Nestled between the Allotments and the Community Woodland in Cutteslowe is a half-acre plot of land that is in the process of becoming an orchard, created and cared for by the local community.
Soon after the plan for the orchard was announced in March this year, practical and financial support started to flood in (including the National Lottery). Additional interest and support also started to come from the Cutteslowe Community Partnership and local businesses. We currently have an informal group of around 80 people who are interested to be kept in touch via the Next Door neighbourhood app and a Facebook page. Our work events have been great times of meeting neighbours and new faces from around Cutteslowe, with over 40 people taking part so far.
Ian Sheppard, who many know from the Allotment Society, and Michael Huth have been leading this project and want to invite more people in the community to take an active part. Ian has many years experience in horticulture and parks management. Michael is currently studying for a Permaculture Design Certificate and has just started his studies for a Certificate in Community Orcharding. Both of them are happy to have a chat and explain more about the Orchard.
An Orchard Design and Planning day, lead by the Heritage Fruit Tree Co, was followed by lots more activity: rubbish clearing, levelling, weeding, planting of peripheral trees. Unfortunately, the promised wildflower meadow has not materialise due to the poor soil conditions, which, if untreated, would give the trees a bad start. Instead of the wildflowers we decided to work on the soil by aerating it and feeding it with manure. This will however not put back the planting schedule later on this year.
We have placed an order for an initial 42 mixed fruit trees, mainly heritage varieties. We are planning to have several stages for creating this orchard and our vision is to make it ‘multi-functional’. This means we will plant a variety of heritage fruit trees first. This will be followed by fruiting shrubs and edible hedgerows. At a later stage we are also looking at establishing a small Forest Garden area (an ‘edible forest’ or foraging area). Most importantly we want to allow a whole natural system with new wildlife habitats to establish itself.
It also means there will be other uses of the orchard to educate and create communal learning experiences for young and old. There will be several ‘yields’ throughout the year.
A more formal Orchard Group might get established at some stage. In the meantime, please like us on Facebook or join our informal Group on the Next Door app.
It has been great to see the bed in Cutteslowe Park growing so well over the last few weeks. Passers-by have also started foraging, with the herbs and chard being especially popular! Do come along and check it out for yourself. The beds outside the school and community centre are also looking really colourful. We’d love to see pictures of your own produce growing at home so please do send any photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy harvesting!
What an exciting time we have had at Cutteslowe Primary School, planting, waiting and watching the seeds we planted grow into yummy treats in our amazing Edible Cutteslowe raised bed. Families are eating strawberries and peas at the moment and looking forward to blackcurrants and edible flowers. Come and take a look!
If any of your produce is starting to be ready at home, please send us a photo – we’d love to hear about it and share with others! Email us at email@example.com or share on our Facebook page.
by Becki Huth, Forest School Leader, Cutteslowe Primary School
I had fun watering the baby plants in the bed in the park last week with my two kids, which is now looking alive with herbs, lettuces, chard, beans and other edibles! Do come and check it out when you’re next in the area. With all the rain over the last couple of days, it looks as if won’t need to be watering again for a while.
Meanwhile, just over the bridge outside the Cutteslowe Community Centre, the new bed there is looking amazing. Full of flowers and peas enjoying the combination of sunshine and rain!
Produce is starting to be ready for harvesting, so do start to put out your pots or tubs for others to help themselves from if you’ve got something ready.
Last weekend, on 22-23 May, we formally launched Edible Cutteslowe at the Cutteslowe Garden and Horticultural Therapy Centre’s “Not Quite Chelsea Flower Show”. There were show gardens made by local community groups, as well as some put together by the Garden Centre staff. Everyone who came was invited to vote for the garden we liked the most, and Cutteslowe Primary School won the community gardens competition.
There were also seed kits available for people to help themselves to as a way of getting involved with Edible Cutteslowe. They all went, so here’s looking forward to seeing lots of vegetables growing around the neighbourhood soon!
It was a great event despite lots of rain and wind – so thanks to all at the Garden Centre!
If you’ve started to grow some produce to put out for others to forage from, it’d probably be a good idea to make a sign to let people know that they can help themselves. You can either download the document at the bottom of the front page of our website. This has 6 signs on it with the Edible Cutteslowe logo on. There’s a space to write the name of the crop and then you can laminate in plastic, cut them out and attach to sticks.
Or, here is an idea from Becki Huth, the Forest School Leader at Cutteslowe Primary School.
This sign was easy to make. I upcycled things I had lying around the house. Here’s a picture of the things I used.
What you need
Plastic for your sign. I used scrap laminate.
Rafia, twine or string
Dimensional paint (or, you can just use a marker pen)
What you need to do
Cut the plastic to size you want your sign
Use the hole punch to put a hole in each corner, tie on the rafia
Write your message on the sign with the marker
If you are using the dimensional paint, use this last and leave to dry overnight
On 22-23 May, as part of an event run by the Cutteslowe Horticultural Therapy and Garden Centre is running – “The Not Quite Chelsea Flower Show” – we’ll be formally launching Edible Cutteslowe. Come along over the weekend from 10-5 on Saturday and Sunday to see some show gardens made by local community groups, and to take part in some family activities running from 10-3 each day.
If you haven’t started your planting yet to take part at home, there’s still time! You can also ask at the weekend about volunteering opportunities on the public, community beds.
Planting up of the bed in Cutteslowe Park has started. Come along and check it out! The bed is by the mini-railway extension line, not far from the playground. Here’s some lettuce enjoying its new spot. More veg varieties will be put in in the next few weeks. You can see a video of the planting by going to our Facebook page.
Do get in touch if you’d like to help out maintaining this or other communal beds, or if you want some ideas of how to get involved from home.
Cutteslowe Primary School has just completed building a raised bed which is situated at the school front gate. The children have already started to plant a variety of fruit and vegetables, and will continue to add to this over the next few weeks.
All children from nursery through to Year 6 learn how to respect the environment around them through Forest School sessions, visits to the schools allotment and the Cutteslowe Horticultural Therapy and Garden Centre. They explore and experience hands-on how to grow food and respectfully handle plants so that they are healthy for planting and harvesting.
A group of Year 4 children have become Edible Cutteslowe ambassadors, and seed kits are being made for children to take home to start planting up! Children will also be able to make a sign to put by the plants as they grow and are ready for harvesting. Way to go, Cutteslowe Primary School!
You may have plenty of experience growing vegetables, but if you’re new to growing vegetables and you have a pot or a small space you want to try it out in, here are a few ideas about what you could grow.
If you’re looking to have a doorstep pot, use a large pot (10 litres plus). Try filling this with 1 tomato plant, 2 basil plants and 3 multicoloured lettuces.
If you’d like to try a window box, nasturtiums for edible flowers and leaves, spring onions, radishes and mixed lettuces would make for a great combination.
If you’ve got a bed – say around 3 metres square – you could have a go at golden courgette, chard, and a border of spring onions. Or, you could make a support out of canes in the centre with runner beans on, and surround this with red Russian kale and leeks.
These crops are all fairly easy to grow and don’t take a lot of maintenance.