This post was originally published on Richard’s blog here and reposted with his permission.
I have been living in Scotland for four and a half years and before moving here I did quite a bit of gardening. When I lived in Newcastle I had a nice vegetable plot and even kept chickens but since moving north haven’t had the same space and the growing season is a little shorter. I have added a small vegetable bed in the garden at my current house in Tayport but have only planted some salad crops and a few roof vegetables. I’m hoping the sandy soil will be good for parsnips, but won’t know till the winter. So I was really pleased to find that Tayport has an excellent community garden. This is a new project and has generated great interest in the village and recently they hosted a superb family open day. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming and I bumped into a work colleague who was doing face painting.
The local community have really embraced this project and links to the local school seem really strong with former teachers and scientists who live in the area supporting the school staff. Sadly opportunities like this are sometimes difficult for schools to access but I am convinced that a strong local community makes it so much easier. Once this is established the young people and their friends and families can continue and ensure projects are maintained. One of the real challenges for these sort of projects is that they do not become overly managed or controlled. From what I can see of the Tayport project this is certainly not the case here.
One of the things I was really interested in was the links to science and how this was being applied in the garden. There was a really interesting display covering soil testing and showed some of the work that had been done by a volunteer who is also a professional scientist. This was great as the people visiting the garden, including the local school pupils and teachers, could learn about why science is so important in areas like horticulture. When I taught as a primary school teacher I carried out a project exploring marine ecosystems, funded by a grant from the Royal Society for Science, and I am sure that a project linking science of soil testing and application to growing yields would be supported by this fund. We may put a project application together, with the local Primary school in the future. If anyone reading this wants to know more about developing such a project you can read the case study or I’d be happy to let you know what we did.
For me the best thing about the display, and the work being done by the school at the garden, was this was not contrived and of real, practical benefit. Sometimes primary school science can be overly simplistic (e.g. learning names of planets) or lacking relevance (e.g. extracting DNA from saliva) but this example showed that, with a bit of effort, it doesn’t have to be. Returning to my own garden, and my parsnips, perhaps I should have tested the soil. But I’ll have to get some pointers from the staff and students at the Tayport garden first!