ITS THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

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My goodness this is difficult and I’ve rather been putting off writing this post knowing
how sad it will make everybody who’s followed the blog and had such high hopes for our lovely garden. We are closing down at the end of the month – there I’ve said it.

If you’ve followed us from the start you’ll know that we had the land on a Meanwhile Lease which enabled the owner to lend it to us until they were ready to start building. Our initial agreement expired in June and our attempts to get a new lease came to nothing. We were eventually contacted by a legal firm who had been appointed to sell the land for redevelopment. Many people advised us to stand our ground but the site was sold and the new owners asked us to be prepared to leave the site within 7 days. This was extended to 21 days to give us time to move or find storage. We asked if we might stay on for a longer period and they agreed with the proviso that we must move within 21 days of notice being served, at any time in the future.

We’d set up the garden as a Moveable Feast so we started looking around for a new local site and this is where the wheels came off our big idea. We couldn’t find anywhere suitable in this part of town where there is a need for a growing project like ours. We also realised that we simply can’t plan and grow seasonally with a 21 day notice to quit hanging over us.

We held a committee meeting and decided to shut down at the end of the month and redistribute everything from the garden to other growing projects and charities that help people in our area. It’s the end of the growing season, the weather is mild and if we have to close this is a good time to do it.

The great news is that the local primary school are starting a gardening club and will be taking compost, tools, our shed and – if they can raise the moving money – our polytunnel. This means that the very children we hoped would benefit from the community garden will soon be sowing, planting and harvesting in their own school garden.

We held a closing party on Sunday.
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People were invited to take plants in exchange for a donation and it suddenly occurred to us that all these plants were going off to grow and thrive in other local gardens and allotments around the town, so it really was a moveable feast.
We also had compost, pots and bulbs for everyone to plant up and take home as a springtime reminder of the garden.
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Its been great in so very many ways. Especially as an example of what can be done if you put your mind to it. It wasn’t easy and there were times when we were completely shattered but we will miss those sunny afternoons in the garden beneath the big GROW wall.

And the end we may not have MOVED but we definitely GREW.

See how the garden grows…

August is here and we’re feeling the heat. Last Thursday with tempertaures rising above 30ºC it was plain dangerous to spend more than 5 minutes inside the polytunnel. We are so lucky to have water on the site as its hard collecting rain in our water butts without roofs and downpipes. If there is an expert water collector out there please identify yourself – we need your help.

In the meantime we have a team watering the garden in the evenings and plenty of small helpers who like nothing better than to fill a can from the tap then slosh, splash and sprinkle water on the plants.
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We have been doing battle with cabbage white butterflies and their ravenous caterpillar offspring. Close examination of our raised beds shows that there is a bit of a rota system operating with snails tucking themselves down the sides of the bags to sleep off their night time feasting while caterpillars chomp through the day. We need a flock of hungry birds to patrol our brassicas.
Fortunately there are some leaves they just don’t fancy so our squash, carrots and leeks remain untouched.

There are flowers everywhere and the colour contrasts absolutely zing. The painted tyre fruit trees containers have tumbling red, yellow and orange nasturtuims alongside California poppies with bright blue cornflowers and the wildflowers at the behind the fence are now butter yellow and mauve. Our meadow colour is changing all the time as new seeds germinate so there are constant surprises there too.

On the downside we had a bit of a wake up call this week when a sign appeared on our fence offering the site for sale with planning permission. We always knew this day would come whilst secretly hoping it wouldn’t. We’ll start making contingency plans to move our garden to another site but hope to be able to stay in Western Road for now and at least until the end of the growing season.

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To end on a happier note here is a photograph of one of our regular visitors Herbert who celebrates his 70th birthday tomorrow. When he first came into the garden he insisted that it should have been a bowling green. We soon realised that it was pointless to explain about the proximity of several bowling greens and after a while he came round to the idea of the garden, so long as he gets a cup of tea with a biscuit. Happy Birthday “Bowling Green” Herbert.

FLOWERS attract bees and passers-by

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A quick trip down to the garden with my camera this morning turned into an hour of marvelling at the number of bumble bees on the purple flowers whose name I’ve temporarily forgotten…I could sit and watch them all day.
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We haven’t grown these before so I’m not sure how long the flowering lasts, but we have plenty of Lavender and Hyssop about to flower so hope the bees tell all their friends via the bee dance. Valerian is having a great year and we have it in three colours behind the back fence with plenty of Buddleia for butterflies.
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The wildflower meadow we had so much fun sowing with is already brightening up the corner of our plot. We had a family of blue tits in the “meadow birdbox” but now that they have fledged we’ll be able to sow more seed to fill in any gaps. The nestbox will be cleaned out and with luck we may have another brood this year.

Vegetables are coming along nicely – we have red cabbage; tomatoes, peas, kolrabi, lettuces, oats, calvo nero, curly kale, parsnips,carrots,onions, garlic, spinach, squash and rather amazing globe artichokes.
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We’re training our beans up the fence by the pavement and hope passers-by will enjoy a bit of scrumping on their way to the station. Unfortunately snails have discovered our vegetables and they are chomping their way through our brassicas, potatoes and beans. The peas and broad beans have escaped their ravages and they show no interest at all in carrots or parsnips. Some gather them up and put them over the fence while others surreptitiously step on them – each to his own… but the snails always seem to have the advantage. Maybe our tadpoles will grow into frogs that gobble up snails.

July may bring a heatwave and with school holidays coming up we hope that local kids will be tempted in to help us keep the raised beds watered. The garden is such a peaceful sun trap we’reexpecting lots of new volunteers to come along and enjoy growing together this summer.

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Okay summer … anytime you’re ready…

IMG_2285 Oh I’m sorry to keep banging on about the weather but REALLY!
Things are growing and we’ve had a good first crop of deliciously melt-in-the-mouth spinach, we could be eating broad beans in a week or so and the salad leaves and lettuces are doing well. We have tomatoes in the polytunnel and along the wall and our herb beds are quite luscious.IMG_2294
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One of our volunteers has painted large labels for the beds and each little touch like this makes the garden more special.

The big news this week is that we have a family of blue tits in one of our birdboxes. They’re a noisy bunch and very distracting. The box is sited in the wildflower meadow corner and we’ve moved the bird feeder to a more convenient spot for them too. Our other residents, the tadpoles are growing fatter and some have small backlegs.
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The occasional dinner party (dollop of petfood) makes them very happy tadpoles indeed.

This week we’ve had a day’s help from a group of young people from Xtrax. The weather did its usual trick of being pretty dreadful but they didn’t seem to mind. Two girls got stuck into shovelling and wheelbarrowing compost to fill planters including our new shopping trolley. One sowed beetroot seeds and another weeded around the planters and everyone enjoyedbeing outside and getting a bit mucky. Matt and the only young man on the team cleared out our toolshed, sorted out the flooring and re-stacked everything in a more accessible way. Peter had the Kelly kettle on the go for teas, Abby organised and motivated everyone for the tasks and rain didn’t stop play at all.

Our next event in the garden will be our opening as part of The St Leonards Festival on Saturday 13th July. We plan to serve tea and cakes and have a stall with plants and herb posies in return for a donation to our garden fund.
Finally, I walked along the coastal path by the beach huts yesterday and really recommend it at the moment, the sea kale is in flower and I also came across these delicate Sea Campion flowers and will be back to collect seed for the garden later in the season.
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In the Moveable Feast Garden the sun MAY shine and the wind will blow

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The garden is so full of life you can almost hear the plants growing in the polytunnel.

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The seasons have overlapped and seeds were reluctant to germinate until the temperature rose. Even now we shiver in the cold winds and feel bad about putting anything fragile outside.  Its a matter of space though and some are having to brace themselves and toughen up, these peas are getting a little help each one enclosed in it’s own little greenhouse with a sharp frill to deter the snail invaders.Image

We had some fun sowing the new Meadow recently – inspired by something seen on Countryfile we gathered families together on a Sunday morning, sowed the seed then did the Hokey Kokey to tread them all into the ground. 

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The children all went home with balloons inflated with some wildflower seed inside then strung onto little bamboo poles.  We told them to find a place where they would like to see flowers grow and pop their balloon there.  Fingers crossed some flowers grow and they make the connection!

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We are struggling with the opening hours.  People coming in off the street all ask  “When is the garden open?”   We have posted new opening times but still tell them the garden needs regular volunteers to commit to be in the garden every week at specific times in order to guarantee that the garden will be open.  They nod.  It doesn’t seem to be what people want to hear and we spend hours in meetings talking about how best to encourage local people to come in and feel a part of the growing and sharing. 

The other question we are constantly asked is “Who get’s the produce – is it for sale?” “Not for sale but to share” we respond, then explain the idea that everyone who works in the garden is entitled to share the produce.  They nod.  This doesn’t really seem to be what people want to hear either.  It’s too vague and do-goody and you can see them wondering what the catch is.  At this stage in the growing season its all pretty academic anyway because we only have herbs and a couple of broad beans to share, so perhaps when we have actual vegetables to share it will make more sense.

It’s disheartening ….until you step into the garden and once there, outdoors and surrounded by new growth you find your spirits lift.  Time passes and tensions fade.Image

One early adopter of community garden life is Hassif a Sudanese gentleman who happily sows seed, nurtures his plants and has volunteered to take charge of the Sunday afternoon shift from the end of May.  He knows a lot about African plants and nutrition and is always happy to talk and share.  He planted a Baobab tree seed in the garden – watch that space!

Sadly, Abby has come to the end of her contract with us and everyone agrees she has done a brilliant job.  We all feel more informed and organised veg-wise now and her Saturday morning workshops were a delight. We are looking for ways of funding more of these and Abby will still be coming to the garden when her busy schedule allows. Big Thanks!!!Image

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There will be an exciting food event in the garden this Friday 17th May from  4pm to 7pm when Maresa from Moose’s Kitchen the ‘opening shortly’ local Vegan Cafe, will be doing a joint event for Food Revolution Day – come along to try some tasty vegan food – and bring something vegan to share too.

All for now…..

 

BIG DIG DAY 16th MARCH

BigDigLogo_largeLast Saturday we opened our gates to friends new and old as part of the UK-wide Big Dig community garden day.

The Big Dig aims, “to involve local people in creating vibrant community food gardens, which can reduce anti-social behaviour, provide fresh, healthy food and put pride into communities,” which pretty much sums up what we’re all about too. So we decided to take part, linking up with The Bridge Centre in Ore and Bohemia Walled Garden, St Leonards to put our towns on the growing map.

But the weather was not in our favour…it didn’t just rain, it poured. However, in true UK spirit we didn’t let that stop our party.

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Da made us all delicious Thai soup for lunch, the perfect thing to warm us on such a wet and windy day.

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There were homemade cakes a-plenty.

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Cups of tea…and a councillor popped in/ out the tea cup.

IMG_0784 Garden produce was on offer as well as some beautiful soaps handmade, no less by volunteer extraordinaire, Cat.

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A highlight was Pepe Mache’s ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ puppet show.

IMG_0787Despite the rain we even managed a bit of digging and weeds clearing, preparing our wildflower meadow area for sowing.

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Thank you to everyone who came for making the day so successful despite all odds!

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ITS GOOD TO BE BACK IN THE GARDEN

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Today we opened the garden after its winter sleep and we’re pretty chuffed at the turn out. We’d expected the trustees, maybe some of last year’s volunteers ….and perhaps some new faces. By the time I got there at eleven the garden was absolutely buzzing with activity and quite a lot of it was being undertaken by a whole new crop of visitors eager to get involved at all levels.
The shed has been raised onto a platform of strong blue pallets and we have a very sturdy new pallet fence along to back of the site.

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Ah men! Bless their strength and love of hammers.

Compost had been delivered and Jenny shovelled and barrowed it into big growing bags and Jan gave our shed a proper spring clean. Paths were raked and order was restored.
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The wheelchair-friendly path system was extended right up to both the polytunnel and the shed which will make a big difference mud-wise should the deluge return. This alone pretty well guarantees us a drought.
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Peter and Cat fixed up their outdoor kitchen in the middle of the ‘orchard’ with Peter working his Kelly Kettle magic for hot drinks and Cat serving outrageously good Parsnip & Wild Garlic Soup with foccacia – eat your hearts out if you missed it! Wild garlic comes but once a year but there will be other soups, salads and stirfrys on the Turkish barbecue….

We’ve all come away from the garden full of fresh air, smelling of woodsmoke, tired in a good way and best of all very excited about the year ahead.

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