We just turned one year old!

On the 4th of September 2021 we were delighted to hold a wee celebration in the Gairden for our first birthday. A small thank you to all our volunteers, trustees and of course Lizz, the project manager. To try and name everyone would just lead to crimes of omission ….. so I won’t even try!

But thank you !

Marion, Lizz and Fiona
Marion, Lizz and Fiona

Marion, Jock Tamson’s Gairden trust convenor, Lizz the project manager and Fiona one of the trustees.

Ken plants a tree

Ken, a long standing servant of the Glebe and now Jock Tamson’s Gairden has agreed to be our Patron. He planted a tree in the wee gairden as part of the celebrations.

Wee speech
Wee speech

Can’t have a party without a wee speech. We sang happy birthday and there was cake. Gone before I could take a picture!

A Place to Grow

At the beginning of the summer Jock Tamsons Gairden was delighted to welcome a group of  “women returners” who were doing an employability course organised by Volunteer Edinburgh.  Each of the women was out of the job market or seeking a change of career. 

The course was delivered online for three weeks and supported the women to identify their skills and talents and prepare for the workplace.  Ideas to boost health and wellbeing were also covered.  The 4th and final session was held in-person at Jock Tamsons Gairden. 

A tour of the garden was followed by a short volunteering session – a much appreciated chance to be outdoors, be with people and be productive after the restrictions of lockdown.  This poem captures the experience of the course participants. 


A Place to Grow
Ode to the Women Returners’ Employability Course
Planting lightbulb moments they enabled us to flourish
Tending to our deepest needs, with space and time nourished
Talents and accomplishments we’d long since disregarded
Helped us blossom from the shoots of progress that we’d started

Mindfully and carefully we learnt to dig within,
Turn fertile soil from turmoil and distraction of life’s din
Combining with the fruit of what was learnt on other courses;
Kinship with our peers with whom we drew on joint resources

The nutrients we’d need to thrive – grounded-ness and light
splashes of imagination, confidence, insight
And people who’d invest in us their expertise and care
To cultivate a garden bountiful and rare

And so, their work now done, our job to reap what they have sown
A season to replenish, show Auld Jock how much we’ve grown

Greens to Go

Jock Tamson’s Greens To Go


Just before I started working in the Gairden I had a short stint as a ‘personal shopper’ in one of the giant retail multiples. This involved shoving a giant cart around a vast supermarket and picking people’s internet shopping items whilst being instructed and timed by a computer algorithm which scores you on your speed and accuracy; I wasn’t very fast and didn’t always get it right. Huge respect to all of you personal shoppers out there. Given the algorithmic scoring method I seldom slowed down for anything but I did encounter an item in the fresh produce section which halted me in my tracks and provoked a five minute rant (to no-one in particular). A twin pack of asparagus tips and tenderstem broccoli, one all the way from Peru and the other from Kenya: combined that’s a whopping 10,598 air miles. Both of those nations grow perfectly good produce, but really: that’s a long way for your food to travel, not to mention that out-of-season lack of flavour.

Kat at the stall
Kat, our treasurer at the stall … in the rain!

So we are encouraged to ‘buy local’ to reduce our carbon footprint and also to support our local growers. Not always so easy to find locally-grown stuff though, eh? There are some stand-out shops around the city which promote low-mileage produce: Root Down in Portobello, New Leaf near the Meadows, the Real Foods Shops, and there is a new branch of Locavore opening in Gorgie later this year. In the meantime we’ve just opened our own wee stall: JOCK TAMSON’S GREENS TO GO. This is one of the ways we distribute the produce we grown in the Gairden. GTG was partly prompted by members of the public chatting to the volunteers while they’ve been out for a walk round the Gairden, “Do you sell your stuff?” “That rhubarb looks lovely, I love a nice crumble” “Those sweet peas smell amazing.” We also wanted to find a source of revenue to help our work be more self-sustaining, so all of the money goes back into running the Gairden and it’s various activities.

Lots of work goes into getting fresh produce onto the stall. Take, for example, the humble tattie: it starts out being purchased back in late winter; chitted to produce healthy shoots in a cool shed; then planted out around Easter (depending on the frost) in a bed that took hours of digging and weeding to prepare; earthed up as the shaws grow; checked for signs of diseases; harvested and stored; selected, weighed and bagged up. We had two excellent crops this year: Epicure first earlies (the old ‘Ayrshire’ variety) and Kestrel second earlies – much of their success was down to the diligence of the volunteers who did all the hard work and some of it to the seaweed-enriched ‘Kelpie’ compost from Caledonian Horticulture.

An important part of what we do in the Gairden centres around the people who work in it: our groups and volunteers. Learning new skills (ground preparation, sowing, maintenance, cropping, packaging, and selling). Working together with people you might not have met otherwise – tea breaks and blethering being just as important as the grafting. Some of the volunteers polished up retail skills they hadn’t used since student days and we all learned how to use the sumup card reader together. One of the Ians (we have three volunteers who answer to that name) has been making signs for us – he used his lockdown time usefully by doing an on-line sign writing course. Duncan is seen hard at work here making the prototype for the stall

As a new charity, Jock Tamson’s is just coming towards the end of its first year and it’s been a wild ride what with the pandemic and the weird weather. We wouldn’t have got off the ground at all without funding from these generous bodies: National Lottery Awards for All, Duddingston Kirk, AEB Charitable Foundation, Foundation Scotland, and The Robertson Trust. The funding to help us set up Greens To Go came from TransPennine Express Transform Grants and from Edinburgh and Lothians Trust Fund. A huge thank you to all of you for making this project possible.

Selling the greens
Greens to Go has proved very popular

So save yourself some airmiles and buy from Jock Tamson’s Greens To Go, you can find us in Duddingston Kirk Gardens between 11am and 1pm, Thursdays and Fridays.

The produce
A selection of our braw veg!

Volunteering in the Gairden

We are always happy to welcome you to the Gairden and to have a chat with you, so please feel free to approach our volunteers on site.
We’ve had a many people asking about volunteering – and we’re delighted to be able to welcome new volunteers just now
Please message us using the contact page. Please be sure to put volunteering in the subject
Lizz Spence, Manager Jock Tamson’s Gairden

Herb Gairden
The herb Gairden. Just a patch of soil a few months ago!