Organic Growers of Fairlie - FAQ



 (see also Vermiculture FAQ sub-page)

1. A more sustainable community - Why?


Developing a more sustainable Scotland is a major government priority.   Our initiative in Fairlie is part of the global Transition Towns movement - the response to the twin challenges of climate change and peak oil - moving from high energy to low energy lifestyles.   This supports local production and local retail to generate a robust, vibrant and sustainable economy and a greatly reduced carbon footprint.


2.  What is the Fairlie Community Garden?


The garden - site, beds, shed and polytunnel - are all the common assets of the Members.   The garden has been designed as a village legacy for the future.   The Organic Growers of Fairlie have taken responsibility for the maintenance and development of the site after it lay derelict for much of the past 20 years.   The Growers are a group of villagers who share a passion for grow-your-own food production.


3. What is Sustainable Gardening?


About 50% of our national waste stream is organic.   It is this fraction which can generate methane in our landfills.   The Fairlie Growers aim to put no organic matter into their dustbins.   Instead, it should all be processed to make useful compost for use in growing fresh, tasty and healthy herbs, salads, fruit and vegetables.  We can either compost our garden waste ourselves or we can put it into our brown bin and the Council will compost it.   Our kitchen waste is processed best in our specially designed wooden Wormeries.


4. What is the Fairlie HotBox Composting Process?


Composting is a two stage process.  The first phase in fast efficient composting should generate heat in the biomass.  This comes from the activity of some very special thermophilic [heat-loving] microbes.   A high temperature in your compost indicates that you have created the right conditions to support an innumerable population of these, very hungry, microbes.   The optimum temperature to aim for is 50 - 60 degC.   Over 65 degC, many of the beneficial microbe species will be knocked out so open up the heap to let some heat out.


With our innovative HotBox system, Alastair and Malcolm have measured an overnight temperature rise of  over 50 degC when they get the right proportions of green and brown material in their mix!  The process is speeded up with the addition of essential trace elements from basaltic rockdust.   After just 9 days, there is a >80% volume reduction.   The weed seeds and pathogens will all have been killed and the tough fibres softened.


5. Compost Maturation?


The second phase in composting is the low temperature, slow maturation phase.   The material from your HotBox can go into your home composter  bin for this.   After two months, you will have produced an excellent mulch which should be raked around your plants to hold moisture, suppress weeds and build up the soil fertility.   This is not yet compost as it still contains ammonia and nitrite compounds which in a potting mixture are very phyto-toxic.


So long as you keep the material in your composter aerobic [sweet-smelling], mature, stable compost can be made in 6 months .


6. Why have raised beds rather than conventional allotments?


Raised beds [mini-allotments] enable us to have space for more Growers within a limited area.  Also, an allotment is much too much work for most people.   Because there is no useable soil and some contamination from old anti-fouling paints in the North Yard site, we use imported soil in our beds underlain with a plastic sheet/sand barrier layer.


Narrow beds have been in common use in the Far East for over a millenium.   There is no need to stand on the soil and so there is no compaction.   This allows excellent root development so even deep rooted dandelions can be pulled out easily.   There is good access to everyone, even young children and people with some disability.   The beds are easily looked after and so better, more intensive, plant care - and so more and tastier crops - result ... without even getting your shoes dirty.


7. Why have the beds been constructed of such heavy timber?


Cheaper, light weight beds could have been built but the garden was designed as a legacy project for Fairlie village to be enjoyed by more than just the present generation.   The Fairlie Community Sustainable Garden also serves a wider function, as a model of best practice and as a training tool for individuals, schools and communities who want to replicate the model.  


Now that OGF is a Registered Charity, we are now fund-raising for the next phase - building another 22 raised beds to add to the current 38 ones.   In this phase, a variety o fless costly construction types will be used to trial them.    They will not last as long but will demonstrate other, less costly options.


8. Who can become a Member of the Organic Growers association?


Unfortunately, although there has been widespread interest in our innovative Garden project, this small site can only accommodate residents from the village and specialists with close associations with the local community, e.g. the school.  To spread the word about our sustainable community concept, we have installed and commissioned playground wormeries in all the primary schools in our local cluster so that they can grow delicious fresh produce as part of their healthy eating and ecoschools programmes. 


9. I already have as big a garden as I can manage, but can I become a Member just to meet up with like-minded people and generally support the initiative without having to take on a bed?


Yes.   There are already many Members who just want to be part of this nice, peaceful and friendly place where they can drop in any time they are out for a walk.  We also meet up sometimes just for a coffee and a chat and sometimes we also invite a speaker to tell us about the history of the site, about the wonderful world of grow-your-own gardening or about other Member's interests.


Organic Growers of Fairlie - FAQ
©Organic Growers of Fairlie 2012