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.

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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

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.

THE SHED

We harboured the idea of a shipping container (spot the nautical reference) and between the two of us Nicole and I have seen hundreds online in many states of repair and she has actually inspected three on a building site. We could picture the funky thing on the site, maybe with a flipped up front with a counter and someone serving portions of home grown soup. But that dream ended when we realised we’d need a crane to get it in place. That would cost the earth and involve closing a one way street. So we compromised and looked at endless  pictures of identical metal sheds online.
We had received a donation of £300 for a shed so we ordered a green one.  It arrived flat-packed in a large box and was surprisingly light for a 6ft x 8 ft building with a floor.  We should have smelled a rat and sent it back, but we’re desperate and a nice man called Peter who we’d chatted to through the gate said he’d give us a hand to put it up. That was yesterday.

Things got off to a bad start with Ollie cutting his finger unpacking the panels which meant he had to go to the doctors surgery on the first strike day in 40 years. They gave him a tetanus jab …and then he came back to help.

It really was a great day in so many ways, we had new volunteers who soon worked as a very efficient team, filling the wheelbarrow, running it across the site and filling the containers.

Then a wonderful thing happened – Lashmi (apologies for my phonetic spelling) and Bala from the legendary Taj Mahal restaurant brought the gift of us a lovely hot lunch.

After lunch the shed erection went on, and on.

The panels were wobbly, the fixings were fiddley and the weather turned piddley. Everyone with school-aged children had to leave and the rain began to pour down on us. We left the shed as secure as we could make it and the weather took a turn for the worse. The gales raged all night and I went down to inspect the damage just after 7am.

The shed was all wonky, ripped apart and barely standing and by ten it had fallen down and blown across the site. The weather was still wild, so Peter and I put our gloves on and dragged it to a safe place and piled tyres onto it to stop it blowing away.

Or….if this was written by a 5 year old ..
We got a shed and put it up.
A very big gale came in the night and blew it down.
The End.

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.