Co-Growing for PoliNations!
Stemming from the fact that nearly 80% of plants in UK gardens originate overseas, PoliNations uses the garden as a metaphor for how different people, with different stories, can unite in celebration.
This core idea gave the participation team a challenge; we wanted to engage lots of different people around Birmingham in one uniting activity. The answer was obvious: PoliNations had to be literally co-grown by people across the city. Everyone involved has been encouraged to grow flowers to go into the PoliNations garden and invited to the opening of the garden to plant together. The challenge was where to start, and how to do the project sustainably.
There were no clear cut criteria for reaching out to different groups across Birmingham, except us asking the questions ‘who would love this, and who should be part of a city-centre project?’ After lots of calls, suggestions from the council, emails, and word of mouth, over 50 groups, from all over Birmingham, from varied backgrounds and experiences, are currently growing flowers for PoliNations using our Grow Packs.
We have experts, beginner gardeners, non-English speakers, and children under 5 years old. This gave us our next challenge of creating a growing pack that was fun, simple, and sustainable.
Sustainability is hugely important to our garden groups, and a key priority for PoliNations as a project. This meant choosing, when possible, materials that could be recycled, were made in the UK, and affordable.
Our grow packs included:
Seeds: We chose the marigold as our flower. As a relatively simple flower to grow, it meant we could offer the grow packs to groups without outdoor space, with little to no growing knowledge. Marigolds are a much-loved flower across the world, from India to Mexico, and it’s joyful, bright colours work with PoliNations garden colour scheme. We opted for Calendula seed; a marigold particularly loved by pollinators.
Pots: The most difficult product to source sustainably were the pots; we needed pots that would allow growing participants to carry their flowers to site, meaning biodegradable pots wouldn’t work. We found a brilliant solution from Aeroplas: a kerbside recyclable product that is made up of materials from post-consumer waste streams. Another great bonus: they’re made in the West Midlands!
Compost: The compost and jiffy pellets were easy to buy peat free from a wholesaler. Peat is found in a lot of compost products. But worryingly, 80% of our peatland has been lost or damaged contributing to global heating and harming the habitat of many rare species. Since is our largest carbon store, maintaining peatlands is incredibly important to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. The UK government will ban sales of peat compost from 2024. The compost we chose, Melcourt Sylvagrow, was made in the UK and vegan friendly, made from the by-product of sustainability managed British forests.
Our designers Peter and Paul designed colourful and bright eco-friendly packaging, in a sustainable and fair-trade tote .
Now hundreds of people across Birmingham are growing for PoliNations. We invite you to join our co-grow groups who will be planting their marigolds at our opening event on September 3rd, to plant your own plant. Head to www.polinations.co.uk for more details.
Written by Holly Bond, Engagement and Programme Coordinator