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16 January 2019

The Chrysalis Project

The Chrysalis Project is a partnership between SAMH, NHS Tayside, Dundee College and the John Muir Award. We deliver horticulture training to adults with mental health problems who are looking to increase their employment prospects or go into further education or who simply want to learn gardening and need a structure to their week prior to engaging with other mainstream services. We offer SVQ Amenity Horticulture Level 1 and the John Muir Award, we are currently looking at offering City and Guilds in Organic Gardening, although this is at the “exploring the possibility” stage.

As well as the formal vocational work we do, we find that a lot of our trainees gain social skills and report increases in self confidence and self esteem, our work with the John Muir Trust has shown that gardeners/trainees gain an increased sense of self awareness and awareness of conservation issues. A large and successful part of our work is growing vegetables “from seed to plate” we provide small allotments and seed chosen by the trainees and the knowhow of how to go about turning the contents of seed packets into food.

We started using Hydroponics two and a half years ago and have used the system in a variety of ways.
1) we use the kits as “teaching aids” as we can examine root systems and plant health/growth with minimal disruption to the crops
2) we compare and contrast what we grow in the hydroponic system with compost grown plants, eg we will grow the same variety of tomato in the kits and at the same time grow the same in “gro-bags” conventionally, we have consistently found that there are greater yields of all crops when grown in the hydroponic system
3) last year we used the kits to show what happens to plants that are starved of nutrients. We grew lettuce and cauliflower in the troughs but only fed half of the crop with S1, S2 and S3 solution, the other half were grown in the same way using the same media but only received water, the results were startling which was to be espected, however it allowed us to look at the root systems over an eight week period, at the start the nutrient fed plants roots were bigger but after four weeks the starving plants roots became much longer obviously in s desperate search for food. After the eight weeks we planted all the plants outside in soil, for another four weeks to see if the starving plants would “catch up” however they withered and died whereas the fed plants continued to thrive but at a slower rate
4) we deliver a six week short course in hydroponics over the winter months, looking at the history and it’s practical uses

Overall Hydroponics have increased our knowledge and subsequently the trainees knowledge of, not only, hydroponics but how plants grow, what they need and how they work, to summarise Hydroponics is an excellent teaching aid in our situation and we get loads and loads of exotic greenhouse grown plants to eat throughout the year. We are always expanding our kits and are currently looking at using hydroponics in the poly tunnel as well as the greenhouse. One of the main benefits of the kits we use in practical terms is the total lack of weeding to be carried out, which in gardening terms is a huge advantage, also because the systems are on benches the plants are easy to maintain and harvest as access is a lot easier. Finally when we get stuck or are left scratching our heads over something, we can pick up a phone or email the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Achiltibui…..problem solved….the jobs a good un

Written by Kevin Bruce

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