The most a-maizing (!) sight was seeing the potting shed full of Fanwell’s winter squashes, all shapes and sizes, from butternut to Turk’s Head Turban.
This is a crucial storage space for tenants living in small flats, as with such a bumper harvest, they don’t have room for all their produce at home.
One of the interesting bits of information was how Fanwell’s maize had cross-pollinated with a neighbour’s sweetcorn. The stronger strain of maize had the effect of transforming the sweetcorn cobs into ‘mini maize’, complete with the slightly more starchy taste and texture of maize.
Compared with last year, 2013 has been a great season for the tenants who have grown a wide range of produce, which has benefited greatly from the long and sunny growing season.
As the year draws to a close, the group has celebrated its successes with an award meal, courtesy of Taff Housing. It’s a chance for all the regulars, old and new faces, on the site to sit down and reflect on what has been achieved.
They’ve benefited from new facilities – a 1,000-litre rainwater water catchment tank, a new compost toilet, more raised beds for new participants and grant money to buy a polytunnel and purchase the rented steel tool container.
Thanks are due to all the Taff staff involved, allotment holders (Sam and Ivor particularly) and a special thanks to contractors Willis Construction and Cowlin Construction for their help on the site.
Another big thank you is due to the team at Landcraft for doing an excellent job installing the new compost toilet, which the tenants really appreciate.
The community allotment group celebrated a year of success at their Annual General Meeting, marking many changes and improvements to the site.
One of the most important, the addition of a compost toilet, took place
outside the training shed as the meeting itself was taking place.
With the sun shining and much going on around the allotment site, there was a great atmosphere at the meeting, which was as much a celebration of so many achievements.
As the officers recounted the year’s events, you could hear the sounds of tapping and banging, as the panels and fittings for the toilet were put in place by contractors from Landcraft.
Chairman Fanwell Tandi started off the meeting by saying it had been “a very pleasant year”, and secretary Jayne Palmer talked of the “massive difference” to the facilities, which include more raised beds, a water tank, a thriving training shed, fruit cage, patio area and much more.
Jayne played a big part in helping over the past year to draw down grant funding from Environment Wales, Impact Plus and Awards for All, towards the toilet, a much needed polytunnel, funds to purchase the storage container and top soil.
Registering with Environment Wales has seen a shift on site to more organic gardening – and signage in English and Welsh.
On the New Foundations Home Education plot, the children involved there have been learning lots of growing and making skills, including dismantling pallets to make a bench.
There were thanks for Taff staff, Sam Davies, Ivor Fish and members of the allotment committee, Taff contractors including Cowlin and Willis Construction and others who have been involved.
Site Allotment secretary Steve Watkeys highlighted opportunities to use the site shop and stock up on seeds and materials for the winter.
Chair Fanwell Tandi also paid tribute to Richard Alan Pond, who died earlier this year. He had overcome illness and operations to become a popular figure on the site before he died suddenly in the early summer.
After the meeting ended, everyone enjoyed the sunshine, some refreshments and shared out produce from the plot and wider site, including windfalls of pears and apples and courgettes.
The project has benefited from some great new faces, who have contributed to both the atmosphere and continued development of the site.
So, we turned back to the 1,000-litre tank we have installed behind the training shed – the guttering will pick up a lot of rainwater to fill the tank, but you need rain first.
The key step has been to fit a tap kit onto the 'rain tank', which means the water can be accessed through a simple garden hose, rather than the two-inch outlet, which just poured water over your shoes!
The recent rain has produced enough water to keep tenants happy that there's enough in reserve in the tank – some needed persuading after it had rained that you don't need to water your plants again!
The parched look to the allotments had been a big worry – hanging baskets bone dry, raised beds with the soil cracked, fruit bushes dying back, strawberries the size of grapes (and very like dried wild strawberries in texture!).
However, the mulching and soil conditioning we'd done earlier in the year seems to have really paid off with some of the crops, which have bounced back very well.
We might yet get a small crop off our new raspberries and the strawberries have had a renaissance. The brassicas have recovered and even the potatoes have put on a bit of weight, having been left in the ground a few more weeks than normal.
The recent mix of rain and warm weather has meant a more 'normal' pattern of growth. Tenants have done well with their maize, squashes, beans and other produce. Fanwell Tandi's Zimbabwean ruggare (stalk kale) looks terrific and his maize is about 10-feet tall now!
We're in the process of hopefully getting 1-2 more new faces joining us, which will be good if that happens. New people bring with them enthusiasm, energy and ideas.
A film crew from Aberystwyth University visited the Taff Community Allotments last Friday, to find out more about why tenants have got so involved with the growing project. The filming is linked to the Organic Centre Wales programme, which promotes growing projects round Wales.
Fortunately, in this topsy-turvy summer we’re having, it was a great, sunny afternoon for the guest film crew, as the photo shows.
Jane Powell and her cameraman colleague quickly set up the equipment and began by asking our chairman, Fanwell Tandi, about how and why he’d become so involved in the project – spending 4-5 days a week at the site!
Fanwell gave some excellent answers and really sold the project well on camera – he’s a natural!
Tenant Jayne Palmer, the group secretary, who runs the New Foundations home schooling project, was also very positive about the benefits of the project and explained more about how the tenants are involved in the running of it.
When I was asked what benefits there are for Taff Housing, I mentioned the training for tenants making people more confident and experienced about growing produce, the health and social benefits and just having a great bunch of people involved together in the project.
As quickly as they arrived, the film crew departed to another garden project the other side of the city. Our ‘film stars’ should be appearing on the internet sometime in the next couple of months, once the film has been edited.
Meanwhile, on the growing front, we have been busy adding summer crops to the Community Growing Space – peas, beans, courgettes, mangetout.
The aim of the courgettes is to repeat our ‘cash crop’ experiment last year of trading in the produce with Inner City Pickle, who then turn it into delicious courgette relish.
Here’s a selection of recent photos:
Two different housing associations have been to visit the allotment project in the space of a week.
Rhondda Housing Association enjoyed a sun-soaked trip to the Leckwith Allotments to discover what has been going on. They have a couple of growing projects in mind with tenants in the Rhondda Valley and we may well be discussing their ideas again with them at some point.
Pembrokeshire Housing Association, whose tenants also have a keen interest in outdoor projects, joined Taff tenants the following week for a more soggy visit and they were impressed with the range of facilities. The key difference with that visit was it came directly after the Allotment Open Day! So there was quite a lot more to see, including the rainwater tank on the training shed, which the tenants were impressed with.
We also had some presents to send our visitors way with – potted up calendula seedlings, which was well received by the Pembrokeshire group. We were glad to re-house the plants, as we need the raised bed (the plants had self-seeded from last year!) for another disabled tenant to use.
We are pleased to be getting more people involved in the project, week by week, after a terrible spring put off some of our tenants and volunteers.
Cowlin Construction stepped in to create two 2m x 2m x 1m raised beds from wood, which will benefit one of our disabled tenants. We are now busy trying to source the necessary materials – stone for drainage, green material and compost – to fill the beds.
Willis Construction did a great job fitting together the guttering to a giant water tank – about 600-litres – at the rear of the training shed. The tank, which is shaded, will act as a great source of fresh water for tenants to keep up with tending to their crops.
Staff and plot holders at the Leckwith Allotments pitched in to finish off work on the fruit cage, barrowing in wood chip, planting up more fruit bushes – tayberries, loganberries, blackberries – and then putting up the netting to protect the fruit.
The original potting shed was lifted to help move the slabs to lay a new base for its future home by the training shed. This needs to be cemented in place, as the ground itself is a bit spongy and a strong base is required. This shed move will free up the original spot to site a proposed poly tunnel, which the allotment group is seeking grant funding for.
Other staff got involved in creating a smaller open fruit bush plot, measuring about 3m x 3m, opposite the fruit cage, which raspberries were planted in – these tend not to draw as much attention from the birds, but we will keep a close eye on them!
Meanwhile, there was plenty of activity elsewhere on the plots, with window planter boxes being put up round the site on the boundary fencing, which bought from the Vision 21 charity.
The disabled raised beds were turned over, with the herb bed cleaned up and re-planted, the strawberry bed was topped up with more plants and a group of staff and tenants helped plant seeds into other raised beds.
The New Foundations Home Education Project were busy working on their own site, while staff helped out with the Community Growing Space, digging the area over.
All in all, it was a great day out, with a lot achieved and the tenants were very happy. A big thank you to all the staff, contractors and other plot holders who were involved on the day. Their help is much appreciated.
The event was arranged by the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, who have been strong supporters of our project over the past 18 months.
Mr Melding spent some time chatting to the tenants about how the project was set up, how they benefit from growing their own food and about the training courses run on the site.
One tenant produced a potted strawberry plant for Mr Melding’s aide, after hearing he’d had difficulty with his own plants! That was a nice touch.
During his visit to the Leckwith and Drove Allotments, Mr Melding also visited our neighbours, the Growing Green mental health project, which was also a successful stop-off.
Many thanks to the tenants for coming down to the site for the visit – and for giving a good account of themselves and the project.
Federation of City Farms project officer Emma Williams said the Taff project had shone during the visit – despite the horrible conditions. Mr Melding had discovered, she said, the importance of community growing projects to local people and how it can transform people’s lives for the better.