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

MOVEABLE FEAST WINTER GARDEN PARTY

You have to admit that’s it was pretty brave of us to plan a Winter Garden Party outdoors on 1st December…but how right we were to do it. The day dawned bright, clear and frosty and by the time I got to the garden at 9.15 the enticing smell of woodsmoke was wafting across the garden. IMG_0334
We strung bunting around the site & Cat set up her kitchen with Peter manning the Kelly kettle. A big pot of spiced apple juice was set to warm on the Turkish barbecueIMG_0327 IMG_0330
Jan and Dora prepared their fabulous cake stall while Aileen made a fire in the brazier. There were straw bales to sit on while listening to Mary tell stories and an art area for painting pebbles.IMG_0362IMG_0383 Stewart, from Hastings & Bexhill Wood Recycling came to make birdboxes with kids in the poly tunnel IMG_0361 and we were treated to performances by two different singing groups IMG_0347IMG_0354and a wandering accordian player!IMG_0382
And so many people came to enjoy the fun. There were old friends and curious newcomers who left as new friends. It really was the most wonderful celebration and we raised a stonking £225 in donations! MAGNIFICO!
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WE’D LIKE TO THANK CAWSTON APPLE JUICE FOR SENDING SCRUMPTIOUS CARTONS OF JUICE; STAMCO TIMBER FOR PROVIDING THE WOOD FOR THE BIRD BOX MAKING; AMBER RUDD OUR MP AND JEREMY BIRCH LEADER OF HASTINGS COUNCIL FOR STOPPING BY (but not at the same time) TO SUPPORT US; EVERYONE WHO GAVE THEIR TIME AND TALENT ON THE DAY.

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!

GROUNDWORKS

Two very hard-working guys, Jason and Hassan, from Veolia came to help us last Wednesday and their main task was to clear the debris and buddleia roots away so that it would be all clear for fencing. Determination is great but sometimes there nothing quite like man-power to lift and shift.

Saturday was our first big volunteer work day. The men from Tate fencing  were on site first thing and after a slight misunderstanding about the position of the gates, they got stuck in. We now have a pair of very big gates but the old blue hoarding had to go back up, so still no fence…yet!
Saturday was a joy though and everyone who came along really got stuck into the hard work of levelling the end of the site. It was real chain gang stuff – shovelling and carrying rocks and rubble, spreading shingle and laying down pallets for the containers. There is nothing quite like working hard together when the sun shines – and luckily it came out and did just that, as did everyone who came to help. We achieved!

This week the meadow seed is being delivered and we have some topsoil to spread before that can be sown. We’ve also ordered a metal shed with donated money ( thank you)
and we’ve got helpers coming on Thursday to put it up – weather forecast is grim, so that might speed things up! Tomorrow is another volunteer workday and may be our first chance to put some compost in the containers – I’m desperate to take some pictures of green growing stuff as most of these look like we’re on an archaeological dig in Palestine.
Official Garden opening at 6pm on 29th June.

RAIN and delays

Frankly we’ve had enough of this, so whoever is doing the very effective rain dance – could you please stop now?

I have been putting off posting on the blog in the hope that I’d have pictures of something other than soggy seedlings in containers, but alas we are still not on site! Getting planning permission passed was a cause for celebration and we followed that up with a public meeting last week. It was great to see new enthusiastic faces in the room and we are anxious not to lose their energy with further delays. The seedlings that have managed to dodge the snail and slug onslaught are desperate to get their roots into their permanent containers. Not long now.

Local businesses have been amazing and generous with their help and we would like to thank Best Demolition for bringing their digger/bulldozer along to level the site and take away the rubble.  Veolia are donating all our compost …and have been great and now even more great by lending us a team of men to help lay out the garden and fill the containers; Stamco are delivering 50 wooden pallets and 50 builders sacks to be filled; Chessington Tyres are giving us tyres for planters and Tate Fencing are coming to install a chainlink fence with gates! Phil Oakley is providing us with a security lights to be fixed to Tim Nathan’s wall and Mark Dicker, Amir and Chris from the local community police have been very helpful and supportive.

A VERY BIG THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU from all of us.

PLANNING PERMISSION GRANTED

Celebrations all round – we have been given planning permission for the garden and the digger is booked to remove the rubble and level the site next week.Our public meeting will be on Thursday where we hope to sign up lots of volunteers.

There ain’t no stoppin’ us now!