Botanics’ Edible Garden Project wins national award
Horticulture Week Custodian Awards
Edible Gardening Project – Best Food Growing Initiative
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) Edible Gardening Project has won an award at this year’s Horticulture Week Custodian Awards. The local project scooped the Best Food Growing Initiative award, one of 18 presented at Woburn Abbey Sculpture Gallery on Wednesday.
Lord Michael Heseltine, who desctibes himself as a ‘manic gardener’, stressed the importance of gardens and green space and how they can transform disadvantaged communities before presenting awards to a richly diverse group of winners. These ranged from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval gardening team to the National Trust’s Croome and Bodnant teams and a parks partnership between Watford City Council and Veolia.
The Custodian Awards were judged by independent panel of judges including Tony Arnold, chair of the Professional Gardeners Guild, Sally Drury, technical editor of Horticulture Week, Sue Ireland former open spaces director of the City of London, gardens consultant Alan Sargent and arboriculture expert Dave Lofthouse.
The Edible Gardening Project at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh connects local communities and visitors with advice on growing plants and inspiration on leading a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. The project has had over 35,000 interactions with visitors since it launched in May 2011.
The project team works with over 30 community groups every year, providing free advice on fruit and vegetable growing, healthy living and sustainability. The growing area has doubled since 2011 and now supports up to six local, hard-to-reach groups to look after their own plot as community allotments – planting, maintaining, harvesting and cooking their crops.
The Edible Gardening Project launched in 2011 at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Since then, the project has had over 35,000 interactions with participants.
The four part-time staff operating the Edible Gardening Project are supported by 30 volunteers. Together they deliver workshops and advice sessions, both in the Garden and off-site at local community projects. In 2015/16 the project made 18 outreach visits, including a pruning workshop and a gardening for biodiversity workshop. The project will support at least 7,000 interactions with participants during 2017.
One of the many initiatives which have benefitted from the project is Nari Kallyan Shangho (NKS) a health and welfare venture for South Asian (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi) women and their families living in Edinburgh. NKS provides services for from pre-school children to older people to help prevent deprivation and social exclusion among South Asian communities.
The Edible Gardening Project helps support NKS’s Climate Challenge Initiative, a project designed and led by the participating women. Following a Keep Scotland Beautiful consultation, the women expressed a huge interest in waste recycling, food growing and energy efficiency, as well as some women showing interest in learning how to ride a bicycle.
Since 2014 families supported by NKS have their own garden plot within the Edible Gardening Project to care for, giving them ownership over the food they grow. Each week, participants maintain the plot and witness the changes as vegetables develop through different stages and seasons.
One of the key gardening challenges for the group is exploring how well crops inspired by South Asian culture can grow in Scotland. 2014 saw great success with coriander and mooli, a long white crunchy radish from East Asia. In 2015 new crops tried by the gardeners from NKS included orach, amaranth, mustard and fenugreek – many of which were consumed at a celebration harvest and lunch in September 2015.
The Edible Gardening Project delivers a range of free workshops to groups such as Edinburgh Garden Partners and Greener Leith. Topics include vegetable growing for beginners, composting, growing winter vegetables and organic pest and disease control.
There are a number of groups who look after their own vegetable plots and attend the garden on a weekly basis working alongside one of our community gardeners. Groups such as Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council and TEENS+ gain practical, hands on experience of growing vegetables and learn horticultural skills.
Every Monday and Tuesday all visitors to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh are invited to come and see the Edible Gardening Team at work and to seek their advice about growing their own produce.
The Edible Garden project held a Spring Festival in April, offeriing visitors the opportunity to join in with the Edible Gardening Project as it got started on this year’s vegetable patch The vent offered information for budding gardeners, fun family friendly activities and fresh garden tasters.