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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Spring Preparations

The sun has finally hit St Leonards on Sea and the garden is starting to show the effects. Crocuses are popping up along the fence, shoots of bluebells amidst the colourful tree tyres and the broad beans in the polytunnel are already in flower! Not surprising when the polytunnel is registering a max. temperature of 40°C, but with a min. of -1 °C we’ll see how they fare…

IMG_0609 We are well and truly approaching ‘the hungry gap,’ the period of the year when seasonal produce is low on the ground and Spring planting has, if only, just begun. Kales are the king of the hungry gap staple, hopefully we’ll have lots thriving next year.

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At present we have a few edibles ready for harvesting in the garden with the ruby chard struggling on but the rocket lapping up the sun’s rays in the cold frame.

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Peter perked up a sad looking shopping trolley bed last week with some Polyanthus. Their bright colours teaming nicely with our coloured signpost and painted tyre tree planters.

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When the sun starts shining and garden life stirs so too do all the garden tasks that need to be done before the growing season beings in earnest. We want to get our second season off to a bang so on Sat March 2nd from 10am we are having a…

VOLUNTEER ACTION DAY!

Everyone is welcome whether it’s your first time to the garden or 100th, we have lots to do- fixing the fences, moving the shed, laying more of our super pathway, sowing seeds and enjoying many a brew from our handy storm kettle! It’s a perfect way to dust off the winter cobwebs and get the garden off to a roaring start.

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 Our regular volunteer hours come back into force from the 1st March. Thurs 10-1pm, Sat 10-1pm and Sun, 12-3pm. Spread the word far and wide. Volunteers are the life and soul of the garden and we could do with lots more hands this year. For more information email us at mfcommunitygarden (@) gmail.com

A BLANKET OF SNOW

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Fresh snow brings transitory beauty to a scruffy urban area like Western Road and I find myself wishing for a lot more of it….
enough to build a row of gardener snowmen and women ….and perhaps some snowdogs too.

A few of us got together for a photo opportunity in the garden today when our local community policman Mark Dicker handed over a cheque for £250 to help us with running expenses in the garden. The police have been very supportive to us from the word go and really understand what a positive impact the garden has locally. Big thanks to them!

Broad beans and herbs

Broad beans and herbs

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Our wheelchair friendly grid pathway into the tunnel

Our wheelchair friendly grid pathway into the tunnel


The rich liquid fertilizer run-off from the wormery soon fills the red can.

The rich liquid fertilizer run-off from the wormery soon fills the red can.


Cat has moved the wormery into the polytunnel to protect the worms from any hard frost and they are really thriving now. It was donated by a well-wisher and these worms are going to make a massive difference to our next growing season.
close-up of our wonderful worms

close-up of our wonderful worms


Amanda's Sweet Peas
The sweet peas that Amanda planted in the Autumn are proving to be highly resilient and it was a joy to see them poking through the snow today and the marigolds simply refuse to stop flowering!
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Looking backwards & And forwards

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Looking back at photographs of the site before it became The Moveable Feast its really hard to believe that it wasn’t very long ago. We came up with this crazy plan and stuck with it, convincing ourselves and one another that we could make a community garden to grow vegetables and that people would help. And they did.

Friday 15th June..the day before our first work-party

Friday 15th June..the day before our first work-party


Levelling for the pathway

Levelling for the pathway

Sign-writing garden-style

Sign-writing garden-style


Life revolved around the garden and everything else seemed less urgent.
Somedays we were overwhelmed by people’s generosity, like when our friends from the Taj Mahal restaurant appeared with huge dishes of Biriyani and bottles of Coke to sustain us and Bala made us special concoctions of iced yoghurt with herbs and spices to cool us down and give us energy. When all we needed was a Skip, French’s lent us one for a morning and strong people answered the call to fill it up. Working hard and laughing together.
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We set a date and the garden opened. BBC South East filmed in the morning and it all came together miraculously by six.
The opening party

The opening party


A few weeks later in the sunshine of wettest summer since records began, Jan brought a camping stove and made us tea in amongst the growing bags. Happy Day.
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Amidst all that people brought plants they’d grown from seed, and Dora’s pals at Greentip Growers donated about 500 tomato plants and before we knew it we had crops!
And flowers...

And flowers…


Everyone who spends time in the garden has stories to tell and for me one of the days I’ll never forget is when an elderly Sri Lankan lady came with her carer and asked to take some cabbage leaves home to cook. She returned with a most delicious feast of shredded cabbage stir fried with fresh coconut and garlic and some other amazing food. We all sat in the baking hot sun and shared the food. Those times you cannot choose or buy – they’re the gift that comes when you step out of the humdrum and take a chance.
The months have been documented in this blog so look back and remind yourselves how far we’ve come.
Today I went to the garden and met up with Cat. We walked around and saw that the garlic and onions are doing okay, the broad beans too. There are some soggy bits and straggly bits and in places the garden needs tidying up but we’ve passed the shortest day and look forwards to Spring. I hope there’ll be snow before then and we can all get together and build a snowman.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE
PS. this is what I picked in the garden today…..
Artichoke, beetroot & baby carrots picked 29/12/12

Artichoke, beetroot & baby carrots picked 29/12/12

Introducing …Abby Nicol

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We are very chuffed indeed to introduce our resident horticulturist Abby Nicol. She comes to us fresh from Panel Organics, a very local vegetable farm so she not only knows her subject but also understands local growing conditions. We were awarded a grant by the Foreshore Trust to contract an expert to help engage local residents and teach us all more about making a productive vegetable garden. The applicants were all good but Abby’s energy, enthusiasm and immediate grasp of our goals in the Moveable Feast Garden made her the obvious choice. She’s a great combination of feisty and engagingly friendly – just what’s needed in Western Road!

Abby’s first big task was to organise the Winter Garden Party…see next post!

Moveable Feasting


We realised the sun wasn’t likely to warm and ripen the tomatoes so they were all picked and now…
WE HAVE RELISH, PICKLES AND CHUTNEYS!

There’s been a lot of rain this year and its so funny to think back to the start when the hose pipe ban was in force and we wondered whether how we would manage to grow vegetables without water. Now we are quite waterlogged. Still, the marvellous poly tunnel has saved the day and our donated Keter shed is completely dry inside. Saturday volunteers Steph and Aileen have rigged up guttering along the shed roof to feed three water butts, so when the rain does stop, we’ll be ready. Our wormery is thriving too and Peter is running a compost trial with a DIY pallet wood version and a donated plastic bin. Both could do with some dry weather and sunshine. Another generous and game changing donation was our Storm Kettle from Eva in Luxembourg – more fun and less harmful to the planet than the gas stove. The design is sheer genius.
Our new horticulturist in residence Abby Nicol has started work in the garden and we know her knowledge of vegetable growing and natural enthusiasm are going to give us a real boost. We’ve been sowing seeds and making teas in the poly tunnel and our broad beans are especially awesome. They are shooting out of the seedtray and they’re so.. green and chunky and …broad.

Winter opening hours are now in force so the garden will be open 10am-1pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and 1pm-3pm on Sundays.
Please drop by, we love to welcome new visitors and old friends.

GROW

It’s almost a month since our opening party and the rain eventually stopped only to be replaced by a heatwave. Plants love this sort of crazy weather behavior and they’re rewarding us by growing in front of our eyes.

Ruby Chard wins the beauty contest and the Giant Bed of Mints get the aromatic award. Rescue Corn was plucked from ta nursery’s compost pile by Dora who brought it back for some TLC and there are green shoots!
Our beds of Three Sisters Veg are thriving although Sister Bean was too weak to cling on in the gales and we’ve had to plant afresh. The seedlings are doing well and will soon be clambering up the corn.

We’ve had our first garden meal too. Krishnaa, a local lady from Sri Lanka
took away a selection of cabbage leaves and returned with a most delicious curry for our lunch. She shredded cabbage and fresh coconut very finely and gently fried it up with mustard seeds and served it to us with fluffy rice. And I was too greedily eating to take a picture but I will next time.

We’ve had a week of ups and downs. The meal on Tuesday made us feel that we are already achieving more than we dreamed of. The garden was buzzing with activity with new plants being donated and a nice new sun umbrella bought with donated funds to shade our first garden meal. New people discovered us, we had visits from our friendly local police and were able to give out fresh herbs and salad leaves for visitors to take away.
After a day like that we were shattered to discover that we had to close the garden for two days over an insurance issue. The Public Liability cover we thought we had would not be valid without another piece of outstanding paperwork and there was no option but to lock the gates in a heatwave. The site owners Roost came to our rescue and sent Mark their Maintenance Manager over to water the garden and the plants could almost be heard to gulp and relax. After a tense day and Sarah’s persistence, the new insurance came through at about a minute to five yesterday evening and we dashed in to water after another scorching day.
We’ve been keeping this a secret, but I began pestering graffiti artist Ben Eine through his assistant Steph, back in April. Ben is famous for his huge drop-shadow letters often seen on shop shuttering in East London and Hastings/St Leonards. I sent photographs of our wall to tempt him then updated them as we cleared the space . He said he would come and paint and we decided on the word GROW. Then we waited for our Planning Permission to come through and eventually it did at the begining of June and so did the rain which came down relentlessly. Every time Ben was in the country the rain was too and the prime growing space along a nice warm sheltered wall was becoming an issue. Other wall painters offered their services but I knew that if only the right weather and a gap in Ben’s busy schedule could coincide, it would happen and be worth the wait.

Well, last night Ben and his assistants painted our wall. It’s not quite finished as bad light stopped play, but they’ve promised to return sometime over the next week and after a complimentary meal at the Taj Mahal, I’m guessing they’ll want to comeback to Western Road quite regularly.

Our garden and its wonderwall have shone a very bright and positive light onto Western Road and its getting better all the time.