Environment Centre Garden
Welcome to the Environment Centre’s Garden
Our industrial way of life is heavily dependent upon cheap forms of energy, the principal of which is oil. Peak Oil is the point at which production cannot be maintained because new wells coming into production fail to make up for ones in decline. There is much debate about when this point will occur. It is however clear that oil is getting more costly to extract, both in £££’s and energy terms. In other words the “easy oil” has gone. New wells are being set up in harder to reach areas and deeper under the sea, and use more energy to get the same return. This not only affects the climate and is getting more environmentally damaging, but it is ultimately not sustainable anyway.
Although alternative energy sources will help, it is doubtful they will supply a complete solution. In short we also need to vastly reduce our use of energy. The big potential here lies in re-localising the production of goods.
In practical terms, it will become more costly to use energy and also to use forms of agriculture which are energy intensive. In addition, government ministers have stressed how this presents a food security issue. Importing food will be more expensive and we will have to compete more for it, meaning prices will rise.
Growing our own food is a good place to start as individuals or communities, and we will need to think more about the types of foods we grow, and growing in harmony with nature. This area of understanding is known as permaculture, and we are demonstrating this through some simple concepts in our garden. And as they are simple, we believe anyone can copy them!
The moment we start growing as individuals and communities, we reduce our use of oil. As oil and food prices rise we also become more resilient and have valuable skills which will be needed more.
And now for some plants…
Take the tour
Our garden is intended to demonstrate some simple things you can grow in a small garden. By growing edible plants, you are reducing the energy in transporting food as well as saving money, although we also have plants and features to increase biodiversity in our garden. You are welcome to talk to the Environment Centre staff, use their resources, participate in volunteer and training days, and contact Transition Swansea if you’d like any more information. We all want a sustainable world, based upon community, which does not damage the environment. Growing is also a lot of fun and is a good antidote to modern living, which has so often removed us from any understanding of natural patterns!
The garden was designed within an existing garden and was intended to be visually pleasing as well as having useful plants growing in it. Some of the plants were retained and others added. It has a lot of raised beds which make weeding and tending easier, although there is no necessity to do this. This is an easy way to grow stuff, although they can need more watering since their roots are limited.
The Front Garden
As you come in we have herbs in pots on your right. These are easy to grow and are resilient. Some are commonly used for cooking such as thyme, sage, oregano and chives. Others can be used to make herb teas such as lemon balm and mint. We also have woodruff which is used for flavouring food, in pot pourri and as a moth deterrent. On the left we have reused a water butt as a planter and have pansies growing in which have edible flowers. It also has a hardy kiwi which in time will cover the trellis and provide fruit. Below it we have a number of reused containers with salad crops growing in them. These can be grown at extremely low cost and if cut regularly will grow back a number of times before needing replanting.
You will see more herbs in pots on top of the table, these are newly planted and are establishing themselves. Next to the table you will find more reused containers, including a toilet and a sink.
Further along on the left is a raised bed which is being used for growing vegetable crops such as beetroot, leeks, radishes and chard – chard is a good plant to grow for a good regular supply of greens for the table.
There is also honeysuckle (to attract bees) and beans (which take the nutrient nitrogen out of the air) growing up the trellis. On the other side is a round window in front of which we hope to grow raspberries.
All plants need nutrients and a fertile soil to do their best, therefore a composting area is at the heart of any sustainable food planting system. We have our compost bin set on earth so that natural organisms can easily migrate into it. Ideally a garden would have a couple of bins so that a rotation system can be put in place. The most important thing is to turn the composting material regularly. This helps the organisms that do the work because they need air. We also have a bin to drown weeds in first before adding them to the compost bin so they don’t grow in it. Materials such as cardboard and kitchen waste can also be added to the bins and actually help its composition. All of this helps avoid the need for artificial fertilisers. At the far wall is a second raised bed which has parsnips, peas, onions and carrots next to a solar fountain. Under the stairs next to this we have comfrey growing. This is a good way of complementing nutrients. It does this by sending down deep roots that bring up minerals and nutrients. The leaves can be added to the compost heap, directly to the soil or used to make a liquid fertiliser. Nettles and borage can also be used similarly. We hope to grow vines for grapes up the pillars as well.
Rear Area, Pond and Courtyard
If you continue all the way around the building you will find our bike racks, and we hope to use the wall behind these to grow hops, which are what beer is made from. There is a pond next to it which supports many insects, amphibians and birds, who all play vital roles in the garden. We have recently added pond plants which are currently establishing themselves, as well as a home-made pond filter which is helping to encourage the growth of friendly bacteria, promoting a healthy environment for wildlife.
The large bed behind the seating has been wired to train tayberries against to maximise yield and make it easy to harvest. Fruit tends to grow easily and saves a lot of money. Below are rhubarb, blackcurrants and strawberries. Within the wall of the seating area is lavender which has multiple uses. There are also sage and fennel, which are used in cooking and chamomile which can be used to make a herbal tea.
We also plan to grow blueberries in pots. They need acid soil and two plants to get good fruit.Further information
The Environment Centre www.environmentcentre.org.uk
Pier Street, Swansea, SA1 1RY Tel. 01792 480200
Transition Swansea www.transitionswansea.com