SEPTEMBER SNEAKS ON BY

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Days are growing shorter and some plants look straggly but nonetheless the garden still looks alive and loved.

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This years successes were curly kale, peas, sweetcorn and (mostly green) tomatoes but the usually reliable beans and courgettes were few and far between. On the whole the sudden late hot summer hasn’t resulted in a great harvest – perhaps because winter hung on too long so we didn’t get the good start we’d hoped for. 

 

It seemed that snails and caterpillars were the big winners this year as they’ve chomped their way through all our brassicas and are now enjoying the ripening tomatoes.  We’ve all experienced the disappointment of reaching down to pick a luscious tomato only to find the ripe and ready beauty has already been devoured inside from the bottom up.   Sneaky.

Flowers bloomed in the meadow and around the garden and really did seem to lift the spirits of everyone passing by.

We’ve held two Saturday events in the past month with the help of funding from Southern Water. 

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These follow the Feastie Beastie kids event and we have one more planned – A Harvest Celebration with pumpkin carving  where we will join up with The Bohemia Walled Garden – details will be on our Facebook page. 

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Our Herb Day must have been the rainiest event day yet – ironic that it was sponsored by the water company!  Undaunted, we gathered under the larger gazebo and listened as two experts gave fascinating talks on different aspects of herbs.  Jackie is a medical herbalist who introduced us to easy-to- concoct herbal remedies and suggested ways of supporting good health by treating ourselves with the plants that nature has provided.  Then we all made a dash for the polytunnel to enjoy lots of herb themed goodies that the garden volunteers had made.  Savoury flapjacks, rose geranium and quince cake, rosemary and walnut shortbread and lots more served with freshly made herb teas got us in the mood to hear Elaine tell us about growing herbs and designing a great herb garden.  Eventually the unstoppable torrential rain got the better of us and everyone went home a lot wiser but desperately needing to also be a lot drier and warmer as well!

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Our most recent event was ALL ABOUT FOOD!

The garden was open for EDIBLE GARDENS 2013 which is part of The Big Dig, a national movement to encourage people to grow their own food on allotments and in community gardens like ours.  The weather was a lot kinder to  us this time, which is just as well with outdoor cookery as the theme.  We had a mention in the press and posters were up around town so there was a good turnout including Council Leader Jeremy Birch Council and representatives from our event sponsors, Southern Water.  Image

Hafiz provided a typical Sudanese vegetarian feast served with rice from our friends at the Laskshmi Mahal.  Jan made a big pot of delicious minestrone using vegetables she’d picked that morning.  We also had salads from Mooses’s Kitchen and plenty of teas brewed up by Peter who kept the Kelly kettle boiling all afternoon.  

Most of all we had lots of happy people in the garden, sitting on straw bale benches chatting to each other, making friends and enjoying a meal together. This is what the garden was made for.

Next Saturday The Moveable Feast joins up with a garden themed exhibition as part of Coastal Currents.  Dora and I are recreating the garden shopping trolley logo as an exhibit. Photo’s will be taken if it works – if not less said the better!

We haven’t had any news about a date to leave the site so plan to stay put until the time comes.  We certainly wouldn’t want to pack up and go only to see this inspiring space return to the state it was in when we started here last April.  For now all we can do is carry on as usual and see what the future brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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.

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

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.

Drizzle will not stop them…..

Wednesday was one of those invisible rain days when its not lashing down but you’re getting soaked to the skin anyway.  The contractors decided there was too much rubble for people to deal with so they have rescheduled and up-scaled so we shall now be getting a man with a digger to level our planting area!   The thing was though, we simply could not wait another day and needed to get in there and DO something.

Nicole and I took loppers and secateurs down and cut most of the buddleia down and were joined by Kevin, who lives locally. He brought a saw and dealt with the more established buddleias with thicker stems up by the wall and that has made a huge difference to the look of the site.

Later in the day I met Robin Jones, who is the Business Development Officer for Groundwork UK on site http://www.groundwork.org.uk and really felt that our morning’s work had been well worth it, if only for the sense of ‘ownership’ it had given me in being able to talk about the site and our grand plans for it.  I wasn’t standing in the middle of a daunting rubbish tip anymore!

We have days when we don’t feel things are moving fast enough and we have a lot to learn, but we keep meeting new helpful and friendly people who are keen to lend a hand and be a part of helping this community garden come alive and thrive.

Watch this space!

P.S.  The seedlings are being decimated by fat snails and slugs who are revelling in this weather!