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September 11, 2013

Crops in pots

Groups with an interest in community growing, particularly in urban areas where the challenges are understandably greater, continue to thrive. One group, Leith Community Crops in Pots, became inspired by the Incredible Edible town of Todmorden, and have gone on to establish urban growing in all manner of nooks and crannies around Leith.  Large sites for community growing don’t become available very often. Crops in Pots have spotted one and they’re determined to get it.


A proposal from Leith Community Crops in Pots (click here): 

To create a Community Garden on the site of Old Tennis Courts, Leith Links. 

Definition: ‘A Community garden is a shared green space which is planned, designed, built and maintained by some community members for the use and enjoyment of the entire community. Community gardens may be solely used to raise food for gardeners and/or the surrounding community, a decorative formal garden, an educational or rehabilitative facility.’

The ‘old tennis courts’ area is part of Leith Links park and previously used for leisure purposes including tennis and pitch and putt golf. A new, popular, leisure pursuit has been sought for some years. Community gardening is enjoyed in many countries as a leisure activity and, it is suggested, would be an ideal solution for this available space. 

Leith Community Crops in Pots [L-CCiP] is an existing community garden group with a record of working with partners in gardening projects. An established committee oversees progress and meets regularly at Dr Bell’s off Junction street, Leith, where the volunteers have been allocated gardening space and where there is a good connection with the nursery school next door. The organisation has a number of volunteers who are enthusiastic about running a community garden in Leith Links park.

The opportunity is twofold: there is a well-supported local gardening group looking for more space to meet local demand and there is a vacant space in the park in need of a community leisure pursuit such as a community garden.

There are many community gardens in Scotland and they all have their own unique approach within very similar sets of values and objectives. CiP has set out its values and purposes, along with other useful information, on their website

As an overview, the garden, if managed by L-CCIP, will be seen as a hub to interact with the local community and local community organisations, establishing connections and working relationships.

A good example of this, and giving some idea of demand, is the connection with local schools that Crops in Pots already has and needs to develop. The government now expects all schools to meet certain environmental objectives. These are written in a substantial document and are many and various – growing plants, recycling etc. Four local schools have approached Evie Murray, the lead person in the CiP group, asking for help in meeting these goals. Where the school facilities and the teachers time and knowledge are insufficient, the Leith community garden will allow children to come along and grow plants and vegetables, be educated in environmental issues, get some connection with nature and be trained in how best to protect the environment for the future. This will equally give Leith, itself, environmental credentials.

By not just bringing in interested individuals to take part in community gardening but also connecting and working with groups outside of the garden hub, L-CCiP will involve and benefit large numbers of both children and adults from a small patch of ground. The children, for example, who will be educated on behalf of the four schools are such in number that the garden project can immediately claim a higher participation than, say, the link’s football club. Other partners may be such as GP surgeries, community enterprises, well-being related groups [yoga, Tai chi etc], housing organisations, the Art College/universities, care homes, support organisations. Leith is an area of many blocks of flats, old and new, without access to garden space offering a considerable recruiting potential.

L-CCiP will use the area principally to give local people of all ages the support, training and resources to take part in activities such as:

Growing food/vegetables; making the most of the grown produce such as cooking/selling or giving away for worthy causes. Teaching volunteers how to grow their own food or providing training courses in small space container gardening, therefore making crops transferable back to participant’s urban homes/gardens/balconies. Growing food in different platforms.

Develop a plant nursery for herbs, flowers, and food. 

Growing flowers for bees, adding colour to the park and helping urban dwellers set up pots for flowers at home. Equally, taking plants grown by participants/partners that are now too large and need the garden area to grow them on. Again teaching and training and using produce the best way.

Promoting the use of organic heritage seed types, heirloom varieties, seed saving techniques, seed sharing to boost our environmental protection.

Growing vegetables and flowers to together in a monoculture approach.

Exploring Bio-char, currently a focus of Edinburgh University, thus being involved with evolving, innovative, contemporary ideas. 

Offering areas of enhanced aesthetic quality for others who have other community garden related interests such as Yoga classes or art projects.

Developing organic fertilizers, organic pest control, leaf mould, worm casting, compost.

Experimenting with and exploring permaculture principles and companion planting techniques.

Creating a Leith Diet – learning about seasonality, living of locally grown produce and living within our limitations.  Growing an understanding of our dependence on land and soil. Building connections with farmers in the lothians and allowing the Leith site to become a further hub for increasing the cover of farm box schemes.

Story telling on learning and appreciating Scottish food, seasonality, environmental issues.

Ecology and Art Festival

The group intends to be creative and imaginative in response to events and local needs and so cannot anticipate all the possible scenarios for the use of the garden. All activities will be constrained and guided by a strong set of values, a desire to engage with others in the park and a responsible committee. The manner in which volunteers will share resources and activities will follow the ways of other successful garden projects or will be, as generally agreed at the time, the fairest and most effective arrangement.

On the question of funding, L-CCiP is aware of the various funds that other community gardens have successfully applied for and, accordingly, funding will be sought from these sources for a general manager [full time equivalent] and the necessary gardening resources – similar to, for example, the Woodlands garden in Glasgow and a recently established community garden in Perth.


The matter of security will be dealt with, again, by learning from the vast experience available from all the other community gardens and the experiences of projects already in place by L-CCiP where matters have been occasionally challenging. Notwithstanding these difficulties, as much accessibility as possible will be favoured since it is a project for the community and it is the community’s park.

Since L-CCiP is aware of the need for consultation to ensure that their proposal is genuinely favoured by the community at large, it has begun to seek feedback, comment and support for its proposal to manage a community garden in Leith links park. Hopefully, over the next weeks it will become reasonably clear whether there is backing for this project amongst those living and working in Leith.

L-CCiP hopes that their proposal will be accepted by community representatives and that they can, therefore, begin – a step at a time – to provide an enjoyable leisure activity that, simultaneously, meets some outstanding needs within the community.