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Sky Gardening Challenge 2024

Sky Gardening Challenge
Sky Gardening Challenge 2024 | © National Trust

Give it a grow and join in with the National Trust’s Sky Gardening competition for a chance to win £200 of gardening vouchers and much more.

Nature is your most important neighbour. It’s great for your mental and physical health and we need more of it in our cities to improve the environment. That’s why we’re helping you to bring nature home by supporting you to green your balcony or window box.

About the Sky Gardening Challenge

Open this year to residents of First Choice Homes Oldham Eldon Street and Barker Street (Oldham); Angel Gardens (Manchester); Bentley House Estate (Hulme), and Middlewood Locks and New Maker Yards (Salford), you have to have registered to get involved in the Sky Gardening Challenge between Monday 1 April and Friday 31 May 2024.

Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive a free welcome pack including packet of seeds. You’ll also be able to join free local workshops to help you get started and meet other people taking part, and collect free peat-free compost (subject to availability).

Then get greening your balcony or window box! We’ll send you lots of inspiration during the Challenge, too.

If you register, you will also have the option to take part in research being carried out by the University of Manchester, who are looking at the benefits for people and nature of balcony gardening. (Don’t worry – this is entirely optional and won’t affect your chance of winning).

How to be in with a chance of winning

If you’ve registered from Saturday 1 June – Sunday 30 June 2024 you’ll get the chance to tell us what you’ve been up to.

Entries will need to reflect one of five fabulous categories:

  • Celebrate cultural heritage – Tell your story through your green space. What colours, smells, shapes and species in nature signify something to you?

  • In the shade –Does your balcony or window face north and not get much sun? Help nature thrive, even in the shade. What can you grow in abundance? Think ferns, mosses and fuchsias!

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Greening your balcony or window box doesn’t need to cost the Earth. Whether it’s recycling plant pots or becoming a propagation guru, what sustainable ways can you use to bring nature home?

  • Wild about Wildlife – Create a high-rise hangout for urban wildlife such as bees, birds and more. Who could you meet at your window?

  • Urban Farming – Whether it’s vertical veg or high-rise herbs, grow an edible garden to tingle the tastebuds. How much bounty can you produce?

Judges will be looking out for:

  • Choice of plants – Have you made conscious decisions about the best plants for your space (i.e. ones that will thrive in your conditions)? This might include choosing shade-loving plants for shady spots, or drought-tolerant plants for sunny spots.

  • Use of space – However small your space, have you made the most of it when planning what to grow for your category? This might include things like choosing trailing/climbing plants, stacking planters, planting at different levels.

  • Sustainability – Have you consciously made sustainable decisions when greening your space? This might include using peat-free compost, using recycled pots, thinking about environmental and ecological benefits of plants, or other activities to promote wildlife (e.g. bird feeders, bug hotels)

  • Progression – This is all about 'trowel and error'! Whatever your starting point, have you tried new things when greening your balcony or window box, and what have you learned about it (or about yourself?)

  • Overall impact – However small your space, what's the overall impact of your gardening? Does it reflect the category you've entered? What's its overall impact on you, other people, and nature?

If your entry is shortlisted, our special panel of judges will visit you and your balcony between Monday 15 and Sunday 21 July 2024 to see what you have been up to.

Prize winners and runners up will be invited to a Garden Party and prize giving on Thursday 25 July 2024 at Castlefield Viaduct.

What could you win?

Thanks to the generous support of Blue Diamond and CJ Wildlife, the first-place winners for each of the five categories will win £200-worth of gardening goodies, as well as a day out with the National Trust to Quarry Bank, Lyme Park or Dunham Massey including transport and lunch.

Second and third-place runners up will each receive a free signed copy of GROW by Robyn Booth, and a day out with the National Trust to Quarry Bank, Lyme Park or Dunham Massey including transport and lunch.

Terms and conditions apply.

Key dates

1 April 2024 – registration opens

31 May 2024 – registration closes

1 June 2024 – start date for making your submission

30 June 2024 – closing date for making your submission

12 July 2024 – 15 entrants will be notified they are finalists

15 - 21 July 2024 – judges will visit finalists and judge who is the best sky gardener

23 July 2024 – winners will be notified

25 July 2024 – award of prizes to winners at the National Trust’s Garden Party at Castlefield Viaduct

By 25 August 2024 – any prizes not awarded at Garden Party to sent to winners and runners-up by post

Register

The National Trust Sky Gardening Challenge 2024 is now closed for registrations. If you registered with the Sky Gardening Challenge between 1 April and 31 May, you now have until 30 June to submit your competition entry. Just go to Submit your entry below and follow the instructions. Good luck!

Submit your entry

If you registered with the National Trust Sky Gardening Challenge 2024, we’re now giving you the chance to compete to be the best sky gardener by sharing your story with us between Saturday 1 June and Sunday 30 June 2024.

If your entry is shortlisted, our special panel of judges will arrange to visit you and your balcony or window box between Monday 15 July and Sunday 21 July 2024, and you could be in with a chance of winning up to £200 worth of nature goodies from Blue Diamond Garden Centre or CJ Wildlife and a day out with the National Trust. This competition is only open to people who have registered with the Sky Gardening Challenge between 1 April and 31 May 2024. (See Terms & Conditions below).

Please click the button below to submit your entry online. Or, if you'd prefer to submit your entry by post, you can download a PDF form here, pick up a form at Castlefield Viaduct or request it by calling 0161 234 9982 or emailing skygardeningchallenge@nationaltrust.org.uk. Good Luck!

Events

To help the people who have registered get started with the Sky Gardening Challenge, the National Trust has teamed up with experts this spring to bring you a series of free, hands-on workshops and socials.

Meet the Judges

Judge

Cloud Gardener Jason Williams

During the pandemic Jason started gardening on his 18th floor balcony and slowly found the therapeutic qualities of gardening. A year later, he decided to collate his balcony gardening knowledge and create Cloud Gardener UK, to help others start their own wellbeing journey through small space gardens. The aim of Cloud Gardener UK is to inspire a new generation of urban gardener and encourage more urban residents to maximise on their unique growing spaces like a patio, terrace or balcony garden, in an accessible way. Through his work, he shows that urban small space gardening not only has mental health benefits, but also has a direct impact on urban wildlife and biodiversity. 

Cloud Gardener Jason Williams
Cloud Gardener Jason Williams | © Jason Williams

Guidance

We recommend that entrants to the Sky Gardening Challenge 2024:

  • Use only peat-free compost.
  • Use lightweight containers and lightweight roof garden soil to keep weight down.
  • Ensure plant pots and heavy items are kept away from the edge of the balcony and do not hang over the external side of the balcony due to risk of falling and causing injury to anyone below.
  • Ensure that any free-standing structures such as plant pots, stack planters and free-standing arches are robust and weighted down to avoid them becoming damaged or hazardous in high winds. Avoid placing planters or other items on the balcony parapets/rails. If railing planters/hanging baskets are permitted by your management company, keep them on the inside of your balcony.
  • Ensure that escape routes are kept clear at all times, and avoid positioning pots, planters, or trellises in such a way that they form steps up the balcony rail/parapet, or create trip hazards.
  • Use drip trays, saucers or trays underneath plant pots to prevent water overflowing from plant pots and dropping onto balconies below or damaging the structure of your balcony. Make sure that drain outlets are not covered and water flow into them isn’t restricted.
  • Only use fire-retardant materials.
  • Most management companies and housing providers strictly prohibit fires or open flames on balconies or window boxes. Do not have open flames near plants, compost, containers, supports or any other gardening material due to risk of fire.
  • Keep soil moist. When soil is dry it becomes a fire risk, so do not attempt to extinguish any flame or cigarette in plant pots as it will be at risk of igniting.
  • Ensure that fairy lights and any other electrical equipment are suitable for outdoor use and not left unattended when switched on.
  • Do not lean over, sit or climb on balcony walls or railings. Do not try to pass items to someone on another balcony. Do not climb from one balcony to another and never stand on balcony furniture, ladders and stepladders due to risk of falling over the balustrade.
  • Follow instructions and warnings on gardening products and tools.
  • Be aware that some plants can be hazardous to people or pets if touched or consumed. Check plant labels for toxicity warnings (sometimes stated on label) and take necessary precautions.

Insurance

National Trust is able to provide optional, free, limited legal insurance cover for your participation in the Sky Gardening Challenge 2024.

Read the Policy Wording here: GW1A_Policy Letters_V1270 (nt.global.ssl.fastly.net) and the Important Information here: GW1A_Policy Letters_V1270 (nt.global.ssl.fastly.net)

If you would like to be covered by this policy, check to opt in when you register.

Terms and Conditions

The Sky Gardening Challenge aims to connect people with nature by greening their balcony or window box. People who have registered can then compete to be the best sky gardeners by sharing their story and, if shortlisted, inviting our judges round to see what they have been up to.

Eligibility
• The competition is not open to National Trust employees or their immediate families; employees of Blue Diamond, CJ Wildlife, Plant CIC, Northern Lily CIC, Hulme Community Garden Centre; judges of the competition; or University of Manchester researchers involved in the project.

• Entrants must be aged 18 or over.

• Entrants must live in one of the following developments: residents of First Choice Homes Oldham Eldon Street or Barker Street (Oldham); Angel Gardens (Manchester); Bentley House Estate (Hulme); or Middlewood Locks and New Maker Yards (Salford).

• There is a limit of one entry per person. Any person who enters more than once will be disqualified.

• Entrants are advised to read and follow the best practice guidance provided.

• It is entrants’ responsibility to check the terms of their lease regarding how they can use their balcony, window box, or window and get relevant permissions from the freeholder, landlord, or management company for any changes they want to make as part of the Sky Gardening Challenge. E.g. there may be restrictions to the amount of weight you can put there, or what you can attach to the building. If entrants are unsure they should speak to their management company or residents association. The National Trust can provide contact details for the management companies of the buildings involved; contact skygardeningchallenge@nationaltrust.org.uk to find out who your point of contact is.


Registration
• Entrants must register to take part in the Sky Gardening Challenge between 1 April 2024 and 31 May 2024 (the ‘Registration Date’).
• Entrants will then receive a welcome pack by post, including one free packet of seeds.
• Entrants will have the opportunity to attend some of 24 bookable workshops and socials during April, May and June 2024. Some of the workshops and socials will be led by the Judges, to help entrants learn skills needed to grow a balcony garden, but entrants will not be judged based on their use of promotional materials or attendance at workshops and socials or participation in the University of Manchester's research. Places at the workshops and socials will be limited and available on a first come first served basis. Full details for workshops and socials including locations, dates, and times can be found on nationaltrust.org.uk/sky-gardening-challenge
• Entrants can also collect free peat-free compost during April, May and June 2024 from the following locations, subject to availability:

  • Castlefield Viaduct, Manchester, M3 4PU – Come anytime during opening hours (Monday – Sunday, 10:30am-4:30pm) and ask a member of staff
  • Angel Gardens, 1 Rochdale Road, Manchester, M4 4GE – a key-coded compost box can be found in the central courtyard – use code 1895 to unlock it and help yourself. Please replace the lock afterwards!
  • Hulme Community Garden Centre, 28 Old Birley St, Hulme, Manchester M15 5RG – Come anytime during opening hours Monday – Sunday, 11am-4pm) and ask a member of staff
  • First Choice Homes Oldham, Wrigley St, Oldham, Greater Manchester, OL4 1HN – Email ci@fcho.co.uk or call First Choice Homes Oldham’s Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 to arrange collection/delivery

How to enter the competition
• The competition is for the best sky gardeners.
• The competition is only open to entrants who have registered by the Registration Date.
• Entrants must enter a submission between 1 June 2024 and 23:59 on 30 June 2024 (the ‘Closing Date’).
• Submissions can be in any one of the following formats:

  • Written statement (400 word max)
  • Photographs supported by a written statement (up to 5 photographs, and 400 words max)
  • Video (max 5 minutes)
  • Audio recording (max 5 minutes)

• Submissions can be made online or by post.
• Online submissions must be made through an entry form, which will go live from this page on 1 June 2024. The link will also be sent by email or post to entrants.
• Postal submissions must be sent to Sky Gardening Challenge, Goddards, 27 Tadcaster Road, York YO24 1GG. For postal entries, USBs cannot be accepted. Postal entries cannot be returned.
• National Trust cannot take responsibility for entries that are corrupted, lost, delayed, mislaid or damaged in the post.
• Submissions received after the Closing Date will not be considered.
• The submission should reflect one of the following categories. The category title is in bold and suggestions for inspiration follow.

o Celebrate cultural heritage – Tell your story through your green space. What colours, smells, shapes and species in nature signify something to you?
o In the shade –Does your balcony or window face north and not get much sun? Help nature thrive, even in the shade. What can you grow in abundance? Think ferns, mosses and fuchsias!
o Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Greening your balcony or window box doesn’t need to cost the Earth. Whether it’s recycling plant pots or becoming a propagation guru, what sustainable ways can you use to bring nature home?
o Wild about Wildlife – Create a high-rise hangout for urban wildlife such as bees, birds and more. Who could you meet at your window?
o Urban Farming – Whether it’s vertical veg or high-rise herbs, grow an edible garden to tingle the tastebuds. How much bounty can you produce?

• Up to 15 submissions will be shortlisted, and finalists will be notified by 12 July 2024 by email, phone or letter if they have been shortlisted for the final.
• Judging will take place in finalists’ apartments between Mon 15 July and Sun 21 July.
• The finalist must be present during the judging. If entrants do not wish for judges to visit their balcony or window box or are not present during the judging, they cannot be considered for a prize. If the finalist is unavailable, the Trust reserves the right to choose the next shortlisted entrant.
• Entrants will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Choice of plants – Have you made conscious decisions about the best plants for your space (i.e. ones that will thrive in your conditions)? This might include choosing shade-loving plants for shady spots, or drought-tolerant plants for sunny spots.
  • Use of space – However small your space, have you made the most of it when planning what to grow for your category? This might include things like choosing trailing/climbing plants, stacking planters, planting at different levels.
  • Sustainability – Have you consciously made sustainable decisions when greening your space? This might include using peat-free compost, using recycled pots, thinking about environmental and ecological benefits of plants, or other activities to promote wildlife (e.g. bird feeders, bug hotels)
  • Progression – This is all about 'trowel and error'! Whatever your starting point, have you tried new things when greening your balcony or window box, and what have you learned about it (or about yourself?)
  • Overall impact – However small your space, what's the overall impact of your gardening? Does it reflect the category you've entered? What's its overall impact on you, other people, and nature?

• The competition will be judged by a panel of independent judges and one National Trust judge. For the purpose of the judging process, your personal data will be shared with the judging panel.
• Winners will be contacted by email, phone or letter on 23 July 2024 to let them know they have won. Entrants must keep this information confidential until the 25 July 2024 when winners will be announced and awarded their prize by the judges at The Garden Party at Castlefield Viaduct. If winners cannot attend The Garden Party, their prizes will be sent to them by post.

Prizes
• Prizes do not include any extras apart from those listed below.
• No cash alternative will be made. Prizes are non-transferable.
• All prizes must be claimed by 25 July 2025.

The First Prize(s)

  • There will be five first-place winners (one for each category).
  • For the categories Celebrating Cultural Heritage; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; Urban Farmer; and In the Shade, the four first-place winners will each receive a pair of secateurs and gardening gloves and a £150 voucher for Blue Diamond Garden Centre which can be redeemed online.
  • For the category Supporting Wildlife, the one first-place winner will receive a £200 voucher for CJ Wildlife which can be redeemed online, and the opportunity to take advice from CJ Wildlife on which products would be suitable for their space.
  • All five first-place winners for all categories will also win free entry at one of the following National Trust Properties: Dunham Massey, Lyme, Quarry Bank. Winners may bring one adult and up to 4 children under 18 with them. National Trust will pay for taxi from the entrant’s home address to the property and back, and give the winner a National Trust voucher worth £60 which can be used in our cafes.


The Runners-up Prizes

• There will be up to ten runners-up prizes (i.e. second and third-place winners for each of the five categories).
• All runners-up will receive a free signed copy of GROW by Robyn Booth.
• All runners-up will also receive free entry at one of the following National Trust Properties: Dunham Massey, Lyme, Quarry Bank. Winners may bring one adult and up to 4 children under 18 with them. National Trust will pay for taxi from the entrant’s home address to the property and back, and give the winner a National Trust voucher worth £60 which can be used in our cafes.

Promotion

• The surname and county of the winner of the first prize and of the runners-up will be published on our website. If you object to your surname and county being published, or wish to reduce the amount of information to be published, please contact us at skygardeningchallenge@nationaltrust.org.uk.

• As part of the contest, National Trust and project partners may ask for your consent to publish your entry online or in print; or film or photograph you, your balcony, or window box; and publish it online or in print.

• Subject to the consent of shortlisted entrants, we would aim to use their name, photograph, and submissions in publicity on National Trust channels including the website, magazine, and social media.

Other terms

• Events may occur that may render the competition itself or the awarding of the prizes impossible due to reasons beyond our control and accordingly we may vary or amend the promotion. We will do everything we reasonably can to ensure that participants receive prizes of at least equal value.

• By entering the competition you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

• These terms and conditions are governed by English law, and the parties submit to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales

• This competition is promoted by The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (Registered Charity Number 205846) of Heelis, Kemble Drive, Swindon SN2 2NA. 

For further information on how we look after your personal data and your UK GDPR Individual Rights please visit our Privacy Policy.

Important information

PDF
PDF

Sky Gardening Challenge Guidance 

Guidance for entrants to the Sky Gardening Challenge 2024.

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PDF
PDF

Welcome Pack - Arabic 

Sky Gardening Challenge Welcome Pack - Arabic

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PDF

Welcome Pack - Bengali 

Sky Gardening Challenge Welcome Pack - Bengali

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PDF

Welcome Pack - Traditional Chinese 

Sky Gardening Challenge Welcome Pack - Traditional Chinese

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PDF

Welcome Pack - Urdu 

Sky Gardening Challenge Welcome Pack - Urdu