Stromness Community Garden has had another productive year during 2015 to 2016. The main achievement was the completion of the polytunnel in June, providing members with covered growing space. Other achievements include planting additional willows for shelter belt and increasing plot rental and stabilised membership numbers. With the major access project completed last year, including the paths, and we are now looking towards developing other areas of the site.
The polytunnel frame was completed in early 2015 and the main task was to address drainage issues and fit the cover. Drainage issues in the lower part of the field meant that field drains had to be dug into the polytunnel cover trenches, and additional drains were dug linking these to the main site ditch. These appear to have been successful, and the polytunnel site has remained drained despite exceptionally high rainfall during 2015. The wooden end frames were constructed and concreted into the ground. Thanks are due to Bob Nelson, who advised on the final frame adaptations and readied us for the covering.
The first attempt to cover the frame at the end of April was unsuccessful, as the wind got up in the middle of the operation and we had to abandon the idea. Ian managed to capture this in a time lapse video which can be viewed on our blog. The second attempt was more successful in perfect conditions and with Bob’s help the cover was fitted on the 1st of May. The polythene was later tightened further for the winter by raising the frame. Internal paths and plots were laid out with raised edges made from wooden sarking. We opted for a broad central path with central communal area, both of which can be used for pots and containers. An additional communal space was reserved at the door end for a potting and storage area. 24 plots (1.2 x 2.5m) are available with a maximum of two allowed per member.
Thanks to all those who helped with the polytunnel; it was hard work but is a fantastic addition to the community garden. As we had hoped, it is attracting people who do not want an outdoor plot, but are interested in growing undercover. The tunnel has since survived severe gale and storm force winds unscathed, which is testament to the hard work in putting it up! Over half of the space is currently let, which we hope will increase now we are at the beginning of a full growing season. If plots are not let members intend to dig them over and grow communal crops.
In addition to the polytunnel, new external plots have been established at the northern end of the site, with Scott’s chickens a welcome addition. It has been good to start developing this part of the site.
Additional willow planting was completed along the whole north-west side of the site. This has taken well but was slow to start due to the cold summer. Additional willow planting is planned.
Excavation of a pond commenced in the boggy area to the north-west of the polytunnel. This will collect water from the natural springs in the area and form a new habitat for frogs and other animals, which are known to inhabit the site. The spoil from the pond is being used to create a shelter bund at the north-west end of the polytunnel.
Generally, the weather was very poor during 2015, with cold temperatures making this a particularly challenging growing season, both inside the polytunnel and outside. External crops were about a month late, and I was certainly picking peas and broad beans in October! The extended growing season was notable in the polytunnel and salads and herbs are still growing in there now.
The carpark and paths have stood up well to traffic and general use. The path provides a useful cut through for the residents of Grieveship and other residents of the town and we are pleased that the site is used by the wider community.
Regular two-weekly workdays have been held throughout the spring and autumn. It was found that workdays were more successful during the spring, early summer, and autumn when members were less busy, and we will follow this pattern of general work on the site in the future.
A sustainable water supply remains the main priority for the site, especially with the completion of the polytunnel and the increased demands for water this will bring. A large tank has been fitted to the shed, but the roof collection of water is limited during the summer. A funding application was made to the Postcode Lottery for a borehole and hand pump, although unfortunately this was unsuccessful. We will reapply to other funding bodies this spring.
Membership has stabilised this year, with some not renewing and others joining, and there are now 44 household members. The number of external allotment plots has increased, and there have been some plots vacated due to changing circumstances, including the access plots. 16 external plots of various sizes are currently let.
We remain financially sustainable, with a net surplus generated from membership and plot income. A book sale was held in March at an Orkney Zero Waste event in Kirkwall, which raised £60. The annual report for the year 2014-15 was, including the verified accounts, were accepted by OSCR.
Other events included a mapping workshop as part of Map Orkney Month in March, a visit from Burray and South Ronaldsay Garden Club in May, and one from Stromness Gardening Club in August 2015.
Many thanks to our previous secretary Kate Thompson, new secretary Ian Garman, treasurer Linda Forbes, and new membership secretary Kate Smith for all their hard work, and the other trustees for attending meetings. Thanks to members and other volunteers for their hard work on site. Thanks to Orkney Housing Association for their support and continued lease of the site. Special thanks to Bob Nelson for help with the polytunnel.
Dan Lee (Chair)