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Dunkirque camp kitchen garden - advice please

(21 Posts)
CuttedUpPear Mon 07-Mar-16 10:26:17

Over the winter I've been volunteering in the refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirque.

The Dunkirque camp is today being moved to a cleaner, safer site provided by the local authority and Medicins Sans Frontieres, built with a huge amount of help from UK volunteers.

We'd like to create kitchen gardens for the residents of the camp - the benefits are obvious and there are 6 community kitchens being built which the gardens could supply.
We have plenty of room for this at present.
I'm a professional gardener so I'm happy to lead the project when I can be there, which will be intermittent.

It would be nice to hear the MN gardeners' input on this but initially I'm looking to install composters that will safely compost cooked food waste. There will be a lot of it so I'd really like to see it recycled on site.

Any suggestions welcome.

shovetheholly Mon 07-Mar-16 11:16:20

Wow, cuttedup, what an incredible thing to be doing with your time. flowers

Conditions at Dunkirque have been awful, so the idea of having a kitchen garden is a lovely one, not just for the produce but for the therapeutic effect of gardening for people who have been through an awful amount of hurt, loss and trauma.

A couple of thoughts:

- I'm a member of several social media groups on the camps, and there was an enormous impetus to the ideas of donating sleeping bags, tents etc in the early days - often loads being shipped from all over. I wonder if people would be willing to donate and ship gardening kit too, especially polytunnels, polycarbonate greenhouses etc?

- I also wonder if you could crowdfund some of the specific things that need to be bought via Justgiving or some of the other fundraising sites and a social media appeal?

- I bet there are people in the camps who are horticulturalists who can help out.

- Construction of places to sow and grow seeds may take a while, and obviously we're at the start of the sowing season now. I wonder if there are ways of linking up with horticultural colleges in the south of England adn northern France to help get you started with the first loads of seeds and small plants to go in?

- There must, surely, be some organisations that can help out with cheap or free seeds.

CuttedUpPear Mon 07-Mar-16 11:45:47

I think I can manage the build and the initial planting.
Cloches or even a poly tunnel would be a really good investment if we got some crowd funding. The climate in northern France isn't that great in spring so protection for young plants will be vital.

funnyperson Mon 07-Mar-16 13:27:03

Deeply impressed

CuttedUpPear Mon 07-Mar-16 19:40:22

I really like your ideas shove.
I wonder if people here would be willing to donate some seeds?

And I'm still looking for advice on that composter....

nonamenopackdrill Mon 07-Mar-16 19:51:55

I'm really impressed with what you are doing CuttedUp. This website often has sales of seeds that might be worth a look:
I would contribute to a crowd funding scheme, or buy some seeds.

CuttedUpPear Mon 07-Mar-16 22:04:54

Thanks noname I'll check that link out.
We also have some donations coming from B&Q I believe, as part of their damaged/end of line donations for charities.

shovetheholly Tue 08-Mar-16 09:00:15

I have inboxed you! grin

Ferguson Tue 08-Mar-16 19:41:42

I'm surprised shove hasn't mentioned 'Bokashi' yet - or is that too expensive?

shovetheholly Tue 08-Mar-16 20:04:30

How do you know I didn't just email cuttedup the word 'bokashi' a gazillion times in that direct message Ferguson? grin grin grin

It's going to have to be a really hot heap, or to use something like fermentation, I guess. But I'm no expert I'm just unhealthily obsessed with my bin

CuttedUpPear Wed 09-Mar-16 18:57:07

Thanks Ferguson. Do all the Bokashis need 'Boshaki bran' to keep them going? That wouldn't be sustainable in the camp.
I think I can ask some of the Belgian volunteers to nurture seedlings as they live close by and could bring them in when they come at weekends.

Right I'm going to have to take a step back for a little while as my lovely dad died yesterday.

I'm absolutely devastated but it would be great if anyone here wanted to keep posting and bumping thread with ideas over the next couple of weeks so I can come back to something constructive to get my teeth into.

To be pondered upon:
Cooked food composting
Raised bed construction
Fundraising for topsoil/compost to start off the beds


nonamenopackdrill Wed 09-Mar-16 20:19:26

CuttedUp so sorry to hear about your dad flowers.

I have no clue about the logisitics of getting some of these things to Dunkirk from the UK. Have you hooked up with any of the FB groups that have been established to support the refugees in the camps?

LyndaNotLinda Wed 09-Mar-16 20:27:47

Oh CuttedUp lovely, I'm so very sorry.

Might be worth taking to seed producers to see if they would donate seed trays/compost etc do that you can grow the seedlings/prick out/ harden off in Belgium. Lots of companies in Holland.

You could see if you could get someone to do a buy things deal like Leisurefare are doing with sleeping bags and equipment

Cloches - clear plastic 2 L bottles work well

No idea the compost I'm afraid.

CuttedUpPear Wed 09-Mar-16 23:26:30

noname I am well versed in transport logistics to Dunkirque and Calais, that bit is not a problem. I'm also a professional gardener.

What I need is donations of things on the list above, and maybe offers of young plants nearer the time - all must be edible of course. And advice on composting cooked food.

shovetheholly Thu 10-Mar-16 08:12:46

Sending you so many hugs cuttedup. I'll try to look into composting.

nonamenopackdrill Sat 12-Mar-16 20:41:49

A group that I follow on FB is building a school for the refugee children in the Dunkirk camp. You might be able to hook up with them for the raised beds etc?

CuttedUpPear Wed 30-Mar-16 06:45:15

Hello, I'm back.

News from the camp; a lovely volunteer has been sowing seeds in trays with children at the makeshift school there.
We have a landscape gardener arriving on April 8th to build raised beds.
We are looking for donations of tools - hoes, forks and trowels would be great.

DoreenLethal Wed 30-Mar-16 07:25:16


What you are looking for is an In Vessel Composter.

Some of them can be quite expensive; you could use a large bokashi but as you have identified the bran can be expensive. The medium sized in vessel ones use wood based carbon which is added as the waste is put in and can cost up to £20k for one vessel. You could contact some of the manufacturers and see if one will donate one for you.

Personally I steer clear of trying to compost cooked waste - it just gets nasty when dealing with any meat waste and people although trained can 'swing the lead' and chuck in whatever, don't use it properly etc etc and you nearly always end up with smelly waste or rats. We had one at my last place and even though it was someone's job to put the waste in, the correct amount of carbon and turn it, it stank, got gazillions of flies and it meant that not enough care was taken because it was so rank. I really was turned off the process and I am a huge lover of composting.

For seeds, try asking the large seed companies if they would donate their unsold or returned stock from last year. Ditto tools from the larger tool manufacturers. And possibly one of the Polytunnel companies might donate a poly to you.

Good luck, it is not easy setting up from scratch - but it is a fabulous cause and I hope it goes well.

DoreenLethal Wed 30-Mar-16 07:38:59

Is there a website or something that we can put this out over the Hort network?

CuttedUpPear Wed 30-Mar-16 09:53:45

Hi Doreen. I see your point with composting large amounts of food. I'd be tempted not to do it at all if it ends up in slime. It's good to hear your experiences.
Unfortunately we don't have enough green waste to make our own compost yet.

I haven't set up a crowdfunder for this yet but I will post it here as soon as I do.
We have already been given 300 onion sets and a large amount of seeds from a very kind Scottish garden centre owner.

DoreenLethal Wed 30-Mar-16 18:33:54

It's not the end product that is the problem, it is the opening and honest to god, when you opened it to add more, there were a bazilion flies and it smelt like sick. I made the mistake of showing a school how it worked once, never again.

The end product was ok, but if I remember correctly, had fly eggs in it. Bleurgh.

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