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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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

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