Catherine Street Family Planting Boxes

The Catherine Street Family Planting Boxes was a community biodiversity project for the early 2020’s which proved to be a very eye opening experience and helped build local links for future prospective biodiversity projects.

2015-2018: Consulting with our neighbours:

With the ongoing community engagement (namely talking to 100’s of our neighbours in the locale) one of our densely populated family/resident areas requested a bespoke design of planting boxes with certain conditions:

  • The materials (hardware and organic) must be sourced locally – dominantly from re-used sources.
  • All families consulted on what they would like to see in the design proposals.
  • The families would be involved in the construction of the boxes (cutting, staining, fashioning of components etc)
  • The 2-3 relevant Council Departments would all be involved at every stage (permissions/co-ordination/implementation)

2019: Materials, design and fashioning:

This would be a 9 month programme of procuring materials (breaking pallets from local skips – as well as larger industrial building sites who we sought permission to recover the wood/timber off cuts) drying all wood, to fashioning the materials joints/shape etc.

The volunteers were very careful in this process, due to our locals working in potentially dangerous environment like building sites; so ‘Hi-Vis’ vest, hardhats etc. had to worn whilst we recovered all the necessary materials. This was undertaken over the course of many months.

The wood had to be dried in several families gardens (yes a challenge and upset husbands and wives too) and a sorting process was undertaken grading the woods strengths, integrity and what would best suited for what locations and what purpose (base panels, anterior panels, shelving et al.)

The staining was a mixed bag of recovered stain from skips, donated stains from generous locals, some organic stains – a real mix in the end with real uneven results!! Ha!!

The building work finally begins:

Our lead volunteers from Catherine Street (who will look after the wildflowers on the long term)

The 210 litre water butt went in over late summer, early autumn (after a bit of a dry summer – the rains came down in autumn) – which we drilled some holes in the top to stop any potential overfilling.

We would not rush the building of the planting boxes work, in order to ensure all those who wished to have experience of making the various stages would be included. The volunteers were engaged by a lot of passers by including the nearby Letting Agency who wished to collaborate with future litter picking of this community space.

Just by leading by example – 5 of our neighbours have built on these experiences and built up more connections in the locale. Commenting it was nice to have neighbours they never met before from adjacent streets say ‘hello’ from this point onwards.

2020: The first year of Bloom / learning arc of previous 18 months:

The matured wildflowers came from the various neighbours gardens across much of Cathays (as they are shared out across multiple planting projects).

Contributions of compost have come from local bespoke composting boxes around the Cathays district, which were added in layers over several months – as the integrity of the boxes were tested as they absorb 100’s of litres of home made compost local product, equating to several tonnes of soil. This was supplemented by the Co-Op Crwys very generous donation of compost (sourced from sustainable sources) which contributed 15-20% of total soil conditions in the Catherine Street Planting Boxes.

The worms were added to this environment to begin the soil nutrient cycle, approximately 20-30 worms were added to this sealed environment – they will increase the numbers over the years (as with any wormery set up) to respectable levels to maintain soil integrity.

The families elected for planting:

  • Betony
  • Foxgloves
  • Greater Knapweed
  • Lavendar
  • Ragged Robin

The water butt provides most the water for the wildflowers when their is a lack of rain. Yet additionally the grey water from the nearby residents sinks can be re-used on the Catherine Street Planting Box.

2021-2025: Role out of larger volunteer efforts:

The Biodiversity Cathays is running in multiple locations as part of the family, professional, volunteer, faith and local business initiatives.