GLOBAL GARDENS 2021
This year has been a year of extremes. From the frosty lockdowns of midwinter, where a small group of core volunteers worked on planting the new Global Gardens orchard and wildlife garden. To the spring awakenings, when we celebrated the arrival of spring on an online Imbolc celebration with storyteller Cath Little. To late spring, when we sought to share some of the produce from the garden to local residents via Cropshare. To midsummer, when we were able to welcome new and familiar faces back to the garden for volunteer garden sessions and outdoor play and a range of in person events including 'Have a Grow Day', 'Different Fruitures', Apple Day celebrations and 'The Shiro Project'. In this blog, we reflect on some of the highlights of the year at the garden...
GG Fruit and Veg Patch
This year, we hosted 73 volunteer garden sessions, including 36 Wednesday sessions and 37 Saturday sessions. We welcomed a fantastic flock of local and not-so-local, new and familiar folks, including a new cohort of student volunteers keen to get involved at Global Gardens - as well as six visits from the indefatigable Good Gym Cardiff and Vale team.
Thanks to support from Tom O’Kane, grower at Cae Tan CSA via Renew Wales and Kai Lange (Biodynamic Agricultural College and Hortus Heart), this year we have worked on increasing productivity at the garden whilst supporting and building crop fertility, including via incorporation of green manures. Simplifying the garden crop plan, we now have a four-block rotation of brassicas, alliums, leafs and roots and beans, alongside three larger beds where we have grow potatoes, squash and Jerusalem artichokes. The flowers and perennial herbs further bring colour and aroma to the garden - for the delight of both pollinators and people!
We had a great crop of squash this year, largely thanks to support from a local organic grower for some excellent manure! The cucumbers and potatoes (‘Alouette’, ‘Cara’, Milva and ‘Maris Peer’) were also delicious. Chard (‘Pink Passion and ‘Golden Chard’) and kale (‘Kavalo Nero’ and ‘Green Curly’) have offered fresh greenery and vibrancy throughout the year. Our 2021 tomato varieties, including the home-saved seed of ‘Gardeners’ Ecstasy’, ‘Red Zebra’ and ‘Pink Georgian’ beefsteak alongside new addition ‘Black Cherry’ were super until the blight set in. This was the first year of blight at Global Gardens and it was an upsetting time to have to pull up our crop. It was somewhat reassuring to know that we were not alone however. There is always next year, when the conditions will undoubtedly present both new opportunities and challenges.
The Global Gardens fruit patch offered a delicious and abundant crop of blackcurrants, jostaberries and raspberries this year and the apple trees planted in 2016 are maturing. We planted a further 17 apple and pear trees, thanks to support from Keep Wales Tidy and Social Farms and Gardens Wales. Varieties planted include early season apple varieties: Discovery (ready end of August), Katy and Worcester Pearmain (both ready early september). Mid season apple varieties: Sunset (ready end of September), Adam's Pearmain (ready early October) and Pitmaston Pineapple (ready mid October). Late season apple varieties: Winter Gem, Laxton's Superb, Court Pendu Plat (ready late October) and Reinette Coulon (ready in November). We have also planted three cooking apples: Golden Noble, Arthur Turner and Wern. Plus two Conference pears.
Outdoor Play at GG
This year we have hosted 23 outdoor play sessions, including two dedicated sessions for the Trinity Centre Welsh Refugee Playgroup, with thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales and Social Farms and Gardens/Hilden Trust Summer Play Scheme.
The sessions, led by artist and forest school tutor Johana Hartwig, aim to support nature-based connection and child-led play. Families have enjoyed a wide-range of activities from cooking chard pizza on the fire; playing with water in our make-shift mud kitchen, and; making bird boxes, clay tree spirits, earthenware bowls, paper lanterns, peg spirits, wreaths and natural festive decorations. We were also joined by the circus with opportunities to unravel as a cocoon in silks from the Poplar tree. With different activities each week, the sessions always end with story-time and vegan hot chocolate round the fire.
In 2021, we have focussed energy regenerating the outdoor play space so that it supports wildlife as well as families. With support from from Keep Wales Tidy, we have planted an edible native hedge (including with hazel, dog rose, elder and apples), developed a family kitchen garden area and installed a range of habitats including bird and bat boxes, hedgehog homes and bug piles. We were thrilled to win some Copper Beech play equipment in a Social Farms and Gardens competition, including stepping stones. We were also delighted to work this year with Roland Stokes and his team at Bespoke Tents who helped craft a beautiful storytelling tent for the outdoor play. Families were invited to collect leaves during the lockdown and trace around them on to canvas. The leaves were then then passed them on to Roland who stitched them into the canopy. The storytelling tent is made of canvas and has charred sweet chestnut, burnt at the base to support longevity, We are very grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales Climate Action Fund for supporting installation of the tent.
Cooking in the Garden
Supported by Community Foundation Wales, this year we have delivered a series of six Veggie Tales sessions for local families, led by dietetics student Steph Mercados. Harvesting produce from the garden, we made broad bean hummus, garlic flatbreads, chard dolmas, courgette fritters and buckwheat pancakes with blackberry and apple compote. We also hosted three sessions with the TGP Refugee and Asylum Seekers Youth Project that included cooking flatbreads over the fire and working with natural forms in the garden.
Climate Action in the Kitchen and Garden
In 2021, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales Climate Action Boost Scheme, we have hosted a series of climate action workshops all about taking climate action in the kitchen and garden.
Workshops included a range of topics including:
-Up-cycling pallet making workshop with Arthur Goodfellow and Jack Welbourne
-Hunger gap cooking with Annie
-Sourdough baking with Jack, Riverside Sourdough
Thanks to support from the scheme we have also improved on-site water harvesting, acquired a bike trailer to support community composting and installed an outdoor kitchen space designed by Hugo Keene at QOCA and installed by carpenter Arthur Goodfellow and assistant Jack Welbourne. We plan to complete the cob oven build in the new year of 2022.
Making and Mending in the Garden
From June,artist Cat Lewis, Colour Field, has led a series of sessions on a Wednesday afternoon at the garden that aim to support skills in making and mending. The regular group have learned and practised together a range of mending techniques including darning and sashiko technique, made eye pillows, napkins and some beautiful curtains for the Global Gardens classroom. The group have also explored some natural dye techniques and cultivated a 3 metre square patch of flax in the new orchard area. In October the group harvested the flax, retting it (leaving the plant outside so the fibre rots from the stem). In November we visited Simon at Flaxland who showed us how to process the fibre to turn into thread. It becomes a beautiful gossamer-like fibre ready to spin and weave into linen. Our plan is to grow a slightly larger area of flax in 2022!
Women’s Herbal Sessions
Between October to December, herbalist Kate Aster has delivered a series of pilot Women’s Health and Herbs workshops for women in the childbirth journey. Organised in collaboration with The Birth Partner Project, we have made a range of supportive herbal remedies including mineral tonics, hawthorn syrups and fire cider vinegar. Check out the simple recipe for fire cider vinegar, a brilliant winter tonic for all. We plan to continue these sessions into 2022.
We have also been working with local carpenter Arthur Goodfellow to develop a bespoke herb solar dryer and seed-saving kit. The solar dryer will support us in using solar energy to dry herbs for use in a range of herbal products – including balms and teas.
As part of our 2021 Cropshare , we distributed 91 portions of crops to local residents between February to April. Featured distributed crops included: Wet garlic, Purple sprouting broccoli, Lemon balm and salads including: Chard, Land cress , Lamb’s lettuce, Winter Purslane, Coriander, Red mustard, Rocket and Green in the Snow. For one of the harvest days were joined by ITV ‘Coast & Country’ for one of the harvest days. The film crew followed Vaida as she delivered the crop in the local neighbourhood. It was brilliant to get a birds eye view of the site via the drone shots.
Celebrations at the Garden
In May we worked with Action Movement Peace to host the first performance of 'Different Fruitures' at the garden as part of the Edible Cardiff Spring Festival. In June we joined forces with Roath/CathaysGabalfa/Heath Mutual Aid group to host a plant-swap as part of the annual Social Farms and Gardens ‘Have a Grow Day’ celebrating community gardening across the UK and supported planting of a pollinator friendly planter on the pedestrian area between Whitchurch Road and Llanishen Street, funded by Cardiff Local Nature Partnership Community Project Funding. We also created a 'Virtual Garden Tour' for the Green Squirrel summer celebration and welcomed Lia's Kitchen to the garden for filming of a kitchen cooking and cocktails series for the celebrations. In October, we hosted an Apple Day Celebration in collaboration with Orchard Cardiff as part of the Autumn Good Food Cardiff Festival. Between October to November, we also hosted 'The Shiro Project' with writer Lucy Smith and ceramicist Hannah Walters, all about creative connections to fungi. This included a talk by Prof.Lynne Boddy and a creative word and clay workshop at the garden. The works are now residing in the garden and you can listen to the spoken words here. Finally, to bring some festive cheer to the garden, we held some festive workshops at the garden including wreath making with Imogen Higgins and Sophie Bolton and lino cutting with Valentine Gigandet.
Seed saving at GG
We have been continuing the seed saving seed art this year and have a beautiful collection of six artworks which we plan to exhibit in 2022 as part of our seed swap.
From L-R: Hollyhocks: Phoebe Young @p.young.art , Sweet William: Eleanor Clements @ellieclemdraws , Nasturtium: Non Gall @non.xvi_ , Purple Teepee: Sian Dixon @art_sian , Helichrysum: Joanna Lillie @joannalillieillustration , Broad bean - Jack Welbourne @jwceramics .
Over the last year, Poppy, GG project coordinator has been undertaking seed saving training with the Seed Sovereignty Programme UK and Ireland including the South-west seed-savers intermediate training (including at Vital Seeds, Real Seeds and Trill Farm) and 2021-2022 Exchange Programme. In 2022, Poppy will be leading on some seed-saving trials in the garden.
The Global Gardens team has evolved and taken new shape this year. In September, we were sad to say farewell to Harvest Coordinator Vaida Barzwaite, but we wish her well in her new position at ACE where she is leading the Diana Gardens restoration project. Fungi-enthusiast Bethan Phillips stepped up to become our lead volunteer for Wednesday sessions whilst Manon and John have been our champion regular Saturday volunteers alongside lead student volunteers Cara and Ella. Poppy Nicol has continued to lead on project coordination, Johana Hartwig has continued to facilitate the outdoor play sessions with support from a range of fabulous assistants and Cat Lewis has led the 'Making and Mending' sessions. We have also been joined by dietetics student and chef Steph Mercados who led a pilot-series of Veggie Tales sessions in the garden in the summer and Herbalist Kate Aster who led a pilot-series of Women's Health and Herb sessions in Autumn. In November, we formed a Global Gardens steering group with the aim of more formally carrying the project forwards collectively. Do sign up the newsletter if you would like to keep up to date with GG news in 2022.