Spring Newsletter

Welcome to Spring 2020 at the garden

It has been a long time since our last newsletter, and so much has changed. The KentCOG team wanted to take this opportunity to keep in touch, and update you on the ever evolving community garden.  Although our volunteers are busy gardening at home, and the plot remains closed, our community is still active and happy to support those in need of some green care.

KentCOG have teamed up with East Kent Mind this year to grow the garden as a community base focused on wellbeing, and I have returned after a year away to welcome you to be part of that development.  Please share your stories, growing experiences, and experiments in gardening with us, including photos, recipes and top tips in creating a thriving natural home environment for wellbeing, whatever that may mean to you.  Practicing Ecotherapy at home has helped me stay grounded during times of change, and that’s what I am exploring in more detail over the coming months.

What’s happening this season?

East Kent Mind have provided an array of live workshops, courses and activities accessible on your phone or computer at home. KentCOG are supporting the online digital weekly timetable with a regular slot Grow Your Wellbeing (more details below).

East Kent Mind have also set up a wellbeing support line open Monday-Friday 2pm-5pm, Friday-Sunday 6pm-10pm, if you need to talk please call 0203 912 0032.

 

 https://sharepoint.kent.ac.uk/estates/kentcog/Shared%20Documents/Student%20Engagement/file-20.jpeg

Seasonal jobs

Growing herbs on your windowsill can be very satisfying and family favourite cress is quick to sprout and great to eat with your eggs for breakfast, perfect for beginner gardeners.

  

If you have an outdoor growing space try preparing a meter square bed for companionship planting, a popular combination to grow is squash beside climbing beans supported by corn.

It’s time to harden off your seedlings outside or plant new seeds directly into prepared beds, following packet guidelines.

This season’s events

It was Mental Health Awareness Week last week, so why not check out Grow Your Wellbeing sessions on Zoom with Emily Hill every Wednesday afternoon (2-3pm) with practical advice on trying Ecotherapy at home.

Sign up by visiting eastkentmind.org.uk and complete a registration form online, or email info@eastkentmind.org.uk

When lockdown is lifted, please come to one of our regular KentCOG sessions to find out more:

Every Tuesday 10 – 2pm

(Community Session)

Every Wednesday 10 – 2pm

(East Kent Mind Open Spaces – Student Session)

Looking for something to celebrate? It was World Bee Day on the 19th May, so on the advice of our partners the Whitstable and Herne Bay Beekeepers, I have included some links to find out more about our valuable friends. Did you know there were 271 species of bee in the UK?

https://whitstable-hernebay-beekeepers.org.uk/2019/06/29/how-time-and-bees-flies/
https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/bumblebee-species-guide/
https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/blog/ryan-clark/guide-solitary-bees-britain
https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/30dayswild

Please visit https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/kentcog/ for more information about the project or email kentcog@kent.ac.uk if you have any queries or want to join our mailing list.

 Find us here

We will write again when we can reopen the garden , until then take care, and carry on gardening.

Best wishes,

Emily Hill, KentCOG Coordinator

Ecotherapy

How to do ecotherapy at home

Ecotherapy is essentially all about improving your mental and physical wellbeing by doing activities outdoors in nature, but what happens when your time outside is limited, or you can’t access green spaces easily?  In these difficult times, where social distancing and staying at home is becoming the new normal, let’s take a look at what can be done to top up our daily dose of green care.

Here at KentCOG even though volunteers are unable to get to the community garden to work in nature, every individual can still experience nature and the positive effects it has on wellbeing and physical health from home, and so can you.  Here’s how, with some of my favourite suggestions from Mind’s Making sense of ecotherapy resource, available online at www.mind.org.uk:

Bring nature into your home environment

  • Collect natural materials such as leaves, flowers, feathers, tree bark, seeds and anything else that you like to decorate your home and use in art projects.
  • Create a comfortable space to sit in in your home where you can look out over a view of the sky or a tree.
  • Grow plants on your windowsills.

  • Take photos of your favourite places in nature and set them as your phone and computer backgrounds.
  • Try to do more everyday activity in front of a window so that you can see the sky (for example ironing clothes, chopping vegetables, brushing your teeth, drying dishes or daily exercises).
  • Download some recordings of your favourite natural sounds such as birdsong or waves.

Try horticulture at home

  • Create a growing space at home. If you don’t have a garden invest in a window box or plant pot and plant some salad leaves or herbs – even keeping a small container on your windowsill can help.

  • If you have flower beds try planting some vegetables amongst the flowers. Many varieties of vegetables have attractive flowers for part of the year and might even add to your display.
  • Put your name down for an allotment or consider sharing one.
  • Join a local community food growing project if there is one in your area.
  • Go fruit picking in the countryside, or find out about urban food foraging and get some tasty food for free.  For example, in late summer and early autumn you might find lots of wild blackberry bushes growing in urban spaces, and some trees you walk by every day on your street might actually be apple or cherry.

Get close to animals

  • Go for walks in the countryside by rivers, fields and trees, and look out for wildlife. If you don’t live near open countryside, look out for urban wildlife in your local park, such as squirrels, fish, insects, ducks and other birds.

  • Go birdwatching by yourself.
  • Hang a bird feeder outside one of your windows. If you have the space you could build a small roosting box on a tree or under a windowsill so that you can watch baby sparrows or blue tits when they leave the nest. The RSPB provides more information on feeding and sheltering birds.
  • Think about whether owning a pet would be the right thing for you. Many people find caring for a pet every day brings lots of benefits, but you need to be sure your home environment and personal circumstances would be the right thing for the animal as well as for you. If you don’t own your home, it’s also important to check if you’re allowed pets.

Do your bit for the Environment

  • Go on a litter picking walk in the park or on the beach.
  • Plant something outside the front of your home so that everybody who walks by can enjoy it.
  • Plant flowers for the bees and berry bushes for the birds in your garden.
  • Build an animal habitat – put up a bird box, create a hedgehog house or create a pond if you have enough space. Even a small pond can offer a home to creatures, such as newts and pond skaters.

Do more activities outdoors

  • Build a ten minute walk into your day, see if you can plan the route so that you take in a park or river.
  • If you have a garden create a space in it that you enjoy sitting in, have a picnic with home grown produce.
  • Sit under a tree in silence for a while, lean back against it and feel it supporting you.
  • Give yourself a sensory outdoor workout – find things to look at, listen to, taste, smell and touch. For inspiration visit the Let Nature Feed Your Senses website (letnaturefeedyoursenses.org).

Ecotherapy improves mental health, physical health, develops social life, builds confidence, strengthens your connection with nature and helps you practise mindfulness.  There are many ways to get involved and more information and support available at mind.org.uk. You can also join in a weekly zoom meeting on Green Spaces KentCOG 2-3pm from my home and see many of these ideas being put into practice. Spaces are limited, to book email info@eastkentmind.org.uk.

Take care.

Emily Hill – KentCOG Coordinator

University of Kent welcome Mind to the Oasis Garden

Adapted from press release:

Designed to become a sustainability hub centered on growing food, the Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG) is a collaborative outdoor space for staff and students and members of the local community to use for a range of activities.  The garden provides a space for relaxation and learning new skills, as well as growing fruit and vegetables throughout the seasons. The garden is now also home to a new initiative to develop wellbeing and green care.

KentCOG is being developed by the University’s Student Wellbeing team with new partners, East Kent Mind. East Kent Mind will provide opportunities to take part in sessions, peer support activities and workshops with an aim to support and improve mental health and wellbeing. 

The garden is located along the Crab and Winkle pathway to the far east of the Canterbury Campus past the Park Wood accommodation.  Helping with its design – with an emphasis on accessibility- is Gardeners’ World local expert Mark Lane.  Other organisations actively involved with the garden include the Whitstable and Herne Bay Beekeepers group and Kent Union.

Activities in the garden also fit in with several of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals that the University has pledged to follow.

KentCOG would love to hear from any members of the public with skills in gardening, foraging, design, art, permaculture, and mental health who are interested in helping develop the garden.

Email us now at kentcog@kent.ac.uk or info@eastkentmind.org.uk or come and visit us at the garden on Wednesdays between 10am – 2pm

 

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.

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.

Welcome to our new Project and Fundraising Manager

Blog by Abbie Kay, Project and Fundraising Manager COG


Week four at COG for me and I am pleased to say the Community Oasis Gardens are already my happy place.

The role appealed to me in so many ways, predominately to feel like I am making a difference to others, whilst knowing that working outdoors and physical activity makes me feel so much happier too.

Tranquillity, warm welcomes, such promise of growth not only for our harvest but our community too. Beneficiaries, students, volunteers and employees working alongside each other with tasks and pace’s to suit everyone’s needs.

Smelling the freshly cut grass whilst clearing brambles from an area destined to be a relaxation space for the wellbeing of our community, with bespoke tyre seating in the shade, the smell of fresh herbs surrounding you whilst listening to the birds sing and the bees buzz.

Sugar snap peas, lettuce, tomatoes, marigolds and the promise of a pumpkin competition later in the year. The garden’s are an escape from life’s hustle and bustle, stresses and strains, whilst offering many beneficiaries new life skills, confidence, socialisation and to aim for the end goal of employment.

I am now putting the wheels in motion to carry out my promise to KET, I will complete a Fundraising Sky Dive with the hope of beating my fear of flying and assist these beautiful gardens in remaining a hub for our community to grow alongside the seeds that they sow. The dive will be funded by myself which means every penny raised will go directly to our garden, watch this space for my sponsorship details. I need you all to be behind me on this – I can’t believe I’m going to jump out of a plane!

We are desperate for soil for planting at the moment, without soil we are unable to grow plants to sell on which sustains this amazing place for our community, please do let me know if anyone has any ideas on discounted or free soil.

KentCOG celebrates ‘Friendsgiving’ on the 21st November

Join the community and celebrate a classic American holiday by gathering as friends to share thanks and giving with seasonal beverages and snacks!

Date: November 21st

Time: 12 noon

Location: Kent COG’s Potting Shed & Garden – Find us here

 

No reservations required, but contributions via donations to the space or autumn treats for the event are always appreciated!

First timer? – Come and learn about ways to get involved!

Organized by American students at the University of Kent