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Edible Landscapes London Ltd

Community plant nursery and training centre. We propagate, care for and teach people about low maintenance, edible plants. Plants are sold or given to community food growing projects. As part of lottery grant, set to start running accredited training in 2013. We are part of Manor House PACT.

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Mahmud grafting
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About this project

Date started:
April 2010
Status:
Active
Number of people involved:
6 - 10
Number of people benefitting:
100 - 500
Goals or benefits:
Building community resilience and wellbeing
Related Transition stage:
Connecting

Description

Aims:

There is a need for locally produced plants that can be used in nearby growing projects and for locally trained people to produce and maintain the supply. Currently such trees and plants are produced in commercial nurseries based outside London failing to benefit the local economy, the local skill base and the environment as a whole. As a piece of land that has existing growing facilities, the site in Finsbury Park is ideally placed to become a treasured local growing hub. We aim to:

  • to increase availability of LOCAL FOOD by producing edible plants
  • to create a WELCOMING SPACE and 'growing hub' for local mental health service users and those interested in gardening, in order to strengthen the local community
  • to build up our local skill base – particularly in relation to PERENNIAL GARDENING

Inspiration:

initially the desire to get plants for the growing projects in Transition Finsbury Park - it was originally just going to be trees. Then Gemma Harris converted us all to the wonders of perennial plants and we became aware of Martin Crawford's work - it was only a matter of time before we wanted to copy his work, here in London.

Outcomes so far:

Lots of plants already out in community food growing projects - good database of plants on site and where they've ended up (first link on this page http://transitionfinsburypark.org.uk/NurseryResources - see 'WorldDominationYet?' tab) - have run lots of training days in tree grafting, hardwood cuttings, taxonomy, identifying and eating plants. Ever changing but solid core of volunteers. Volunteers / Members clarity of roles. Good volunteer procedure. Good press coverage. Rainwater harvesting structure built, low tech compost loo, seasonal timetable of horticulutural jobs, obvious increase in skills, knowledge and confidence shown by all volunteers.

Unexpected outcomes:

Project goals have evolved away form growing native/heritage varities. so we recently changed our Articles of Association to reflect this.

Obstacles, and how we overcame them:

November 2012, the landlord, Metropolitan Housing, told us to limit our size to 80 sq m, which is the figure on our memo of understanding - turned out to be a huge underestimate. Hadn't been a problem for 2 years, never been properly measured, then they suddenly held us to it. Means we'll have to almost halve the land we're using and undo work we've done, e.g. take down rainwater harvester, compost box and one of our raised beds. Have run a campaign highlighting this - big plant give away for local projects. So far given over 160 plants to 15 projects. Low level press coverage. Trying to have higher level talks with Metropolitan about long term vision of site.

Issues / new aggressive stance from Metropolitan could have been triggered by any of the following: we are currently negotiating using more land for the lottery project which we need for our planned "Creating a Forest Garden" - perhaps they feel they'll get a better deal by restricting our current use; we have articulated our interest in running the site when the lease with Haringey Council comes up for renewal in 2014 and have written a visioning document inviting their participation; one of our volunteers complained (as a individual, not as a member of ELL) about the illegal bonfires and barbecues they were having on site. 

We are currently generating care leaflets to go with our sold plants - potentially about 50 plants all in all. The onerous amount of research was kind of daunting. We wanted to use the text from Martin Crawford's book for some of the plants and initially he was a bit reluctant to give that up. We showed him a template of what the flyer would look like - including a reference to his book along with the publication details and thank goodness he consented to letting us take the information. So I think letting him have time to reflect rather than presenting him with a stark choice and also letting him see how it would actually be, helped this to happen.

Lessons learned:

Persistence is more important than anything else. Be flexible with how you achieve your aims i.e. we want to increase the amount of food grown locally. We have shifted from propagating loads of apple trees towards perennial everything - how much richer is that? Let other people take over.

Links and partnerships:

Manor House Development Trust, Haringey Council, Mind in Haringey, Capital Growth, Metropolitan Support Trust

Sources of funding:

Capital Growth £980

Sources of materials:

Agroforestry Research Trust - the plants Cool Temperate - the plants Forest Recycling Products - scaffold planks North London Waste - compost / soil improver BTCV - insurance and tools

Further information:

LOCAL FOOD
There is a shortage of locally grown food in London as well as a limited supply of plants for edible landscaping projects, especially from ethical or organic suppliers. Using remote suppliers fails to benefit the local economy, the local skill base and the environment as a whole. By supplying edible plants such as such as mulberry trees, sea buckthorn, grape vines and everlasting onions we will be helping reduce the carbon footprint associated with food production.

Local transition initiatives, parks groups, growing groups and organisations such as BTCV and Groundwork have an ongoing demand for edible plants and there is a growing demand by householders for home food growing. This trend is reflected in the various initiatives from central government to fund an increasing number of local food growing projects here in London. It is clear that there is an unmet demand and that this is an expanding market. Because the site is local, there will be a lower carbon footprint for the transport involved in bringing plants to growing sites.

WELCOMING SPACE
As well as learning about perennial plants, keen gardeners and local mental health service users alike will be able to make friends, exercise gently, engage in meaningful work, build a community of interest and enjoy being in a beautiful outdoor setting. By creating this safe space that is run by appropriately qualified staff and volunteers, we will enhance people's sense of spiritual, emotional and physical well-being, giving us all a better quality of life.

PERENNIAL GARDENING is a long-term approach to food growing which is more sustainable, cost effective and low-maintenance than conventional approaches. It is growing in popularity, but local knowledge is in short supply. Also, food growers have an unmet need for practical support in an inspiring setting where horticultural skills can be shared; in essence, our vision for a 'growing hub'. By offering support, information and training we will meet these needs.

Seasonal one-off workshops could be run for the local community on tree care, tree grafting and pruning. These would mirror the nursery's work flow. We could also replicate the important experimental work carried out by the Agroforestry Research Trust in trialling non-native edible species in London.

In the longer term we would like to

  • provide more formal training to those managing growing projects, working in partnership with organisations
  • produce guidance literature and growing kits for new growing projects
  • start an additional social enterprise that would sell locally foraged and processed foods (such as jams, chutneys, fruit leathers, teas and pestos), perhaps even starting an on-site café

WHO WILL BE INVOLVED?
One of the main things we have learned from talking to other growing projects is that it is imperative to have paid staff to maintain a nursery. Without constant and reliable maintenance, plants will simply die. In a long term project like this, it is unrealistic to expect volunteers to be able to provide that level of support, especially in the hot summer months. In addition, paid staff will have the training and experience required to carry out the work. They will also be able to communicate their skills to volunteers and other site users such as people on vocational training and vulnerable adults.

MORE ABOUT PERENNIAL GARDENING
Perennial gardening is an approach that is beginning to catch on as a way of producing more fail-safe growing projects. The key features of this approach are to:

  • make full use of the growing space's full height (small trees, bushes, climbing plants and ground cover plants) and therefore have bigger yields;
  • use more perennial plants which keep on producing edible leaves or fruits year after year. This saves the gardener the trouble of digging over soil, weeding, replanting and regrowing plants; and
  • use plants that work well together, e.g. have nitrogen fixing plants to 'feed' hungrier plants naturally. This makes plants stronger and less prone to disease as well as reducing the need to provide compost or to water as frequently.

The main advantage of this approach is that it is easy to maintain. Many growing projects are unsustainable simply because inappropriate, high maintenance, annual plants have been chosen. Our well-labelled showcase garden will demonstrate how a selection of perennial plants can work together to produce a high yielding, low-maintenance and attractive food growing site.

Video link: 

Is this a Transition group project or other?

Transition project
Last updated: Monday, 11 March 2013
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Food

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