'Edible Uni' successfully plants first beds

©Edible Uni

Over 30 students and staff have begun the ‘Edible University’ project on campus by helping to plant the first beds in Vanbrugh on May 5.

The ‘Edible Uni’ scheme was launched this term and aims to install beds around campus where edible plants will be grown to be picked and taken home by passers-by.

The planting at Vanbrugh over the weekend of May 5 saw participants dig over the grass, separate weeds, and create edges to the bed with wooden skirting boards on Saturday before spreading compost and topsoil and then planting the edibles on Sunday.

Plants include herbs, fruit and vegetables and will be grown by students and staff, who will need to water, weed and look after the beds, and will be supported by ‘digging parties’ to regulate care.

Phoebe Cullingworth, former Environment and Ethics officer for YUSU, initiated the project and spoke to The Yorker of her delight at the first event: “The Vanbrugh event was fantastic. There were probably 30 or so students and staff coming to help throughout the weekend and we even had a one-year-old come to lend a hand!

“Everybody shared their specific skills and knowledge which made the task seem really manageable and so much fun. We had some lending their artistic knowledge to create layout plans and plant markers and others explaining composting or the scientific aspects of gardening! There are so many ways that students and staff can help out.

“We have chosen a variety of fruit, salads, vegetables and herbs but have mainly planted hardy plants which should produce a lot if they are not abused. Students can also continue this initiative in their own college or outside their block. The best place to start would be your JCRC to ask for support in getting it started.”

Cullingworth added that the beds need to be tended throughout the year and this could be complicated by university holidays.

She said: “The beds will need care and love throughout the year for the harvest to be continually abundant. Students will need to make sure the geese don't nibble the plants, the beds are always watered and weeded and that any plants which need extra care are looked after.

“There is one big obstacle to overcome... The beds really need looking after and the produce picked during the summer months when students have gone home. A well-planned rota or a blackboard with a list of jobs to do would make this easier!”

Other beds are set to be introduced across campus near colleges and kitchens in the coming weeks, with Halifax College turning the dilapidated flower bed in front of the laundrette into a vegetable patch on Sunday, May 13.

They have made the project their termly volunteering challenge in an effort to get students involved and James College will follow in their footsteps when they plant their first bed later this term.

©Edible Uni

The university’s People and Planet society currently plants vegetables, herbs, fruit trees at their allotment off campus, which also has a pond and bee hives.

Cullingworth revealed she wants to develop this and make planting more accessible to students by bringing it onto campus.

She said: “I wanted to bring growing right to the doorstep of every student, and that was the idea behind Edible Uni. I have finished uni now but I hope that I have initiated the start of a much-loved part of our campus.

“It is a project intended to benefit all students of York, all staff and York residents. It is modelled on the very successful and popular Edible York scheme and aims to make more use of the extensive grounds of the University of York.

“By encouraging students to come together to plant, nurture and harvest herbs, fruit and vegetables it is hoped that the land will be used more and that students will be able to have access to healthy, local produce at no cost to them.”

She added that she is pleased with their progress so far and hopes that the project will continue to flourish: “I think the launch of Edible Uni has been a wonderful success; there are already two more beds being created this term with even more in the pipeline! The enthusiasm has been electric. The project now needs long-term organisation and dedicated volunteers.

“It provides the opportunity for people to come together in a natural space, to learn from each other and to really strive for something that will not only benefit themselves but also their fellow students.... What could be more of a success or a joy than that?!”

For more information visit the Edible Uni Facebook group.

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