Our R-urban neighbour and tender of our lovely shared garden, Katrina Wright, has kindly shared with us what she does, how she came to work at R-urban and some useful tips when it comes to gardening sustainably. If you want to keep up-to-date with what Katrina is doing at R-urban you can follow her on Instagram @littleforestowl
1. Could you give us a short introduction of yourself? What do you do?
My name is Katrina Wright. I work for Leap Micro AD Ltd as Circular Food Manager and also work with our partner, R-Urban.
2. Can you give us some information on your work at R-urban and how you came to work there?
The local area is going through regeneration and just before 2020, residents were taken on a tour of R-Urban. I explained that I had never had growing space and wouldn’t know how to go about getting growing space. Andy took down my details and I was eventually given a few planters. When 2020 happened and movement was restricted, only someone local was able to remain on site. Half of R-Urban's growing space was allocated to me and half to another local. I was a stay-at-home single mum, and having space to grow and experiment with plants, really helped me and the family through that time.
When everyone returned and saw my growing ability, I was brought on by R-Urban to teach others to grow from seed and to maintain their plants. I grew plants on a larger scale, so we could give plants away. We developed a programme, so we could bring residents to the Teviot Centre and show them how to transplant plants into the garden, look after that garden and harvest.
Through this work, I was employed by Leap Micro AD Ltd, so I could continue my work with R-Urban and residents, growing from seed to harvest to seed. As well as working with schools, and consultations for other growers and businesses. I also manage our social media, so I can share all our beautiful results with wider communities. And because the programme has grown so much, I also try to find volunteers to help with gardening and give them more knowledge on gardening, and to help them with CV building and eventually, accreditation.
3. What drew you to doing what you do?
I’ve always grown plants, ever since I was little. I love science, experimenting, curious about how things work and like being creative. I was also fascinated with my grandmother’s garden, because growing up in a block of flats, I only ever had a balcony. Gardening is a calming place and one where I can express myself unapologetically. I’m enthusiastic about passing on that knowledge and get enjoyment when others take the skills they’ve learned and form something of their own with it. And even more so, when I see them pass on those skills to others.
4. What are your 5 tips when it comes to growing sustainably?
Weeds have a purpose, such as helping to balance soil nutrients. Don’t be in a hurry to rip them out right away. Weeds can also attract beneficial bugs to be ready for when your garden needs pollinators and protectors.
When weeding, remove seed heads, then chop the weeds up and return the weeds to the soil, then cover them over with compost. The weeds break down and nourish your plants.
Turn your food into compost. When we buy compost, it’s usually taken from land where the compost has taken hundreds of years to be full of beneficial life for plants and surrounding animals. It’s dug up, packaged and driven or flown for miles, increasing the Carbon Footprint. Using food waste helps to reduce the impact. Even in a flat, it can be done. And lots of Councils and housing associations, are starting to support this with food waste collections and storage.
There’s lots of plastic may be used in gardening. Reuse what you have, or use free websites to get secondhand. Empty compost bags are the perfect size for growing potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes and some climbing plants. Plastic waste can be reduced further by making plant pots out of alternative materials, such as newspaper and cardboard.
Use old tights or sections of cut-up stretchy clothing as squash, pumpkin or melon hammocks, instead of plastic bags. The fabric will keep the heavy fruit from dropping to the ground and will allow movement and growth.