Trafford Growing Conference

20th April 2012

Eileen finds out about Trafford’s push to get local people growing their own food.

On Tuesday 14th February, Gather to Grow in Trafford, a food growing event for all the family, was held at Trafford College. This was a really enjoyable event, efficiently organised with a comprehensive programme. The workshops covered virtually every aspect of gardening, the only problem being which three to choose.

For the new gardener there was the ‘Patch from Scratch’ option, where we were told how to choose a site, prepare the soil, develop a healthy soil environment, space out the plants and rotate the crops, etc. Regrettably, though, the facilitator recommended using peat and, when challenged on the grounds of damage to the environment and climate change, justified her advice because Alan Titchmarsh uses it! Tool maintenance was taught in another workshop.

We learned how to compost and make a wormery, being introduced to the wriggly special guests! Those interested in potato growing were guided in choosing varieties, starting, planting and growing them on, as well as receiving a potato-growing kit. We could also learn about fruit growing and planting a community garden. Advice on soil, variety selection, germination, care of seedlings and transplanting techniques was given to would-be tomato growers, who also went home with plants to start them off.

This was so typical of the approach of the whole day, which was practical and hands-on. Such tactics could have been designed especially to charm the youngsters present. In the workshop on wildlife gardening we were not just told how to make fatballs for the birds and bee nests, but provided with the materials to make them ourselves, and the children took home the miniature wildlife gardens they’d created in the baskets provided. No wonder they were interested and keen.

As honey bees pollinate a third of our food sources and the drastic fall in their numbers threatens our future well-being, we were told how to protect them by planting bee-friendly shrubs, garden flowers, herbs and vegetables, buying local honey, urging local councils to use single-flowering shrubs and flowers in our parks and sowing wild-flower meadows in open spaces.

We should also lobby our MPs and MEPs for more funded research into bee health. Apparently, without it we could lose our honey bees within 10 years, with disastrous consequences for food production and our wellbeing, to say nothing of the loss of creatures that have been on this planet for 25 million years.

The organisers provided an excellent lunch and a constant supply of refreshments. They did us proud! This really should become an annual event. Trafford’s Growing Conference instructed and interested everyone, it seemed, from the tinies to the really elderly. They are to be congratulated.