This week we have a rather special blog post coming to you from the Head Gardener of the University Hall Community Garden, Charlotte Davis.
Our garden, around the back of University Hall, is still under a year old! Inspired by photographs dating from 1916 of a vegetable garden fit to supply the residents of the Hall, in the depths of last winter, we decided to recreate that green space of production, learning and relaxation.
With help from Transition and the blessing of the Hall Managers and Estates, this student led project has had a rollercoaster of a first year and has produced a huge amount of enjoyment and food for all the volunteers who helped out.
From the tentative motley crew I tried to persuade to get excited about what was then just a 5×5 patch of turf, we now have a strong core team of volunteers who come once, or even twice a week to do odd jobs around the expanding and beautiful garden. A great mixture of people have come down to give me a hand, from biologists, to total novices, hall residents and non-hall residents. We are well placed to draw interest, sitting alongside the well-worn track towards the sports centre.
A little out of my depth having fallen into the role of project leader, I found myself up until the early hours researching all sorts of methods of propagation, companion planting, stacking appropriate for the Fife climate to make the space as interesting, productive and sustainable as possible. My job has without a doubt become much easier with some experience, a Permaculture Design Course and the unrelenting support I’ve received from Taylor, University Hall’s Senior Student.
From beans to herb spirals, cabbages to raspberries, purple sprouting broccoli, potatoes, rhubarb and a biodiversity tower, last year was a great success. This year we are thinking a bit differently. Some basic infrastructure will assert the garden properly on the space; a shed for the tools (and tea cups!) and a fence. Equally, the ornamental cherry tree (Prunus ‘Kazan’), under which we will put a bench, will cement the permanent intention of the garden. By gently applying permaculture principles to the plot and listening to what the volunteers want from what is essentially their garden, this year proves to be productive and a huge amount of fun for everyone who wants to get outside, get their hands dirty and learn a bit more about gardening in a beautiful place.
I am determined that this garden not be a flash in the pan. Though it needs constant maintenance, I am confident that with enough support from students and local residents this garden can sustain as a place for learning, relaxation, appreciation of nature and, of course, eating fruit and vegetables!