In the north of the beautiful Gower Peninsula, down a lane opposite the Rake and Riddle pub just outside Penclawdd and overlooking the sweeping Loughor estuary, Spring Mills Garden Group welcomes people to drop in on the 1st Saturday of the month (March to October) and get stuck in to food growing. Those who enjoy the experience may consider signing up as members of the group.
This isn’t an allotment, but a constituted, not-for-profit community organisation which grows food, together, on the same 1 acre plot, sharing tasks and crops.
As their website explains, the benefits of this include:
1. A reduced workload to each family or member, as they need to tend the crops less frequently.
2. An increased yield as a large workforce can plant a bigger crop and management, weeding and pest control are easier in small monocultures.
3. More social interaction and inter reliance within the community.
4. No ‘fallow land’ as is often the case with conventional allotment schemes; members can drop out and others can join to keep the land in use.
5. In this group scheme the members will also share their losses as well as their gains so that the loss of a few plants does not deprive any one grower of the final harvest.
6. We socialize together, enjoy ourselves and learn together making full use of each other’s skills, knowledge or energy.
The project is a subsidiary of Gower Group, “an organisation dedicated to inter-reliance and self-help”, which runs a number of projects including Store More – this provides professional catering equipment at low cost (to cover maintenance and replacement) to organisations or individuals who grow local produce to preserve and package it, without refrigeration; e.g. drying, bottling, jamming, juicing, pickling, smoking, etc. This aims to improve the longevity of local produce and to reduce carbon emissions associated with refrigeration and – through preserving produce into later seasons – importation of produce out of season.
At first, it seemed unlikely that their modest request for some weed membrane would make a huge difference to their productivity. How wrong we were! “The speed of weed re-growth means frequent visits to keep on top of the problem are being made. The fabric will drastically reduce this,” they promised, and indeed it did, as saw on a visit two years after they received their small grant.
“It has raised the bar on what we can produce on a small area”, explained Jo, showing me how they had pre-cut the sheets with holes to the correct spacing for new plants. This provides less experienced growers with an efficient planting template to follow, and it can be lifted and moved around as needed, helping with crop rotation.
The main benefit, though, is the huge reduction in time needed for manual weeding. This has freed the group up to use their time and energy for innovation instead.
Jo showed me an experimental self-watering system they were trying out following plenty of research, within a huge reclaimed greenhouse rebuilt by hand over a fairly long period of time.
This will massively increase their growing space and the range of food they can produce, but they simply wouldn’t have had time for such projects without the weed-control membrane.
So, yet another example of Swansea folks being innovative, community-minded and determined to work together towards a more sustainable future with improved food-security, connectedness and wellbeing. How great it is to be able to support projects like this!
If you’d like to get more involved, consider becoming a member of Gower Power – get in touch to find out more.