Seeds, Birds and Pumpkins – Week 8 at Drumchapel High

Once again the group have made amazing progress in continuing to plant and dig the site. Following on from last week’s session, the group have planted a further barrel and completed the path to the new site.

This week we focused on how to care for the plants and to see the garden as more than a space for humans. The group discussed the importance of attracting birds and other wildlife to the garden, both to support the life of the plants but also to help the space become a place to support mental wellbeing. Drawing inspiration from Halloween, the group made bird feeders out of pumpkins in Mr Healey’s workshop.

As the group carved and scooped out the pumpkins we discussed the importance of seeds and growing our own food. The group separated and saved the pumpkin seeds for growing in the garden next year. Students noted the importance of making food accessible to people that cannot easily afford it, and it was suggested that the group gives away the pumpkins that it grows in the future to those most in need.

The pumpkins were then transported into the garden, filled with bird feed, and placed strategically to where they may be most likely to attract wildlife.

The group plan to keep watch over the next week to see if they can spot any wildlife in the garden and will report back on anything they uncover.

Week 7 at Drumchapel: Plants and bamboo trees arrive!

For our 7th week, we were very excited to finally get some plants in the garden! We were keen to follow the blueprint we had for the site – using a mixture of grasses and perennials so the site would stay alive throughout the winter. We also think its important to add height and texture to the garden. And somehow we managed to fit two giant bamboo trees in a car!

We began by asking the students how exactly they wanted to layout the whisky barrels (from Glasgow Wood Recycling) that would serve as raised beds. The students selected a circular layout with a bamboo tree in the middle. The barrels were not easy to manoeuvre and required team work to get them in place.

After a brief tutorial on how to mix the compost and topsoil, the students then went about arranging the plants in the whisky barrels. Despite the rain everyone helped to transport the plants and compost out of the car and onto the site.

The bamboo tree is hopefully going to serve as a centrepiece. So long as it doesn’t get blown away! The site is very exposed and windy.

The group were introduced to plant root systems and saw first-hand the survival systems of the plants they were caring for. We talked about the importance of “teasing” the roots. Although this generated lots of laughs!

It was then up to the group to prepare their barrel and to select their plants. The group followed the tutorial instructions, getting their hands stuck in to mix the different soil layers in preparation for planting. A range of different plants were selected and carefully arranged into place before being planted. We then brought the benches out to arrange them. The garden is really starting to look special!

The site looked transformed after the session with many of the group noting that it now looked like a garden. With a number of barrels still to be planted the site is coming alive and we hope to fill these over the next few weeks.

Problem Solving and Painting – Week 6 at Drumchapel High

This week the group faced a number of problem-solving challenges! Several jobs, from painting benches to digging out a pathway, needed to be undertaken and the group split themselves up to take on the different tasks.

Last week the group decided on the entrance spot for the garden and so this week began the challenge of devising an archway to mark this. This was a difficult undertaking especially in the wind! Students considered the materials they had and ones they might need, sending members of the group off to source wood from the surrounding site. A basic structure was cleverly devised using willow, string and found sticks, and the group will continue to work on this over the forthcoming weeks. 

Another group took on the task of painting the first of the benches that were made last week. The purple colour was a popular choice with the group who have decided that they want to paint the benches as brightly coloured as possible. The group worked well together to carefully cover all aspects of the bench and will consider another coat when the paint fully dries.

A further group took on the labour-intensive task of digging out the pathway between the first garden site and the food growing site that will be developed from January next year. The students decided on the length and breadth of the path they wanted to create and showed some excellent digging skills – drawing on their previous experience on the site.

Finally, a group used their maths skills to work out the amount of edging required for the site. This wasn’t as easy as it first seemed, but a plan was eventually put in place and an amount was calculated. The group will work on the edging over the next few weeks.

As we take a short break for the October holidays it is incredible to reflect on the site’s progress so far. The group’s confidence in their abilities to work in the garden is growing alongside the development of the site itself. As autumn takes hold we continue to work at laying the foundations of the garden and it is very exciting to think about what more can be achieved before the end of the year.

Week 5 at the Drum – Bench Building

This week the group put their bench building skills to the test and set to work on constructing the benches. Following on from Ian’s tutorial in week 2, the group quickly organised the wood into piles and began to plan out their benches. Due to the wet weather we worked in Mr Healy’s workshop, giving us great access to lots of tools and the radio.

The group showed fantastic initiative and teamwork, carefully working together to measure and drill the wood. Using the drill was more difficult than we first thought but after a few mistakes everyone found their rhythm and all five benches were finished in the session – a terrific achievement!

Afterwards the group carried the benches out to the garden and tried out a variety of seating styles for the site. The group discussed what the garden could be used for – socialising, teaching, taking time out, etc., and these all became important elements in the design. Eventually the group voted on their favourite design and decided upon the entrance spot for the garden. Over the next week we plan to paint the benches and begin to construct the bamboo archway for the entrance before moving on to setting up the first planting activity before the end of the year.

A Bark Extravaganza – Week 4 at Drumchapel High

This week marked an important moment for the garden site as the digging stopped and new preparations began. As we arrived at the garden site in the September sunshine, we were confronted by seven huge bags of bark to be transferred onto the site. We suddenly realised that this was going to be a labour-intensive session!

The first task was to lay membrane on the site before spreading the bark. Students showed some great teamwork as they tried to solve the puzzle of placing the lining over their constructed garden shape. Large boulders found nearby were used to weigh the lining down and students took turns to cut the material to fit the site perfectly.

We then set to work on spreading the bark across the site. Students (and Mr Healey) worked with their hands, feet, spades, forks, and a wheelbarrow to distribute the bark. A great amount of initiative was used by the group and a lot of hard work was undertaken. Teamwork was essential and a system of tipping the bags was devised which required a whole group effort!

A great sense of accomplishment was felt by the group at the end of the session and the site is looking transformed. Next week we are turning attention back to building the benches and thinking through the layout of the garden. 

Week 3 at Drumchapel High School – our first bench!

Today we were joined by Mr Healey—a tech teacher from Drumchapel—who was covering for an absent Ally. Our session began by chatting about the importance of preparation for any garden site. Next week, we hope to take delivery of the wooden bark for the herb garden and seating area. So, it’s vital that the ground is good and ready!

A dry day! Praise the Glasgow weather!

We spent a good chunk of time levelling and digging the site (which is really quite big now!). We then chatted about using a porous membrane on the exposed soil to prevent any weeds growing through the bark. Ian had brought this from a local garden supplier, and the students had some fun beginning to lay it out. However, it was too windy to get this done today, so we decided we’ll do it next week once the bark is delivered (and can weigh down the membrane).

It was far too windy to begin laying out the membrane!

In the second half of the session, Ian held a workshop for the students on how to build a bench. He started by laying out the wood—from the amazing people at Glasgow Wood Recycling—and challenged the students to think how they would create a bench with the 4 pieces of wood. After a few failed attempts, the puzzle clicked, and the students successfully pieced the bench together! It really was fantastic to see the students come together to build the first bench at the Drumchapel Eco-Garden!

Working together!
Thanks to Mr Healey for showing us some vital tips!
The first bench is build! Good and sturdy, too!

Oh, and the students were much more comfortable holding worms! Ian talked through how these wiggly creatures are nature’s unsung heroes! As ever, there were lots of laughs and good chat, and a real sense of community growing.

Worms are our friends!

Worms, Wellies, and Week 2 at Drumchapel High School

Stepping on site in my wellies, one week after beginning work at Drumchapel’s school garden I was amazed at the progress the group had made on preparing the groundwork for the garden. The group have been working incredibly hard and have clearly been putting their newly acquired digging skills to the test.

This week, in the sunshine, we discussed the shape of the garden and worked together to mark out the dimensions of the space. The group decided on a contrast of both straight and curved edges and marked these out carefully using pegs and string.

The hard work of digging continued throughout the session and during the process the group unearthed a number of worms – of very different sizes – that caught their attention. As the group held the worms in their hands, we talked about the vital importance of these creatures for improving and maintaining soil structure. The group noted the need for worms in their garden and carefully placed them back into the ground.

A real sense of community and ownership around the garden is beginning to form in the group and plans are being made by everyone involved. As the digging continues we are making plans for the next stage of building the garden – including the construction of benches and the laying of gravel – in the coming weeks. 

Week One of Building Drumchapel’s Eco-Garden

Since March, when lockdown in Glasgow began, we have been dreaming about restarting the garden work at Drumchapel High School and last week we were able to begin again! Working with a top team of S4 and S5 pupils, under the guidance of Ally Harris, we began collectively building and imagining the school garden and it is so exciting to finally get started.

Ian began the session by introducing the IGA and the importance of our Arizona partners to the project. We discussed our ideas for the site and the group suggested a range of things that they wanted to include, such as a time capsule buried in the soil. We shared our interests in gardens, particularly growing food, and the group noted that a key desire for a school garden was to support the local community, particularly those in most need. Then we began to dig! The group’s enthusiasm was electric and everyone joined in to prepare the ground for levelling. Pupils worked together digging with spades and using their hands to remove the top layer of grass from the first site. A number of creatures were revealed in the process, causing alarm, intrigue and laughter for many of the group.

This is the beginning of a long-term partnership between Drumchapel and the IGA. Our dream is to build a school garden that supports and sustains a hopeful ecological future for the school and the surrounding community. We can’t wait to continue building this garden together.

Mr Lamb with no shovel in hand!

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action Challenge

Over the past month Ian, Cathy and I have been working up our proposal for the Reimagining Museums for Climate Action competition run by the Glasgow Science Centre. Inspired by the competition’s ethos for radically rethinking the museum in relation to climate justice and green futures, we explored ideas around young people and climate action. Our proposal – “The Green Technician Collective” – centres on the empowerment of young people through the development of a living museum and we are excited about sharing our ideas with the judging panel. Designing a museum proposal was a new venture for us and it was a challenging experience to attempt to visualise our ideas. For inspiration we hit the outdoors and had a lot of fun discussing our proposal as we trudged up a hill together.

The proposal has been created with COP26 in mind and the potential these events have to
challenge and reframe worldly debates around climate change and sustainable futures. Working together on this proposal allowed us the opportunity to consider further the IGA’s mission in relation to global policy, such as Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. It has continued to strengthen our collective desire to promote human dignity through the development of just foodscapes and we are excited to hear more about the competition as it progresses.

Visit to Levenmouth Academy – Bats wood

This month the IGA team were lucky enough to pay a (socially distanced) visit to Levenmouth Academy to visit their incredible school garden and to meet the various people involved in putting together and sustaining this venture.

Excited to be at this amazing site!

Duncan Zuill, founder of Bat’s Wood, and Claire McLeod, Principal Teacher for Geography, introduced us to the project and showed us the various ways in which the garden is used by pupils. We were also joined by community activist Ken Haig and mental health worker Iricka King who kindly shared their experiences of working with various communities and the importance of the garden to developing and sustaining community cohesion in the area. 

Duncan gave us a tour

It was inspiring to visit the site and to hear about the development of Bats Wood. There was a great deal of commonality between our two projects, including the importance of activism and protecting the right to access land for all. We discussed at length issues of austerity and shared our common desire to see school garden sites as both a response to and reaction against these violent measures.

We very much hope to continue to share ideas with Bats Wood and to revisit the site in the future!