Five years on from City of Glasgow College welcoming students to its newly opened city campus on Cathedral Street, the college’s rooftop gardens are one of the many success stories they can shout about from the rooftops.
Part of the Glasgow Community Food Network, the gardens offer practical opportunities to teach students about sustainability and climate change, as well as horticulture, human geography, business, and cookery.
On the fourth floor of the building, an external space has been transformed into a thriving organic vegetable garden. Its produce is used by the college’s professional cookery students and its catering provider, BaxterStorey, who have has donated seeds and fruit trees in return for produce, creating a circular economy right on site.
Instrumental in establishing the flourishing garden is Jackie McMaster, a care assistant for community and school engagement at the college, who said, “I work with students on the college’s CityWorks NQ course which is designed for students with additional support needs. They study a range of SQA qualifications but the focus is on work experience and one area we involve them in is the college gardens.”
“They help plant and maintain all our veg containers, they’ve made planters for herbs, and even came up with a design using recycled plastic bottles to keep slugs at bay. The project is tailored for supported learning and the students are vital to the success of our gardens.”
More Garden Space
The college has two gardens, on its fourth and seventh floors, as well as an allotment in the Gorbals near its Riverside campus, with everything grown from seed.
“The seventh floor garden is an orchard,” explained Jackie, “We now have apple, cherry, plum, and nut trees. We also grow blackcurrants, blackberries, and artichokes, and hope to grow mushrooms using ground coffee waste.”
Jackie has more ambitious plans for the gardens and next year aims to establish beehives to pollinate the fruit trees and produce local honey. The beehives will also encourage the conservation of a species at risk and add more opportunities for teaching and skills development.
The college’s rooftop gardens are truly organic and self-sufficient, using compost created from the college’s own food waste thanks to an industrial composter which was recently installed.
With the ability to now compost an estimated 26 tonnes of food waste on site each year, both the composter and gardens are going a long way to helping the college meet, and actively involve students in, its environmental ambitions.