Women’s Food growing session @ Willow Hey project

As part of a small pot of funding we received last month we were able to hold a gardening/horticulture session with community college students where they were all given free fruit trees at the end of the session, off the back of that particular session we were able plan Today’s workshop  at the beautiful and very productive Willow Hey site close to where the women live.

So today we did a short workshop on fruit bushes and how to look after them and take cuttings during the wintertime, following this we potted up some mixed herbs and cuttings for our growers to take home with them whilst talking about each individual herb and its uses as we planted them.

The herbs that we planted were those with a good all round usage, including different varieties of Mint, Sage, Lemon Balm, and Stevia, which seemed to generate most interest when students tried a taste of its sweet leaves.

So all in all not a bad session despite the ferocious heat, We are hoping to run more of these sessions on a regular Friday basis so watch this space for times and dates. One thing we did pick up from the women today was giving them enough time to pick their kids up from School, so the start time of future sessions will be based on this.


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Sown in Bolton day 11 followed by the last Tonge Moor Kitchen Garden session.

Its getting to the point now where I really think that the MET office are overpaid for their weather forecasts, and that I would actually get a better forecast by checking the clouds out for a few minutes in the morning. So the weather website said today would be a little cloudy without rain, how wrong they were it rained on and off during much of the day, luckily for me it wasn’t so harsh as to stop work. Weather rant over with for now!

This mornings work was all about planting stuff in large pots and delivering them to our growers houses using our trusty reclaimed trolley to wheel resources round the estate.  We also managed to fill up a few of our growers raised beds with soil and plants whilst doing the rounds on the estate.

And for the rest of the day, give or take the odd brew break here and there this was pretty much what our work consisted of in terms of prepping and moving resources around.

After our Sown in Bolton day ended, we made our way over to the Kitchen garden in Tonge Moor where we thinned out and planted on various Brassica’s and half a dozen Rhubarb plug plant. Some of the women and children who are part of the project managed to take some edibles home with them today, including, spinach, chard, lettuce and Swede.



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Sown in Bolton day 10 and a visit to Men in Sheds @ Breightmet Hub

Due to unreliable weather reports and seemingly spontaneous bouts of rain, its been a tricky affair trying to plan and execute work days in Breightmet. So we decided that since it wasnt raining this morning that we would be as spontaneous as the rain and just turn up in Breightmet unannounced.

So first things first, filling large pots with compost and planting on Tomatoes and courgettes. Then we moved onto planting herbs in long rectangular pots, we also dropped a few off here and there at different peoples houses that were close to the UCAN centre.

At around lunch time we moved half a ton of soil down to Breightmet Community Food growing hub at the bottom of New Lane, the said soil was used to fill planting containers that were formally parts of old washing machines, we filled them with soil and threw some late seed potatoes in.

The Men in Sheds lads had decided to trial Fridays out as a way of sorting and rearranging tools and resources, which would free up time and resources to use during the regular Wednesday morning sessions.

Not a bad day really, some good work carried out, and some good news from one of our growers who has recruited two more people into the project who live in Irwell Valley Housing Association properties, so all is good from our end, and with it being late Friday afternoon its time to pour a pint of ice cold home brewed Ale and sit in the back garden chilling, have a good weekend people.


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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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