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Something Green For The New Year


Monday, January 5th, 2009 Something Green For The New Year

We are currently living in times whereby food prices have rocketed. Thus for two reasons it may be useful to be thinking of taking a course in gardening. One, there is the opportunity to learn something new and exciting. Secondly, there is the opportunity to feed yourself, saving those all important pennies for other priorities.

Gardening is more diverse than most people give credit for. Thus it is important to know what aspect you would indeed like to study. There are also many different reasons we would wish to study gardening.

Maybe it’s straightforward practical skills such as chain sawing that we require, or maybe it’s more esoteric - perhaps you want to improve your appreciation of planting design.

There are also many benefits to gardening courses such as meeting like-minded people or developing an interest are other common reasons. Many short horticultural, environmental or gardening courses are a great alternative to a holiday, too.

Like anything, the level of commitment you want to give is key. The three year part-time courses where candidates come out with a significant qualification, will probably change your career path whereas an odd day here or there is just a small, but hopefully enjoyable taster. And sometimes you learn as much from the other students as you do from the lecturers.

Undoubtedly, there is a huge boom in home-grown food and from a common sense point of view, it makes sense to learn both tips and the methods used by the experts. Short courses are available and one of those lecturers that practices what he preaches is that of One such is Charles Dowding (www.charlesdowding.co.uk ; 01749812253).

His background is extensive. He has grown vegetables both organically and commercially for inexcess of a quarter of a century. He runs day courses at the rate of £75.00 per day. This includes a lunch of Lower Farm salad, cheese, home-milled bread and his own cider or apple juice.

He has also a book available Salad Leaves For All Seasons, published by Green Books at £10.95.

Another inspirational gardener is that of Martin Crawford, who runs the Agroforestry Research Trust. At Dartington there is a two-acre forest garden and eight acres of trial grounds where many less common fruits and nuts are grown. He does several Forest Gardening weekends (suitable for smaller gardens, too) and Growing Nuts weekends. The cost is £140, including food but excluding accommodation (www.agroforestry.co.uk ; 01803840776).

Europe’s leading eco-centre, the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth in Powys runs short courses (mainly over weekends) as well as full-time MSc courses. Topics that are becoming popular include straw bale building, self build, building with earth, organic gardening, wood fuel for domestic living and identifying mosses, liverworts and lichens.

The courses cost £180 including accommodation and food for a weekend for a non-earning individual, £240 for those who have incomes and £350 for a company.

What is interesting are all the different alternative approaches there are, ie heating sources, organic growing, or self build it is worth visiting the centre to see the whole set-up. They have developed the gardens considerably and they generate their own electricity mainly from renewable sources. Their loo’s have innovative recycling systems and they have new buildings using the latest environmental building technology.

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