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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April showers, shivvers & sunshine

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One things that has been missing from the garden is birdlife. We put up a bird table with feeders and two types of feed last year and our feathered friends resolutely ignored it. So we moved it to a quieter spot where they still took no notice and didn’t touch the seed even in the bleak mid-winter. Perhaps they were just biding their time or waiting for our water feature because we now have a pair of blackbirds nesting nearby and visiting us all the time. Then last week we spotted a blue tit popping into one of our nest boxes, so who knows?
We may have been accepted at last.

A nursery group has been visiting on Tuesday mornings with their mums for a Seed to Plate course and even though the weather has been cold and drizzly they’ve had lots of fun poking about in the wormery.
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Seeing how popular worms are we’ve now added more ‘wildlife’ by making a little pond area at the back of the garden with frog spawn and water snails and fitted a solar powered fountain to keep the water oxygenated.
The blackbirds were impressed! If you’re wondering how we managed to create this marvellous lake …. this is what it actually looks like.
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On the growing side of things the garden is raring to go and all we’re waiting for now is the sunshine (and not just a random day’s worth either). The polytunnel has proved its worth as a shelter from the frequent icy showers and also as a perfect place for sowing and growing.
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There is hardly an inch of space to spare so the sooner the sun comes out and stays out the happier we’ll be.
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Outside our salad leaves are doing well in the cold frames, the herb beds are reviving and its good to see new shoots on the artichoke plants. We are growing a wider variety of vegetables this year in a more orderly way. Abby has used her organic vegetable growing experience to formulate a planting plan so that we will get the best possible harvest from our growing space. We did well last year but started late – this year we’re better prepared.
The fruit trees are all budding up nicely although there is still the feeling that everything is holding back waiting for warm weather.
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We’ve ordered two special planters from Hastings & Bexhill Wood Recycling for wheelchair users and our pathways now make most of the garden, including the polytunnel, fully accessible to them as well. So please spread the word to any wheelchair using gardeners you know to come down and get involved!
When we cleared old planters away we used the opportunity to clear and weed then sow flower seeds along the street fence edge and the GROW wall. If weeds grow there, so might flowers.

This week we had some great donations – about 30 bags of good soil from a garden landscaping job, a garden bench and an impressive £43 from a whip round at SoCo Arts Group when Nicole gave a talk about the garden! We also found out that we won a prize for our efforts on Big Dig Day last month and have chosen a delivery of compost.

Jan and I spent this morning moving the donated soil down to the end of the garden and raking it over the rough ground in preparation for the sowing of our Wildflower Meadow. Last year’s trial patch was sown late but lasted till November so we are hoping for lots of pretty flowers to provide plenty of pollen for the bees this year.IMG_7515

All we need to grow now are more regular volunteers – so please come down whenever you can, the Kelly kettle is always on the go.

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

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

PEOPLE & CROPS

The garden was buzzing today.
The marjoram was covered in bees and there was a also constant stream of people coming in through the gate. There were new visitors and familiar faces, people with their dogs, a lady on a mobility scooter and her helper dog and a nice chef on a bike. Our artist neighbour Tim, with his dog, who had locked himself out and needed just the right stick to help him get in and the local blacksmith who cut down some oil drums in exchange for a nice bright blue one of his own. A friendly gardener presented us with a tub of Vaseline laced with copper sulphate to deter slugs and we were also instructed on how to make a stinging nettle fertilizer solution.
We made Lemon Verbena tea and sat in the shade talking and listening. There’s an archaeological dig going on near Seddlescombe, which we heard about because a friend dropped by to ask a question about suitable seeds to sow in the Autumn.
Times slows down without constant reminders from ticking clocks and radio news bulletins on the hour.

The hot sun is working its magic and reluctant tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Its hard to believe that we have only been open for nine weeks. In that short time we’ve grown chillies, beetroot, corn, cucumbers, cabbages, leeks, chard, herbs, sweetpeas, beans, squash and one miraculous cauliflower. And many new friends.
Everyday someone new bothers to walk through the gates to tell us what a great job we’re all doing and what a difference the garden has made to the street.

It’s simple and true that people like watching plants grow.

SLOW DOWN THE SUMMER

We made the local Observer again this week when our MP Amber Rudd paid us a visit to admire the “work in progress” mural.  We’re expecting the Obama’s motorcade down Western Road any day now!

Our wonderful BEN EINE mural is complete and will brighten up even the darkest of days.

Days spent in the garden without clocks or hourly news bulletins seem longer but really, we could do with starting August again. Rewind. It is hard to believe we only opened the gates 6 weeks ago but we’re reminded when new people discover us and are staggered by what’s been achieved. But oh to start August again – that would be lovely. It’s not that anything’s gone wrong, just that we need more summer days so our corn grows taller and pumpkins get fatter. Thank goodness we planted courgettes in all shapes and sizes because they grow while your back’s turned!  Jan discovered this beauty on Saturday.

We’ve been mulling over what seeds we should be planting right now and the names on the packets are getting me down. They all have winter in the title but I guess that’s what seasonal vegetable gardening is all about. Looking forwards.
Right here in the present though we are loving our sun-trap garden and noticing some big advantages to growing in containers – there’s no digging, no weeds and not many slugs take the long slide across the shingle paths. Rick from Smith’s Real Food is keeping us supplied with fresh coffee grounds to sprinkle around vulnerable plants. Apparently slugs and snails don’t like a caffeine buzz.
But bees sure do love the Verbena.

Last week we had the first children’s playtime in the garden. Lesley Lambeth invited families from the Fellowship of St Nicholas along and it was magical to see the little ones making mud and getting grubby. They’re not invisible – this was taken before they arrived!
They’re back with us on Thursday so fingers are crossed for sunshine and lots more happy little people.

Cat is the member of our group who works culinary magic with garden produce. She grabs a handful of this and a pinch of that and suddenly we have a Frittata or a gorgeous salad bursting with funky flavour combinations that most of us would never have thought of. And so beautifully presented.

…and finally there’s great news of a different but equally satisfying kind.
Our ‘campaign’ to have to public loo’s around the corner from the garden re-furbished has been a success. The Council have received the message loud and clear and work will begin soon.   RESULT !

Ahem. Thanks to everyone who got behind this.

Community


A sweet lady from Bangladesh came to the garden with three small children today and asked for somewhere to sow seeds. She produced a plate of food she’s made for us. It was such a kind gesture and really delicious, particularly the squash curry which Peter and I devoured. We usually tell everyone that our policy is for all the growing containers to be shared communally and not for individual use in the way an allotment would be, but that seemed ridiculous somehow when faced with her generosity.
She’d brought coriander seed prepared for sowing by soaking, some black mustard seed and a few potatoes and Peter sorted her out with a growing container then labelled it with her name. The kids wanted to plant as well and we filled plant troughs with compost and their mum showed them how to sow and water. They’ll be back.
Rose, who lives nearby donated some cauliflower plants a few weeks back and although whole the idea here is to grow vegetables, we were all amazed and delighted to find an actual cauliflower nestling within the leaves. Every one who comes into the garden has been taken to see the miracle of the ‘actual cauliflower’ and today we picked it and Zelly took a picture of me holding it …and then took home for her dinner.
(Opinion is that it had arrived early was going to seed).
Tomorrow we have our first community group coming to use the garden and our MP paying us a visit in the afternoon.