The Caley’s Grow and Learn in Nature award helps improve and develop gardening skills in participants, allowing a greater understanding of the natural world, and giving opportunities to make a difference locally.
One such project has been taking place in the greenhouse within the grounds of Rowanbank Clinic, a medium-secure, forensic, mental health unit, situated in Balornock, Glasgow.
The spacious greenhouse is located inside the enclosed grounds and is in regular use, with participants taking part in horticulture sessions both inside, and in eight outdoor planters surrounding the greenhouse.
As Rowanbank Clinic is a medium-secure unit, there are restrictions with regards to what can be used within the clinic (i.e. some gardening tools, aerosols, anything that may attract pests), so the coordinator has had to be inventive when brainstorming ideas for the projects. An example of this would be tasks such as making leaf mould as restrictions within the clinic hinder the use of plastic refuse bags for anything other than rubbish.
The GLiN Project
Paul McLellan, the project coordinator talked us through the GLiN project at Rowanbank Clinic.
“All of our clients have very limited gardening experience or even none at all. They are all though keen to improve their knowledge and gain experience working within a horticultural environment.
“We have six people taking part in our GLiN project. As we are limited with how many people can be in the greenhouse at the one time due to social distancing requirements, the project is split into two separate groups, both with three budding gardeners in each. One group decided to called themselves ‘The Green Gardening Club’ and the other group went with ‘Mon eh Plants!’
“I met up with both groups to brainstorm ideas for the project and what they would like to get out of it. The general consensus was that they wanted to improve their knowledge of horticulture and to gain first-hand experience carrying out tasks around the greenhouse and outdoors that would benefit the biodiversity of the grounds and local area.
“The first thing we decided to do would be to take photographs around the greenhouse and grounds for reference and so we would have a comparison to see the difference when the project was finished.
Planting for Wildlife
“The first task we took on was to ‘Provide Shelter for Wildlife’. We discussed various ways of doing this and our clients came up with some good ideas, like building a birdhouse and crafting a safe place for hedgehogs, but we decided on creating bug hotels using recyclable materials as we have a healthy amount of insect visitors within the greenhouse.
“Both groups were tasked with bringing some recyclable materials to the greenhouse. They brought milk cartons, shoeboxes, Amazon delivery boxes, juice cartons, polystyrene cups, and other recyclable bits and bobs as well as a re-usable plastic container to house our recyclable materials, keeping them dry from the changeable Glasgow weather.
“We constructed separate bug hotels using these items, with everyone doing well and showing how creative they can be. We placed them in areas around the greenhouse that receive the most insect traffic and we regularly log any insect life inside them.
Provide food for pollinators, insects, birds, and mammals
“The next task we wanted to tick off was ‘Provide food for pollinators, insects, birds and mammals’, so again after a bit of brainstorming, we decided on cutting up apples and placing birdseed within the apple’s flesh in order to attract more birdlife to our greenhouse area.
“During January and February we began sowing flower seeds to provide food for pollinators in the coming spring and summer. Flowers such as begonias, morning glory, delphiniums, and more were planted in propagators or straight into pots. The group enjoyed the task of riddling compost and preparing pots and propagators for sowing.
“We also sowed vegetable seeds with the view of harvesting them in late summer. Vegetables such as carrots, peas, salad leaves, basil, potatoes, and tomatoes were planted both in pots inside the greenhouse, and in our outdoor planters. We plan on utilising harvested vegetables in our Occupational Thepary cooking sessions which everyone seems excited about!
“The groups enjoyed working with seeds and carefully pricking them out into the soil. They all expressed an excitement about seeing the plants begin to sprout. Each time we are in the greenhouse, we take a note of growth since the last visit.
“When getting ready to plant vegetables in our outdoor planters, we did some research on the benefits of adopting a no dig approach when working with soil. Neither I nor any of our participants realised the damage that digging in soil can cause, suffice to say we were all on board with adopting this approach wherever possible.
“This then led into a bigger conversation about small changes we could make around the greenhouse to reduce our carbon footprint and do our bit in tackling global warming. We discussed and put into action different recyclable materials that we could re-use, as well as limiting the amount of electricity we use day-to- day.
“I had a great experience carrying out GLiN with our guys. As someone with very limited horticultural knowledge, I found myself discovering things about gardening that I wouldn’t have known and have developed a real passion for working within our green spaces. It has also been brilliant seeing our clients enjoying working and mixing again after a very difficult two years of lockdowns and limited social mixing within our clinic.
“As far as carrying out tasks is concerned, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly our participants picked things up and how efficiently they worked as a team, it genuinely has seemed to bring them together as a group. Every session was different and the longer the project goes on, daily tasks around the greenhouse have become second nature and are carried out as part of the routine of being inside the greenhouse.
“I spoke to all of our participants individually and discussed how they felt doing the course. Everyone stated that they had enjoyed GLiN and enjoyed both the learning and physical aspects of the course. When asked, all of our participants spoke of wanting to continue learning about gardening and nature, with some even wanting to seek future employment or volunteering opportunities in a horticultural setting.
“I would definitely take part in a GLiN award again in our setting. It has enhanced the participant’s wellbeing during, what has been, an extremely taxing time for them. You can see how much this project has meant to them and brought a bit of routine back to their week.
“Horticultural sessions will continue within the greenhouse so our participants can continue their learning and see how their plants get on throughout the year. Overall, everyone had a great experience taking part in a GLiN award and have all gained an interest in gardening as well as improving their horticultural knowledge.”
How does a Grow and Learn in Nature award work?
- You decide on your GLiN project. It can be anything from making your garden more wildlife friendly to simply growing pots of herbs on your doorstep. Remember, even a few herbs can attract pollinating insects.
- You choose your site. It can be your garden at home, school grounds, waste ground, community garden, or allotment. Even a balcony or window box will do.
- You undertake a minimum of 30hrs of GLiN activities. If you choose to do more hours, so much the better for both you and nature.
- You will learn much about biodiversity and nature, soil health, plant care, and propagation. Our fabulous resource pack gives you handy hints and tips to get you started.
- You record your progress in a personal portfolio. There is a fantastic example on The Caley website to inspire you: https://thecaley.org.uk/grow-learn-in-nature/. Portfolios are a great record of all your hard work and looking back on your efforts will give you a real sense of satisfaction.
- On completion, you share and put to good use all that knowledge you have gained by making a gardening or nature pledge. Even a small step like taking part in the RSPB ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ or planting early flowering bulbs next year would be a valuable pledge to make.
- And finally, you are presented with The Caley’s prestigious ‘Certificate of Horticultural Achievement’ award.
To find out more, register for GLiN or attend a Zoom drop-in session, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and take up a Grow and Learn in Nature challenge, learn new skills, and truly transform the world on your doorstep.