Bolton Urban Growers Q&A

Since our work began well over a decade ago we have been asked lots of questions and had interesting conversations with community members, people from the voluntary and statutory sectors, friends, family, refugees, permaculture practitioners, gardeners, rehab workers, and people on social media.

Over the years we have jotted down some of the questions with a view to explaining and discussing some of them at some point, but no sooner does the spring show signs of springing and we are busy again.

So while Ive got a spare few hours it seemed the right time to provide answers to questions and conversations we’ve had in relation to our work and community food growing. There is no particular order and theme to the questions, some are quite random, some amusing and some thought provoking and I have tried to include all that we have been asked.

How Many members are there in Bolton Urban Growers and who does what?

There are three core members, myself, Jean and Jeannette, I work on community food growing projects and write blogs about our work, Jean is a brain injury recovery specialist as her job and has held workshop sessions in one pot cooking, seed sowing, and basic gardening in primary schools for Bolton Urban Growers. Jeannette grows some food at home and promotes our project via the community grapevine, she is also a signatory on our community bank account. We also have a number of friends and supporters from diverse work backgrounds including education, biology, permaculture, and community work, who’s skills we are able to call on if our workload increases or diversifies.

Are you open to new members in Bolton Urban Growers?

A big yes, we would like to see a loose network of people across Bolton sharing skills and resources under the Urban Growers banner. Our structure is none hierarchical and none bureaucratic and is open to anyone who has an interest in our core interests of community food growing, permaculture and community development.

What would happen if everyone in Bolton grew fruit and veg in their gardens?

The health of people living in the town would improve, people would have more money in their pockets, people would learn valuable traditional and useful skills, it would generate micro incomes, and would address food poverty in the most direct and practical way possible. There would also be some improvment to localised eco systems If ecological methods and strategies are employed.

Are you part of Bolton Council or do you work with them?

No we have no links with the council as such, we are a constituted community group, our connection with organizations in Bolton over the years has been with mental health charity Bolton Steps, formally based at Victoria Hall until their recent closure, and in recent times with local housing charity Bolton at Home with whom we work fighting food poverty via urban horticulture.

Will Jamaican Marijuana grow in our climate?

We laughed when we were asked this question by an elderly chap some years ago, and our answer was that we wouldn’t recommend it due to its legal status.

Why does Politics have to do with communities growing food?

Food poverty exists because of our failed and inhuman economic model, the way food is produced in most cases is detrimental to healthy functioning eco systems, and our food supply is not local, we have control over it, as it is owned by corporations, banks and hedge fund managers. I would love it if our work wasn’t Political, but alas it is a very Political space to work in, but thankfully one where we can bring about change without the nagging and glacial tedium of electoral processes.

Why do you do the work that you do?

Because many people in the country do not have regular access to fresh cleanly grown fruit and vegetables, we see such access as a base line human right, and believe that community based urban horticulture is the way to achieve this.. We also know that By implementing permaculture into our work we are able to address some ecological issues whilst feeding people at the same time and introduce growers to life changing methods and ways of thinking if they are interested in taking it to the next level.

How come you are into community food growing and work with a housing charity?

There are a number of reasons here, firstly Bolton at Home are working actively to address food poverty in the borough via their storehouse pantry projects, support for food banks, and community food growing. They also have direct access to thousands of tenants in terms of people who likely to go without food, being the biggest provider of social housing in the borough, and last but not least they are a great organization to work with, forward thinking and prepared to try new ideas, and are at the forefront of the evolution of social housing.

Do you watch gardeners world?

Yes we all watch it, though I dont watch much TV and usually end up missing a few episodes during the growing season.








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Sown in Bolton day 8

Another gloriously sunny day today, which is just how us community gardeners like it. The first job of the morning was unloading all of the new resources that we recently purchased for the project, including fruit trees, herb plug plants, rhubarb plants and lots of sweetcorn plugs.

For the next hour or so we filled up large pots with soil and slowly pulled our cart round the estate dropping them off at different growers houses.

In the afternoon we paid a quick visit to Chris who has just come on board with us with our growing project, at Chris’s we planted sweetcorn, climbing beans and gave him a few potted toms and herbs.

After finishing at Chris’s we bumped into a Congolese women who we worked with last year, between us and out language difficulties we worked that she needed some plants and help with her garden, so she is first on our list for next weeks house visits.

We said out goodbyes and into Marks house who lives next door to Chris, this year Mark has really got stuck into his garden and has lots of varied crops which will start to come during the next few weeks.

By the time we left Marks place the sun was on full beam and it was time to head back to the UCAN centre to gulp back pints of much needed cold water and seek out some much needed shade before carrying on with our work.

Before I go and drink a pint of ice cold home brewed Ale in the back garden one of the really good things about today has been catching up with our old growers, and picking up two new growers who live in Irwell Valley Housing Association properties.

Despite the fact that we started this years project two months later than last years due to trying to raise funds, we can safely say that we will be able to provide our growers with most of the seasonable edible plants they need.


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Sown in Bolton day 7

So glad it wasn’t raining this morning when I woke, even if it had have been time is getting on in the season so I would have worked in the rain anyway, but luckily the clouds held out and spared us from dumping their liquid load on us.

One of our Growers and Breightmet Hub member Mark helped me out today, which was a great help as the next few weeks of work are the heaviest before it settles down into sowing and planting.

We spend the morning potting on courgettes, strawberries and tomatoes and delivering plants round the estate on two ex-store trollies that have been knocking round the estate for the past few years.

After a quick lunch we went up New Lane to see how Marks garden was progressing. After Marks we called at his neighbours to drop some resources off, as we left his neighbours garden we decided to call on Kate, Kate is an Irish women in her seventies who is an active member of the community, she joined our growing project late last year, we dropped some potato grow bags at Kate’s and chatted with her outside her gate before heading off back to New Lane UCAN centre to reload the trollies.

By the end of our working day in Breightmet  we used almost a ton of compost in pots alone, and managed to deliver most of them, so a good day all in all.

After Breightmet we took our gardening show over to the Kitchen garden of Tonge Moor, at today’s session we companion planted french climbing beans with sweetcorn, and had a general site tidy up.

Once the kids turned up we  thinned out some of the seedling in the beds, and covered the potato plants with compost, before lining old tyres with membrane and planting mixed salad leaves into them, towards the end of the session we completely cleared a bed and sowed carrot seeds into it. A good turn out today with around nine people attending and getting involved in the session.


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Sown in Bolton day 6

Of late the Met Office has been wrong a few times about whether or not it is likely to rain, a few weeks ago I took their advice after they warned it was going to rain all day, when in fact it only rained for an hour or so in the late afternoon, and thus I missed a days working with residents on the estate.

This morning however was a another kettle of fish entirely, an overflowing kettle at that, it had rained all day yesterday and was predicted to rain again all day today. As I sat looking out of the window with my brew and roll up it began to rain hard, and the winds began whipping and spiraling round the garden, but not to worry there was a plan B.

Rather than stay at home and simply do nothing, I decided to sow seeds in the Polytunnel in the back garden and pot on plants to take up to Breightmet with me in the morning, here is a little video to make up for the lack of pictures.



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Sown in Bolton Day 5

Phew what a Scorcher today has been. We began our mornings work in Breightmet with a quick brew and a pint of ice cold water then made our way down to the Hub where we loaded our trusty ex-store trolley with raised beds and began pushing it up and down the hills of Breightmet dropping them off at various growers houses.

As is always the case when we are out and about on the estate word soon gets out about the project, and today was no exception we picked up another two growers purely through chatting to folk on the street.

In the afternoon despite the fierce heat and lack of breeze we managed to do three large trips around the site with the trolley loaded up with large pots containing tomatoes, and also mixed herb pots, then it was time to stop for a breather and down a pint of much needed ice cold water.

After re-hydrating we continued to pot on various edible plants for delivery to our growers houses next week. After our work in Breightmet was finished it was off over to Tonge Moor to work with the women and children of the Kitchen garden project, When we arrived at the site the women and kids we already strimming and tidying the site, sadly there had been a bit of vandalism on the site, but nothing too serious and the mess took around three minutes to clear so no great loss of resources and time.

So today on the site we dug a trench and planted potatoes, and sowed various salad seeds into one of the raised beds. The site was also strimmed and towards the end of the session we visited the homes of the women who intend to start growing at home, all three gardens were in good shape and there was some food growing activity already happening.


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Sown in Bolton Day 4

I decided to put some time in today ahead of my usual Tuesday working on the sown in Bolton project. It was a warm sunny morning and we had purchased lots of gardening and growing resources over the weekend so it seemed like a good move to get ahead a little whilst the weather was good.

As is the case in the first few weeks of these projects its all about ordering stuff, getting large pots filled with young edible plants and seed sowing, with the three tons of compost that were delivered last week it was time to get some plants into pots.

So today’s potting on consisted of lots of Outdoor Girl Tomatoes and mixed herbs, thankfully most of which will be distributed tomorrow freeing up the floor space of the New Lane UCAN centre.

After the potting on session I went over to see Si one of our growers and dropped off some plants for him in the process and discussed what he will be growing for his family this season,. then spent some time with Jenny another of our growers from Thicketford Brow. A short day today but a fair amount of work done, so all is good.


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