the sessions and subsequently moved to Aberdeen Park. (No names have been used for reasons of confidentiality).

At our first session we talked about the importance of sunlight for growing fruit and vegetables. We decided that in summer the lawn in front of the railings beneath the kitchen and sitting room windows would get the most sun.

As the ground was sloping with a steep drop to the basement beneath, it was decided that vegetables should be planted in pots, rather than trying to dig a bed there. We have since built a raised bed at our Master Gardeners Up-cycling Training Day which will be used, and we hope, added to in the future.

The raised bed buit by Dorothy and Anita

In our sessions we planted into larger pots thriving courgette plants that had previously been grown from seed, and thinned out basil plants. We drank elderflower cordial and talked about how it is made from the blossoms on the elder bush behind the house.

We planted a great variety of seeds, including rocket, carrots, spring onions and some tomato seedlings, as well as wallflowers and hollyhocks, labelling them and watering them carefully.

The residents watered and fed them, first with Tomorite and then with very smelly home made comfrey tea. We talked about pests – and discussed organic ways of dealing with slugs and snails. Residents learned how to pinch out, stake and tie in tomato plants.

When the courgettes were ripe they were harvested by residents and used in a courgette and butterfly pasta (recipe below) which we were told was very popular with staff and residents.

 On a rainy day we stayed indoors and discussed future plans. Two residents were very keen to plant flowers and talked about the flowers they remembered their parents growing. We took in seed heads – nigella, aquilegia, poppy, calendula and delphinium and talked about how plants propagate, then removed the seeds and sowed them on a bare patch of lawn.

The garden is lacking in wildlife, as apart from a newly planted bed at the front there are no flowering or fruiting shrubs. We talked about the importance of pollinators and took cuttings of lavender, rosemary and erysimum, which can be planted around the garden when they are larger to encourage bees and butterflies and other pollinators.

Anna has been very supportive and enthusiastic, and good at encouraging residents to attend. They are very keen to continue our gardening sessions after she leaves. They are not put off by the onset of winter. “I’ll just put on a jumper,” said one.

Recipe for Courgette Pasta

INGREDIENTS

Butterfly pasta, medium-sized courgettes, 2tbsp olive oil,  2 cloves garlic, crushed, pinch of chilli flakes, freshly grated Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

Cut the courgette into quarters lengthwise and then chop into smallish pieces. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the courgettes, garlic and chilli. Stir over the heat until soft and beginning to caramelise slightly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and return it to the pan. Add the courgette and Parmesan. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the timing instructions on the packet, or until al dente

Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and extra grated parmesan.

I haven’t put specific amounts but I’d allow at least one courgette and 100 grams of pasta per person – more if they are hungry. Bon appetite.

Master Gardeners are food-growing champions who share their knowledge with others to help them start to grow their own food.

They work across the boroughs of Camden and Islington, giving around 30 hours of their time a year. They are supported with training from national charity Garden Organic. Does this sound like you? Contact Liza if you would like to know more.

Master Gardeners can support vulnerable people to start growing their own food at home or in community gardens. Contact Liza for more details.

Read more Case Studies from Master Gardeners here

 

Aberdeen Park, Islington

Aberdeen Park, Islington

Aberdeen Park, Islington

 

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Barbecue at Conway House

Barbecue at Conway House

Sapphire Housing (Conway House) organised a summer barbecue in May to celebrate the work of volunteers at the hostel including Master Gardeners.

Co-ordinator Liza attended and met staff and residents in the sunny gardens at the back of the building.

Master Gardener Helene has worked with hostel residents to create a productive garden with a mix of vegetables, strawberries, herbs and flowers. The celebration barbecue saw hostel residents, local people, stakeholders and staff enjoy each other’s company – and the beautiful garden.

The food included potatoes and salad grown by the residents.

Conway House is a modern 60 bed hostel providing en-suite accommodation for males with a range of support needs. The Conway House development also includes a Training Resource Centre which includes courses on IT and basic literacy skills as well  as a range of activities including  art classes, yoga, acupuncture and cooking. Referrals to Conway House are accepted from designated agencies in the Camden Hostels Pathway.

 

 

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Growing space now ready for planting at Haverstock Hill Gardening Group!

Growing space now ready for planting at Haverstock Hill Gardening Group!

Tasha Eve a Master Gardener at Haverstock Hill, a St Mungos Broadway Sheltered Housing project shares the latest progress of the gardening group. These activities form part of the Growing for Health programme

”Fellow Master Gardner Les Coupland and I first got involved with the gardening project at Haverstock Hill in August 2014. We started with a blank canvas. An overgrown, shady and secluded garden, attached to the residents house.  Our goal was to set up a gardening group for the residents helping them to learn to grow their own vegetables which ultimately would be prepared in the kitchen and served at meal times.

Together with some of the residents and Olu, the Project Worker we created a plan for developing the garden over the months that followed. Three residents initially started regularly attending our weekly gardening sessions, and we planted lettuce seeds, broad beans and herbs. As they started growing we then re-potted the seedlings and cleared the flower beds ready for planting. The group also collected leaves for composting and put up two small greenhouses for propagation.

180 Haverstock Hill, St Mungos Broadway Gardening Group

In the early months of this year (2015) some of the residents were reluctant to attend the gardening sessions due to the cold weather, but now that Spring has arrived, more residents have been taking an interest and getting inspired. It also really helps when staff at the house remind residents to come!

We’ve even been getting more frequent visits to the garden by members of staff themselves, who wander in and stop for a chat to see what’s going on. Some even stay a while and help get stuck in to digging or else just observe the goings on with cuppa tea in hand.

Over the past few months we’ve been working on widening and reinforcing the beds we cleared earlier in the year as well as putting out garden waste.  The broad beans are now starting to grow up the twig lattice we put up against the fence and there is more light at the back of the garden now that we have pruned some of the tree branches. We also have a new compost bin.

The kale, lettuce and French bean seedlings in the greenhouses are nearly ready to plant out and one resident has been helping to ‘pot on’ the leeks that are growing prolifically. We’ve been discussing with residents what else they would like to grow and eat.   Some of residents have asked about planting tomatoes and potatoes in the next few weeks. The growing space is now looking great and our planting plan is really coming together!”

 ”We’re very encouraged to see increasing interest in the gardening group as each week passes and there’s a nice atmosphere now with staff and residents seeming to enjoy themselves. We’re feeling really positive about how it’s all going.Tasha Eve, Master Gardener

 More Background

Haverstock Hill is a sheltered housing run by St Mungos Broadway, for people with mental health problems who want to live in a communal setting, whilst maintaining and working towards increasing independence. Residents must be self-medicating and have a local connection to the borough of Camden.

 The Growing for Health programme is an initiative in the boroughs of Camden and Islington to encourage more residents to get involved in learning to grow their own food. The initiative is primarily targeting individuals who are socially isolated, have mental health conditions or long term health conditions who would benefit from more physical activity, social engagement in their communities and a healthier diet through easier access to local food. Read more about the Growing for Health programme Here

180 Haverstock Hill, St Mungos Broadway Gardening Group

180 Haverstock Hill, St Mungos Broadway Gardening Group

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Looking forward to harvest time at The Conway House Gardening Group

Looking forward to harvest time at The Conway House Gardening Group

Gosia Glinska, Work and Learning Mentor at Conway House, a  Sheltered Housing scheme run by Saphire Independent Housing shares the latest progress of their gardening group and the welcome involvement of Master Gardener Helene Guild.

”Up until September 2014 the garden of our hostel was underused and crying out for attention,  so I spoke to some of the residents about the idea of developing the garden into a more attractive and inspiring space. I was delighted when a few people  expressed an interest in getting involved in a gardening activity even though some had never been involved in any form of gardening before.

I had been recommended to get in touch with The North London Master Gardeners Programme and spoke to Nynke Brett the Programme Co-ordinator to explain our intention to set up a regular gardening group.

I then organised a planning meeting with residents to provide an opportunity for them to express their wishes for the use of the garden space.  Many ideas emerged including growing vegetables that could be used in the cooking classes at Conway House. It was the first time the group were going to have the opportunity to gain ‘hands on’ food growing experience. We were quite excited!

Conway House Gardening Group

In September 2014 volunteer Master Gardener Helene Guild joined the gardening group and set about preparing the garden for growing. Ever since then, Helene has been leading weekly sessions with residents who meet for a few hours each time. 

Residents have learned how to recycle garden waste by using a compost bin and how to build a mini greenhouse from discarded materials like off cut wood.  A  number of sturdy planters with wheels were built and in them we planted garlic, onion and shallots. We also learned woodwork skills and watched some ‘How To’ videos on growing potatoes and sweet peas.

In March 2015 a cooking session was held using pea shoots and fava beans grown by The Conway House Gardening Group. We felt so proud! And during the Easter week we planted potatoes as well as some Wild Flowers donated by the project ‘Grow Wild.’

 

Conway House Gardening Group

Part of my job is to go round knocking on bedroom doors each week to remind the residents to attend the sessions, but I know they enjoy it as feedback has been hugely positive. 

Some residents now use the garden every single day to check up and water the plants and vegetables. They have told us that being involved in the gardening group has helped improve their confidence and self-esteem, They enjoy the physical activity and taking responsibility for essential gardening tasks like watering and weeding.

The amount of food growing has definitely increased since Helene started, in fact no food was grown here before.

Quotes from residents:

I now eat more fruit. Before I never eat fruit;

My physical activity levels have definitely gone up since joining the gardening group. I now love going to the park and jog down there to use the outdoor fitness machines;

As a group the gardening has made us closer. We’ve become friends, it brings us together, and we are no longer like passing strangers;

It takes my mind off my own thoughts, as I don’t want to think about my past, I was on the streets, since then its helped me ‘think less’ and not worry;

I feel more confident, I wouldn’t have come down from my room if it wasn’t for the garden;

It’s relaxing, takes your mind off the madness of my past life of drink and drugs;

Best thing about the garden project is being outdoors and having fun!

The staff at Conway House would like to thank Master Gardener Helene for her hard-work; dedication and enthusiasm in helping us transform and develop our garden this year. She’s so knowledgable. Before she arrived the garden was a mess with long grass and weeds. It’s now un-recognisable and looks 100% better. We can’t wait to harvest our crops this summer! 

We hope to keep the gardening group going for a long time to come and I have registered on the Project Dirt website to keep in touch about relevant funding opportunities being advertised. We also hope to apply for an allotment from Camden Council. 

A big thank you to Public Health Camden & Islington and The Master Gardener Programme as none of this would have been possible without their funding and help,”

More Background.

Conway House is a modern 60 bed hostel providing en-suite accommodation for males with a range of support needs. The Conway House development also includes a Training Resource Centre which includes courses on IT and basic literacy skills as well  as a range of activities including  art classes, yoga, acupuncture and cooking. Referrals to Conway House are accepted from designated agencies in the Camden Hostels Pathway.

The Growing for Health programme is an initiative in the boroughs of Camden and Islington to encourage more residents to get involved in learning to grow their own food. The initiative is primarily targeting individuals who are socially isolated, have mental health conditions or long term health conditions who would benefit from more physical activity, social engagement in their communities and a healthier diet through easier access to local food. Read more about the Growing for Health programme Here

Conway House Gardening Group

Conway House Gardening Group

Conway House Gardening Group

Conway House Gardening Group

Conway House Gardening Group

Conway House Gardening Group

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The Abbey Gardeners receive a little help from Master Gardeners Maria Elena and Enza

The Abbey Gardeners receive a little help from Master Gardeners Maria Elena and Enza

Laura Wigzell, Over 50s Coordinator at the Abbey Community Centre shares the latest progress with the enthusiastic Abbey Gardeners. These activities form part of the Growing for Health programme.

”With the help of the Master Gardener programme, the Abbey Community Garden in Kilburn is now blooming marvellous!

In January 2014 we started using the Garden Room at our community centre for more activities for the over 50s. Despite having a big green space attached to it, this part of the centre was underused and very overgrown.

So in Spring 2014 a group of enthusiastic green-fingered older volunteers came together and cleared the community garden with a vision that it could be a beautiful retreat. But we needed a bit of extra help to learn how to make it a real community growing space and how to keep things growing every month. This is where the Master Gardeners came in. We had heard that they might be able to help us with local advice and support on growing vegetables and we jumped at the chance.

Abbey Community Centre

Master Gardeners Maria Elena and Enza have been fabulous. They have worked with our members every Friday morning, showing us how to do everything from planting edibles to teaching us about garden maintenance and how to water properly.

As most of our members are older, the support and enthusiasm they have shared has been invaluable, especially giving us ideas for and structure to our weekly gardening sessions.

The garden is now a place of real spirit. Every week all through summer people poured out into the garden to get involved. Men from the centre got involved to build vegetable planters and steps up to our raised beds from upcycled pallets and scrap wood. We’ve had plants, seeds, cuttings, tools, pots and soil all donated. The herbs and vegetables grown there regularly get used in our cooking and lunch clubs.

Every week is different and the community has really come together to make the garden into a place we are now all really proud of. Even as we come up to winter it is still being used for activities as varied as pumpkin carving and wreath making. And beetroot, kale and cabbage are still growing strong.

We are already excited about planning for spring and daffodil bulbs are already lying in wait to burst forth! In December we held a coffee morning in the garden with a slide show to celebrate just how much the garden has changed with the help of many hands including our wonderful Master Gardeners. Next year we plan do get a greenhouse so we can plant seedlings.

Exciting times.”

Read more about the Growing for Health programme Here

Abbey Community Centre

Abbey Community Centre

Abbey Community Centre

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MG Giles makes an impression at SHP Ashley Road Gardening Club

MG Giles makes an impression at SHP Ashley Road Gardening Club

In this blog Zoe Baxter, Project Worker at Ashley Road Sheltered Housing (Single Homeless Project (SHP) shares progress of their gardening group and the welcome involvement of Master Gardener Giles Green.  These activities form part of the Growing for Health programme.

Master Gardener Giles started volunteering at SHP at 30 Ashley Road in August last year (2014). Together with some of the residents and Zoe, the Project Worker they created a comprehensive plan for developing the garden over the months that followed. The garden had been left untouched for several years so everyone knew they had their work cut out for them. The first plan of action involved using the strimmer on the grass at the rear of the house which was up to waist height, before moving on to clearing the narrow hedgerow which was mostly a thicket of unsightly weeds and brambles.

In October, SHP organised a team of 15 corporate volunteers from PwC (see pic below) to help residents transform the garden and help give it a kick-start. In order to expand its growing potential residents decided to increase the number of raised beds for planting. Under the watchful eye of MG Giles the volunteers were supervised in constructing two extra planting beds from timber. Another group were allocated the task of transferring the original planting beds from the gardens next door at number 26 which already contained chard, mizuna lettuce, rosemary, thyme, lavender, strawberries and chives.

SHP Ashley Road

Two regular residents Glorianna and Juris from SHP’s Islington Aftercare service continue to be the most passionate and committed to the gardening group, and have regularly attended the Thursday sessions with Giles, proving to be invaluable to its success. In addition several new volunteers with experience of gardening at another SHP hostel have since offered to help out at Ashley Road.

Future garden plans drawn up by Giles and the residents include creating a compost area towards the back of the garden at nearby 26 Ashley Road, prepare two wormeries, create an insect hotel, build wooden growing tables for our poly-tunnel and cover the area around our planting beds with wood chip to make it look more presentable, whilst at the same time also working as a snail and slug deterrent. As there are already two plum trees growing along the wall at the rear of number 30, this area has been chosen as a designated fruit growing area whereby we plan on growing apple and pear trees in the New Year.

The staff at SHP/Ashley Road would like to thank Giles for his hard-work; dedication and enthusiasm in helping us transform and develop our gardens this year. We would also like to welcome Master Gardener Ann Matchette to the Ashley Road garden project who is the newest member from Garden Organic to join our garden team. We cannot wait to avail of their joint knowledge of organic gardening methods and techniques over the coming months!

Read more about the Growing for Health programme Here

SHP Ashley Road

SHP Ashley Road

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Herbal alchemy at Elm Village – a case study of MG Elsa and the Urban Growth Project

Herbal alchemy at Elm Village – a case study of MG Elsa and the Urban Growth Project

Case Study by MG Elsa Dicks

Urban Growth in Camden is a project of London charity Jobs in Mind, run in collaboration with Islington and Camden Master Gardeners as part of the Growing for Health Programme.

It aims to support people in recovery from mental illness, and help them develop their prospects of worthwhile employment through productive and enjoyable work growing vegetables and fruit. Project members appreciate the social contact and networks, regular routines and horticultural skills they gain through the work and the opportunity to ‘give something back’ by growing food for others to enjoy, e.g beans, chard, kale, tomatoes and potatoes for the community veg box scheme in Kentish Town.

Urban Growth has 2 sites, one at St Michael’s Church, at the back of the building and the other , about 15 minutes’ walk away , overhung by trees, and with no running water, next to the garden centre in Elm Village. It is rather open and so subject to theft e.g of beetroot and sweetcorn crops and vandalism.  Despite the problems of the sites, both are  attractive,very well laid out and the crops, in recovery after the dry summer, are flourishing.

Members attend from 10.00-4.00pm for between 1-4 days, as they are able, starting the day at St Michaels with a planning meeting with their co-ordinator Ian. Ian is a highly qualified agronomist. He has a great deal of technical knowledge to offer about soils, plants,pests and growing methods and is responsible for the design and management of the sites and the planning, incorporating members’ ideas. He provides  motivation and encouragement, high quality training, and opportunities, like the recent  Michaelmas Fair at the church, for involving and demonstrating the skills of the group and the quality of their produce.

Members had expressed interest in the use of herbs and herbal medicine, one of my main reasons for gardening. My contribution to date has centred on sharing information on the cultivation and use of beneficial herbs, both cultivated and wild, and on developing the raised bed that Ian had provided for this purpose at Elm Village. I began by looking round the site to identify the 20 or so herbs -and weeds- with beneficial properties, which were already there and to list them for group members’ use. I also noted that mowings of the grass between raised beds had removed some weeds, like plantain and yarrow, which I would like to re-establish, as they are particularly useful for common complaints.

Urban Growth project

Ian gave me time to run an informal workshop on herbs one morning with the Wednesday group which I attend fortnightly for 2 hours. On several occasions I took along teas made from herbs which I had grin and dried myself for members of the group to taste and experience e.g angelica , borage, lemon balm and nettle, and an onion cough syrup.

Several members said how surprised they were that ‘the teas tasted so nice’ and that ‘it would be much cheaper to grow your own remedies , rather than buy them at the chemist.’ I also took along some liquorice root which is said to help quit smoking, which they found less palatable!

We have discussed the herbs and the benefits which group members already knew, the importance of accurate plant identification, and of consultation with GPs , as well as the results that they might expect from other herbal products, and the potential of the new herb bed. I was impressed with individuals’ interest, wisdom and general knowledge, especially of culinary herbs and their wish to know more. And I was delighted to hear one member say, on behalf of the group, that they ‘always look forward’ to my visits

Urban Growth project

I had started working with the project in high summer when watering was a problem and some of the plantings, including herbs, at Elm Village were dying back, needing a lot of attention from the group. Nevertheless members worked very hard to revive existing plants, transplant a selection of herbs and weeds to the new bed and choose some new ones. I have also worked with the group on taking cuttings of herbs to grow on. The herb bed is work in progress and will need to be reviewed in the Spring. Meanwhile I would like to offer another workshop on homemade herbal lotions, ointments and creams.

Since the first workshop I have been with 3 individual group members on errands between the sites and visits to the garden centre to choose new herbal plants and seeds and also shared in their preparations for the Michaelmas Fair at the church. Conversations along the way have been an easy way to get to know individuals and have helped me to understand some of the mental health issues they face, especially anxiety and stress, as well as other personal or social problems and daily ups and downs, which mean they cannot always attend . They clearly do enjoy the physical activity and routines of the work, are keen to learn more and always take pride in their produce. So I have seen for myself how people with quite severe health problems can flourish when they are outdoors and gardening.

I really enjoy working with Urban Growth and have come to feel very much a part of the group.

Elsa Dicks, Master Gardener

Read more about the Growing for Health Programme Here

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The Tile House Sessions

The Tile House Sessions

The Tile House food growing sessions began with residents in May 2014 as part of the Growing for Health programme.

The sessions were delivered by one of the project partners Global Generation under the expert supervision of community engagement officer Ciara.

Tile House is a sheltered accommodation nestled in the residential area of the Kings Cross redevelopment site. The residents have all worked their way through the mental-health system, and for many, it feels like the final step towards independent living. Approaching the end of their two year tenancy the residents are assessed in their ability to self-medicate, cook for themselves and engage in their local community.

Food Growing sessions began regularly taking place on Tuesdays and were designed to help residents find a sense of ownership over communal green spaces. For most, a life of constant movement now placed them in an area of constant change (Kings Cross currently being the largest redevelopment site in Europe) and the project was keen to help establish connections with the community here and the wider natural environment.

Tile House sessions

Global Generation was granted permission by the developer Argent to construct three vegetable patches on the site which were put up with help from Simon (a handy carpenter).

Eddie and Martin are both residents at Tile House, and have been regular attendees of the weekly workshops. Joy – an occupational therapist who works closely with residents and runs weekly cooking workshops – was keen to develop a herb-garden that the residents could care for. So this is where the rpoject begun!

Master Gardener Phil Guest has been involved in sharing his advice and expertise to help the project.

Eddie is a charming and vocal character who very early on admitted it was difficult for him to get out of bed to attend the workshops. But every week (after a quick wake- up call) there he was! Always happy for the opportunity to get outside and do something to occupy his mind – he needed encouragement without feeling like he was being coerced! Some weeks he struggled more with his depression than others but would always come outside to sit with us. It was Eddie who sowed the courgette seeds that almost out-grew their planter and it was Eddie who harvested, chopped and ate them during one of the cooking workshops. Despite serious mental and physical health issues he showed a real dedication to attend each workshop.

Martin has always been a more reluctant gardener! Like Eddie, Martin enjoyed having activities that led him outdoors. More reserved than many of the other residents – but with a great sense of humour – Martin would often remind others that he doesn’t really like gardening. Whether it was the gardening or the company that he came for he was usually the first resident down to the lounge. In the weeks of waiting for the first crops to start bearing fruit he’d often go to The Skip Garden and paint. – whether it was signs, blackboards, or the skips themselves it was here that Martin seemed happiest! It was Martin who kept everything watered during the hottest weeks of this summer and it was he who cooked-up our first courgette crop!

The Tile House Gardening sessions have concluded for this year but will commence again next Spring 2015.

Read more about the Growing for Health programme Here

Tile House sessions

Tile House sessions

Tile House sessions

Tile House sessions

Tile House sessions

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MG Brittney joins the ‘Growbags to Gourmets’ cookery course at St Lukes

In this blog, MG Brittney shares her experiences of volunteering at St Lukes Community Centre, as part of the cookery series ‘Grow Bags to Gourmets’

 

 

”In each of the cookery classes there are about 8-10 people all over the age of 60 that attend this monthly workshop. They have various mobility issues and live within the St. Lukes Islington area. Some of the participants have told me about small garden plots that they have, or have had in the past and the various foods and herbs that they grow there. Each week there are some members that return and a few new faces as well. It is obvious that this group is a real treat for the members and that it is something they look forward to.

Each class is structured around a particular fruit or vegetable and the recipes selected by Heather, (the Coordinator at St Lukes) are all based on one ingredient. For example one week we made various jams (black current, plum, strawberry etc) from the berries that the group had picked from the garden earlier in the week. The last workshop was around herbs and we made various pestos using basil, parsley, pine nuts etc. We also made a creamy parsley sauce using some of the parsley that had been grown at St. Lukes and a salsa verde with anchovies, green onions, parsley,and a chill pepper. Finally we used some lavender that had been harvested from the garden and made a lovely lavender shortbread.

Growbags to Gourmets cookery class

After cooking, we sit down for a little lunch and to talk about what we have made. Here the group is able to ask questions, comment on their favourite recipes, share food growing advice and discuss how the class went. From my observations this group is composed of very enthusiastic people who are not only interested in expanding their culinary skills, but to socialize with like minded people around growing food. Their levels of experience vary and it is very encouraging to see those with a definite passion for their crops of tomatoes, lavender or mint influencing the others.

For my part as a Master Gardener I have been exploring conversations with some members on the ways in which they could grow the various fresh ingredients at home. From a strawberry plant in their back yard, to a box of fresh herbs on their window ledge, we have discussed how to make growing work for them. I have also discussed the importance of eating seasonally and how this can be partially accomplished by home growing.”

Growbags to Gournets is part of the Growing for Health programme funded by Islington and Camden Public Health.

Growbags to Gourmets cookery class

Growbags to Gourmets cookery class

Growbags to Gourmets cookery class

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MG Phil and the Towers Gardening Group

MG Phil and the Towers Gardening Group

Phil Guest has been a Master Gardener since 2013 and willingly agreed to continue to support the new Growing for Health programme in 2014.

A retired professional gardener, Phil is known by just about everybody on his Estate. He’s the sort of person who’s always willing to help, whatever the issue.  In 2011 the Circle 33 Housing Estate where he lives in Camden received Lottery funding to set up the ‘Towers Gardening Group’.

Towers Gardening Group

The project started with the provision of 18 half ton builders bags filled with compost (one for each household on the estate who wanted to participate) as well as composting facilities, a water tower, a seating area and a supply of fruit bushes. Six households took advantage of the scheme in the first few months, with any excess compost bags being used communally.

By 2012 the initial interest had declined however, with only two households still involved. So, in Spring 2013 Phil sprung into action to get things going again. Phil, together with a gardener from Groundwork set about re-launching some enthusiasm into the group and led a series of practical gardening sessions attended by five new interested households.

Towers Gardening Group

Seeds were sown in the bags of compost and some encouraging results kept people motivated. The resident growers took advantage of Phil’s support and gardening expertise to learn how to grow and eat a wide variety of vegetables, and in no time the group was harvesting peas, french beans, courgettes, potatoes, carrots and onions.

Later that summer a surprise visit by judges from Circle 33’s gardening competition resulted in the group being awarded 2nd place in the best vegetable garden category and 3rd place in the community garden category. The judges were particularly impressed with the fruit growing patch at the rear of the children’s play area where the children pick and eat the fruit as it ripens.

During the winter that followed several new households expressed an interest in being involved the following Spring. Circle 33’s community officer now hopes to use the project as a showcase to expand activities to other estates with Master Gardener support.

In 2014 the group now has a strong following of six new households, and is once again being entered into the gardening competition.

In recognition of the time Phil spends helping others on the estate, Phil was awarded the ‘best tenant of the year Award’ by Circle 33 Housing Trust in 2013.

When asked what he’s most proud of having achieved? Phil replies;

‘’The children now respect the project, they no longer damage the plants when they’re playing, in fact they all want a go at using the hose-pipe to help with watering. It’s been such a significant improvement.”

‘’‘’I want to re-create the world which I grew up in, where community means something.’’

Phil Guest, Master Gardener

 

 

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