Meet Beth – student testimonial

I received my placement with Kent Enterprise Trust through the employability points scheme at the University of Kent. I chose to accept the placement offer over others because I was keen to gain some knowledge in environmental work after completing my degree in Biomedical Science. My job title has been Environmental Champion, which seemed perfect for the experience I was looking for.

My first two days were spent in the Kent Community Oasis Garden, where I was given the freedom to complete my own project. Inspiration for my project came from research that I had carried out beforehand and the presence of materials in which I saw potential to be recycled into something environmentally friendly – an insect house. Insect houses encourage biodiversity, certain insects that eat pests in the garden and sometimes pollinators. It therefore, seemed beneficial to create an environment where insects that may increase the yields of the garden can live and breed.

On the first day, I lead two volunteers to collect and assemble the materials needed for the base and structure of the house. It was very rewarding to take my own initiative and guide a group to begin a completely new project. There were no volunteers available to help me on my second day so I completed the rest mostly by myself. I collected rotting wood, bark, bamboo, grass cuttings, leaf litter and other organic materials from all around the garden to arrange in the four layers of the insect house. This meant that whilst I was recycling, I was also tidying the garden a little and removing unwanted items from it. As the structure required hammering nails and sawing wood, I had to learn some new DIY skills. This was also extremely rewarding, as it was the first time that I had carried out any task like this and so it was beneficial for my life-skills and knowledge. I was really happy with the final result and I think it will very likely attract the right insects to help the garden. The volunteers in the garden seemed interested in the insect house and many of them asked me questions and wanted to know about how and why I was building it. I think this is another reason why my project was useful, as it engaged the people that it will hopefully help and raised some awareness of the importance of the ecosystem in the garden.

I spent some time in the office writing up a report for my insect house project. Researching the subject and documenting my work in this way was a useful experience. My report will be used on the charity’s website and used as an example of the benefits the garden has. The fact that my project can be an example of the great work the charity do is very satisfying. The rest of my time was spent organising and packing books for a book sale during a yearly celebration. The funds raised will be used for the community garden.

Overall, my time at Kent Enterprise Trust was productive and valuable and I feel like I have really developed my DIY, leadership and teamwork abilities. I was warmly welcomed into both the garden and office environments and enjoyed discovering how a charity runs and how that affects the beneficiaries. My wish to gain some insight into work involved with the environment was also fulfilled. The experience was rewarding and I definitely feel as though I am more prepared to enter the working world.

The importance of insects

Student Beth who has interned with KET as their environmental champion has been looking at the importance of insects and got practical by building KentCOG’s first insect hotel.

The importance of insects and providing them with a home
Every insect plays a role in the ecosystem in which it is found. The essential act of pollination is most commonly carried out by bees and butterflies; however, some ants, flies, beetles and even wasps contribute. When an insect lands on a flower, some pollen is transferred onto its body from the stamen (the male part of the flower). This pollen is rubbed off onto a different flower of the same species, where it can fertilise the stigma (the female part) to produce seeds. Some plants are capable of self-pollinating or being pollinated by seeds in the wind, however, a majority cross-pollinate as described. Therefore, the continuation of most plant species is dependent on these insects. Not only is this important for wildlife habitats, but also for humans, who rely on effective pollination for food. Due to habitat loss, insecticides and climate change, bee and butterfly numbers have been declining for years. It is therefore important for humans to aim to reduce the damage – one way of doing this is by providing areas where they can lay their eggs.

Honey Bees” by gailhampshire is licensed under CC BY 2.0

From a gardener’s perspective, pollination is necessary, but so is pest control. If a gardener wishes to be mindful of bees and other wildlife, as well as health concerns, they may be averse to using pesticides. Fortunately, there are various bugs which feed on unwanted insects and these can be purchased or encouraged into your garden by introducing their preferred breeding environments. The larvae of lacewings are well-known to devour aphids, also known as greenfly or blackfly. Aphids are one of the most destructive pests in gardens, as they weaken plants by sucking their sap, feed on their leaves, can transport plant viruses and cause the growth of sooty moulds. Insecticides are often ineffective at removing aphids anyway, but in addition to lacewing larvae, ladybirds and crab spiders eat and so control aphids. Ladybird larvae and adults also feed on other pests such as mealybugs, mites, thrips and scale insects. Minute pirate bugs, syrphid flies (hoverflies) and damsel bugs all contribute to pest removal as well.

The larger ground beetle feeds on larger pests such as slugs and cutworms as well as insect eggs. Each of these useful creatures has a preferred environment to breed and live in. So, a diverse range of bugs in a garden can facilitate the growth and maintenance of plants. In the case of food-yielding plants, this can mean a larger production of fruits and
vegetables. KentCOG would benefit from this, as more produce can be sold to raise money, or more garden participants can benefit from their efforts by taking home food. An ‘insect hotel’ can encourage these beneficial bugs
by containing different environments which provide them with a home and breeding-ground. This may be especially useful in the colder months when insects search for a warm and dry place to burrow or hibernate.

Materials and insect preferences
Materials for a hotel can be collected from nature or be recycled items. When arranged properly, they can provide the perfect home for specific insects.
• Bark attracts centipedes, beetles and spiders in addition to woodlice and millipedes which contribute to the system of recycling in a garden.
• Broken plants pots and bricks and drainpipes can add to the structure and provide more space for burrowing.
• Dead and rotting wood provides a home for beetles, centipedes, woodlice and fungi.
• Hollow stems, bamboo and holes in wood make a great environment for solitary bees to lay eggs on the sun-catching side.
• Pinecones give refuge to ladybirds and lacewings.
• Straw, dried grass and dry leaf litter give ladybirds a place to hibernate over winter as well as other insects a place to burrow.
• Wood chippings or rolled cardboard inside a plastic bottle provides an ideal home for pest-eating lacewings.
• Hedgehog boxes and stones and tiles for frogs and newts can be added if you want to attract even more wildlife. These larger animals eat slugs and other pests in the garden.

Tips for building an insect hotel

  1. Find a site that is level and firm, ideally in a shady area as most insects like moist and cool conditions. If you wish to attract solitary bees, ensure at least one side will receive plenty of sunlight (facing north or south).
  2. Create a solid base from old wooden pallets or spare wood. Stack up the wood into layers with lace larger pieces at the bottom and secure each level with string, wire, or nails. Make sure that the structure has a solid back to keep in warmth and keep out moisture.
  3. Fill each layer with the previously mentioned materials. These can be found around your garden, be donated or recycled from your house. For safety reasons, don’t make the structure more than a metre high.
  4. Give your hotel a roof using old tiles or planks. You can cover them with roofing felt to keep it relatively dry. The roof can also be a habitat; put some rubble or soil on top which may allow wildflower growth or add some more dead wood to weight it all down.
  5. Insect hotels can be built at any time of year, but autumn is ideal as it will provide the insects with a place to hibernate during winter.
  6. Surrounding your hotel nectar-rich flowers will attract insects and pollinators such as bees. Planting native species (wildflowers) may attract rarer native species of bees as they have evolved together. Different bees are active throughout different times of the year, so having flowering plants throughout, ensures bees will have food all year round. Great examples are lavender (summer), honeysuckle (autumn), ivy (winter) and bluebell (spring).

My project
The idea to build an insect hotel during my placement came from research that I had carried out beforehand. When I arrived at KentCOG, I saw lots of materials that had the potential to be recycled to create the environmentally friendly project. Just after the entrance to the garden, there is a large pile of relatively healthy scrap wood. I saw two structures that resembled wooden pallets as well as four draw-like boxes which would be perfect for assembling the base and structure. After checking that there would be a substantial amount of materials around the garden to fill the hotel and correct tools to build it, I began construction.

On the first day, I lead two volunteers, Hannah and Matt, and we created a base for the hotel. We sawed 4 small pieces of wood and nailed them into the corners of the first ‘pallet’. This provided balance for the second ‘pallet’ that we nailed on top. The nails that we used were largely rusty and old and so unusable for larger projects, however, they worked great for the hotel, which created another means of recycling through them. Mirelle showed us a shady, concealed spot to place the hotel and we used spades to level out the ground. We then installed the base onto the clear spot.

As there were no volunteers available on the second day, I worked mostly by myself. I began by collecting rotting wood from a large container in the garden, which contained old, disused blocks, logs and tree cuttings. I also found some fresh tree branch cuttings. I organised these pieces of wood into the base as they are the heaviest components and will help to steady the structure. Using long, thin planks of wood found on the scrap wood pile, I made a steadying platform for the second layer, on top of the base. Gemma helped me to hammer out two sides of the boxes from the woodpile, so that there would be an opening at the front and access to the middle. Once I had secured the boxes with discarded string and nails, I began searching for materials to fill them with.

Some volunteers had recently cut and collected small branches and twigs from the trees surrounding the garden, so I asked them to leave them out for me to use. When I was sure that they were dry, I placed them into the
centre space of the layer. The grass had also been cut within the past week and it was very sunny, so it had dried out and become like hay. I gathered some of it and put in the back two areas of the boxes. Lots of bark was laying around in the garden, so I picked up enough to fill another space in the layer. The last area in this layer contains three different components. I found some disused bamboo sticks in a polytunnel and so I sawed and broke these up to fit in the box. Next to these is a plastic bottle which a volunteer had used the day before. I saved it, dried it out and filled it with wood chippings found in the rotting wood pile. The last items in the box were found in the tool shed. They are old, plastic tube coverings for tree saplings, which had not been needed for a long time. I broke these up to
fit and filled the back-facing ends with more grass-cuttings. To fill the empty space at the back of this section, I used some of the smaller material in twig collection pile.

Another two thin planks gave a platform for the next layer of boxes. Some bush-craft days had been run in the open space adjacent to the garden and consequently, there were a few piles of leaf litter. I collected some of it into a box with all four sides intact, to give some extra shelter and warmth. The last box contains five more of the plastic tree coverings, again with grass cuttings in the ends. Empty spaces were also filled with the cuttings, which helped to keep the tubes in place. The back of the boxes and fence behind the hotel keep it relatively enclosed and will provide adequate shelter. Finally, I discovered a board with one laminate side in the scrap wood pile. This was perfect for a roof, as it was the correct size and will provide some rain protection. I placed this on the top layer and weighed it down with semi-rotting logs that I found all around the garden. My final step was to place the large log right in front of the hotel, to steady the ground, as it was on a slight mound. It could also provide a seat for anyone wanting to have a
look at the creatures living inside. I cleared out some of the prickly plants and loose grass in the surrounding area, to
accommodate any visitors.

Sustainability celebrations at Kent Community Oasis Garden

Last week, sustainability champions from across the University celebrated the first year anniversary of the FutureProof project at a garden party held at the Kent Community Oasis Garden.

FutureProof is the University of Kent’s response to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provides a framework, challenging and supporting each University department to review their impacts against the SDGs and working to create positive change.

FutureProof, which launched in June 2018, aims to inspire individuals, departments and the whole University community to take action in ensuring that our estate, our curriculum and our students are ready for the future.

The Sustainability Champions are key to the project’s success as they act as catalysts for change in their departments and conduits for sustainability information across the University. As part of their role as champions they lead on their own projects and the celebration event was the sustainability’s team way of saying thank you to them for all their hard work.

The event highlighted case studies from the year, which can be read in full in the Futureproof report

Projects have included a tripling of recycling rates in Biosciences, education for sustainable development projects at the Business School and a wellbeing project at the Medway campus.

To celebrate, the sun came out for a delicious vegan BBQ prepared by chef Ben Elsbury (from Kent Hospitality), games with prizes to be won, and a refreshing mocktail bar with fresh herbs from the garden.

In its first year FutureProof has held 6 workshops at both the Canterbury and Medway campuses with an overall attendance across them of 124, recruited 65 sustainability champions from 43 different departments, and supported 20 sustainability projects from across the University.

For more information about FutureProof please visit www.kent.ac.uk/sustainability or email sustainability@kent.ac.uk

July Update!

Environmental Audit and Awards Assessment With University of Kent and Canterbury in Bloom    

Kent Community Oasis Garden welcomes Beth our new Volunteer Environmental Champion Intern from the University of Kent who is looking at our environmental impact and sustainability at our new community garden.  We have also been assessed by Canterbury in Bloom for an award and one of our areas for improvement is to increase the habitat for birds, bees and bats.  With this in mind, Ed our Horticulture Apprentice, Matt our Volunteer Gardener and Hannah our Wellbeing Volunteer, worked with her as team to create a risk assessment, obtain tools and reused unwanted natural materials found around the site to create a beautiful bug hotel.

The garden is accessible to anyone, all year round, with sessions for training and support by DBS checked Safeguarding Officers and First Aiders on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:00 to 14:00. It is now providing produce to harvest, wellbeing sessions, Level 1 Horticulture Traineeships, Level 2 Horticulture Apprenticeships and work experience with practical skills for students, volunteers and unemployed adults.  We support approximately 12 people per session, from 18-100 years, with retired volunteers mentoring and supporting younger volunteers.

Our plans for later this year are to build an outdoor classroom, create a sensory garden and plant daffodils with Canterbury In Bloom volunteers. Come along on anyWednesday 10 – 2pm where you can meet us, see the garden and find out more about how you can help or join the project with your time, knowledge, plants, donations or sponsor our work.

Meet Ed

Ed is the horticultural apprentice at KentCOG

I’ve always enjoyed working outside, using my hands, and being surrounded by nature. I began my Horticulture apprenticeship with Kent Enterprise Trust on 3rd December 2018, with a view to developing skills that I might need for the future, and to support the Trust in its mission to help people get back into work. Working with the Trust has also given me the opportunity to begin an RHS Level 2 Horticulture Course at Hadlow College, which would be very beneficial for my future plans to become self-employed. I believe that gardening and being in a space that is non-threatening is also extremely helpful in improving people’s self-esteem, as new skills are constantly being taught and shared.

Although the environment can be informal, the projects that we are working on are structured and planned so that we ensure that the garden is always moving towards its full potential. I personally feel a huge sense of satisfaction when it comes to help building structures such as the new polytunnel at the Community Oasis Garden site and sourcing the materials for such tasks.

Ed at work building the post box

It is also important that we share ideas with other community gardens, and this is a skill that the Trust is helping me to develop. I appreciate the fact that I am able to attend other gardens and network with like-minded people, and advance my current working knowledge. A key word that I consider relevant for the Trust is ‘collaboration’, and this is something that is important for its future as a sustainable space, which is important for the people’s general wellbeing and self-development.

KET beneficiaries testimonials

E a Growth Journey Participant

“As a volunteer/Trainee I am finding it very rewarding and well worthwhile. I would recommend it here at the Kent Enterprise Trust, if you would like to learn key skills to further your career chances or to add new skills to your repertoire.”

S  Improving Lives Participant

“Before starting improving lives I didn’t have much confidence, I had no routine and hadn’t been in work for a while. I am so glad I have had the opportunity to do this work experience now as it has helped me massively. The people that work here are friendly, kind and always willing to help.”

TF – Improving Lives Participant

“In the time that I have spent at Links House on the Improving lives Course, I have found the staff and volunteers at the Kent Enterprise Trust to be really supportive and encouraging people. They are always on hand to help with any issues you may have. Their help has made me realise that those things that once might have held me back are not impossible to get round. They are lovely positive people who have given me support and encouragement to try and start my own little business. They have also helped me to boost my confidence and try to overcome my own pain issues and depression by not judging me. They let you do things at your pace. I would truly and wholeheartedly recommend the work of the Trust to anyone looking for employment or for just improving their own life and communication skills and confidence levels in general.”

RS- Improving Lives Participant

“At first I wasn’t too sure how I would get on. After the first day I quickly realized that I was with a good set of people who were easy to get on with. That in mind I became more comfortable talking to each person. With all the bits I done and people I met I can easily say I enjoyed my time here and would recommend anyone lacking in confidence or low self-esteem should take part in one of these courses.”

ED – Improving Lives Participant

“Very friendly. Not intimidating, helpful and kind and reassuring, welcoming and respectful. Lots of opportunities and things to do there and people were treated as individuals. I was able to do my work experience at Whitstable Castle which I enjoy. And take advantage of the training opportunities.”

LS – Growth Journey Participant

“There isn’t many companies/people that would give me the opportunities and trust KET offered and gave me.Thanks to KET I have grown so much as a person and overcome depression, anxiety and issues I didn’t even know were issues until they were gone. Your work experience programme and subsequent voluntary position gave me the confidence I needed in life to rebuild old friendships and offered me hope.”

F – Kent Enterprise Garden Participant

“I have found volunteering at Community Oasis Garden a really rewarding experience. I enjoy being able to collaborate with the other gardeners, as well as help to support other attendees that might not feel so confident in their own abilities. It is a really positive thing to see the garden space becoming a place for people to go to relax, create, and grow things. I think that the potential for the garden is infinite, which makes it a really inspiring thing to be a part of. I am hoping that I can further my skills and knowledge, while also being able to work on my own confidence and gain a career in the sector. “

ZF – Kent Enterprise House Volunteer

“I would like to thank Kent enterprise trust for all the volunteer work they gave me. It really has helped boost my confidence and helped me get a new job after 3 years of no work. Thank you”

 R- Kent Enterprise Gardens Participant “I have benefited quite well from taking part in the Improving Lives Programme. Since joining, I have developed a few new skills. These include working with certain types of plants, carpentry, able to make a fire and how to stay safe while working. This programme has helped me quite a bit and I’ve enjoyed working with some of the other people that participated. I would recommend Improving Lives to anybody currently looking to find work in a garden environment.”

One Year On

An update from KET

We have expanded our garden and practical skills provision at Herne Bay and Canterbury during the last 12 months to enable our beneficiaries to walk or cycle to our services which are now open 4 days a week with thanks to donations, sponsorship and funding.

During the year from April 2018 to March 2019 we supported 57 people, 27 of whom were longstanding volunteers who may be retired or long-term unemployed, 18 were new learners who are not in employment, training or education and 13 were students from Kent University seeking work experience, employability points or fresh air and wellbeing.

Both sites are kindly let to us on a peppercorn rent to engage the community in sustainable organic food growing with demonstrations on tool maintenance and repairs in an inclusive space that is accessible to all by providing the following benefits:

  • A safe environment for vulnerable and potentially vulnerable people.
  • Training and advice from horticulturalists and experienced gardeners.
  • Provision of skill and knowledge that will support into gainful employment.
  • A site to be used by the community for gardening projects.
  • A venue that promotes healthy living, eating and wellbeing.

We extended our outdoor service provision as follows:

  • Allotment Gardening at Herne Bay funded by Henry Smith
  • Grow Wild at Herne Bay funded by Greggs
  • Allotment Gardening at KentCOG funded by Big Lottery
  • Community Kitchen at KentCOG funded by West Kent Housing
  • Wellbeing Wednesdays at KentCOG funded by University of Kent
  • Level 1 Horticulture Traineeships at KentCOG funded by Groundworks
  • Level 2 Horticulture Apprenticeships at KentCOG funded by Colyer-Fergusson
  • Plant Stall and Tuck Shop to provide retail and cash handling experience at Herne Bay and KentCOG

Growing skills, knowledge and plants – June update

Update from KET

KentCOG Community Oasis Garden is growing from strength to strength.  A few weeks ago Kent Enterprise Trust celebrated a year working at the site, restoring it to its former glory.  It is now providing produce to harvest, wellbeing sessions, Level 1 Horticulture Traineeships, Level 2 Horticulture Apprenticeships and work experience with practical skills for students, volunteers and unemployed adults.

The garden is accessible to anyone, all year round, with sessions for training and support by DBS checked Safeguarding Officers and First Aiders on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:00 to 14:00.  We support approximately 12 people per session, from 18-100 years, with retired volunteers mentoring and supporting younger volunteers. Kent Enterprise Trust is a well-established registered charity based in Herne Bay, recognized for changing people’s lives by supporting them with training and mentoring to be able to make a return to part-time or full-time employment.

Our plans for later this year are to build an outdoor classroom, create a sensory garden and plant daffodils with Canterbury In Bloom volunteers, we also have an open day on Wednesday 17 July at Midday where you can meet us, see the garden and find out more about how you can help or join the project with your time, knowledge, plants or donations.

We welcome anyone who is out of work and is interested in volunteering for the first time and willing to learn new skills and gain some work experience or train in horticulture. If you are retired or semi-retired and are free on a Tuesday or Wednesday, want to get fit, make some new friends in a friendly relaxed social environment, gain new experiences or just exchange your gardening knowledge come and join in.

With huge thanks to our training providers and funders, The University of Kent, Big Lottery, Henry Smith, Colyer-Fergusson, Tesco and Earnest Cook. For helping us make this community project the success it is.

New Encounters

Blog post by one of our volunteer, a MSc student here at the University of Kent.

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I stumbled across the Kent Community Oasis Garden on a walk to the Blean from campus. It was off hours, but after a poke around I got the feeling that it was a positive space. I made note of the hours and was on my way. Finding Canterbury my home away from home and in a milder climate than I am used to getting dirty through the winter sounded like great therapy and right up my alley. It wasn’t till a few weeks later when I needed a location to conduct a micro research project for a methods course did I realize that the garden would be a perfect spot. Studying ethnobotany at Kent, the relationship members had with the physical and social landscape I felt would be an interesting study. If I was drawn in by the potential for positive wellbeing the garden offered, would anyone else? What would those other relationships look like? Does the garden positively impact wellbeing and can the how’s be identified and maybe even quantified? I volunteered weekly to find out. In all kinds of English weather, and luckily not too much rain I helped where I could, observed and interviewed members over six weeks this fall. Among the language and gardening insight was the conclusion that the members of the community take part in a reciprocal, therapeutic landscape contributing to the wellbeing of both the land and the people.

Thank you notes found in the KentCOG suggestion box