Getting Skilled Up in the Garden at Grow Heathrow

by Wren Ray

Since early Spring ‘Grow Heathrow’ community garden has been hosting a monthly growing course guiding a mixed group of people through the basic principles and practices of organic growing. The last session is coming up this July and reflections are flowing on the format, style and content of the course.

Born out of a growing review back in the dark depths of winter – the perfect time to huddle round with a cup of tea to decide the following years planting plan and set out to imagine what will be needed when the plants decide to emerge in full spring force and the busyness in the garden gets going again! The growing collective at Grow Heathrow were discussing how best to boost the gardening skills and confidence of both people living and working on the site, local residents in the Heathrow villages and others wider afield- when it was decided some more organized skill sharing was needed. So it came to be that an ‘Introduction to Gardening’ course was started in March 2014 spanning five sessions.

Set in the beautiful straw bale house at Grow Heathrow, with different experienced growers coming to assist the class each month bringing their own flavour and passion to share, we run the course with a morning of theory on organic methods and afternoon practical out and about on the site putting into practice what was learnt earlier in the day. Of course a delicious lunch is provided Grow Geathrow style – massive pot and ladel! Each session leads on from the last taking the participants through a journey from seed to harvest.

Sessions have included soil type and compost making, propagation, planning a growing space, weeds, plant deficiency and disease – how to make organic plant feeds and inviting wildlife into the garden to help with pest control. We always allow time for Q&A’s for each person’s growing space whether a back garden, allotment site, community growing plot, window sill pots or primary school garden – the group has brought a right mix of spaces along with an array of soil types, weeds and pests to deal with! We’ve had a lot of fun together and from it we hope the 16 people who have taken part in this community growing experiment will feel better equipped and supported in their beginnings of becoming urban food growers.

Skilling up, sharing knowledge and getting people together in our communities to learn the basics of organic food growing is a strong way to build a movement of confident growers. When growing up in the city, starting a garden, taking that leap to plant your first tomato seed, make a compost area, dig into that heavy clay soil – not knowing what obstacles may lie ahead in the coming season – that can be scary. But knowing you’ve got a space to air some of those problems as well as share your successes, learn some new tips and get a foundation of knowledge of why its so important for us to stick to organic- is ground breaking. I hope this group of new enthusiastic growers who are just about to complete their last session at Grow Heathrow agree.

We’ve got the patches and plots to grow in London now its time to get our communities skilled up!