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.

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.

Harvest

Very early this year I went along to a community meeting about future plans for St Leonards on Sea. There were consultants down from London to help us realise our dreams, or at least to write them on a white board for all to see. I made a tentative suggestion that we could follow the example of Incredible Edible and grow vegetables to share. Good idea!
We all sat round plotting potential changes we’d like to see on large maps of the town, then the consultants went back where they came from.
And we got on with finding our site, sowing our seeds, asking for favours, applying for grants and getting to know one another over some backbreaking earth shifting, wheeling our wheelbarrows and shovelling our shingle.
The garden opened on 29th June, and a couple of weeks back six of us went along to another Way Forward meeting, where Nicole spoke about the Moveable Feast and presented a Powerpoint display mapping the garden’s progress from derelict site to green and pleasant place.
Everyone loved it but what really brought the house down was Cat stepping forward to whip the cover off this box of vegetables.

These were all picked in our garden on the day of the meeting.
What an amazing harvest from a wasteland garden that’s only existed for three months.

We take delivery of a polytunnel on Wednesday to enable us to stretch out our growing season now and begin sowing for next summer early in the spring.
And if we have to move to a new site we’ll find one, we are The Moveable Feast Community Garden afterall.
Just imagine how much we’ll be growing next year…all we need now is people, seeds and sunshine.
This is our way forward.

Autumn creeps in

On Tuesday I spent the whole day in the garden and, as my mother would have said, I caught the sun.
I should have held it more firmly because it’s headed off South now and we’re talking about cauldrons of soup and braziers to huddle around as the temperature drops.
The tomatoes continue to swell and ripen, the squash have been picked and we have one tiny Aubergine!
The first runner beans blew away early in the season but we planted more and at they’re thriving at last. Fingers are crossed that they survive the predicted gales this week.
People come in each day and ask us whether we are selling vegetables and we explain that we’re sharing not selling. They either look confused or delighted as we explain the concept of local people putting some time into the garden and being able to share the produce. We’ve discovered that sharing can be quite complicated. Some visit regularly, work hard and rarely take anything away whereas others visit regularly, do no work and take quite a lot away. That’s human nature and having a clear policy on picking and sharing will be more important next year when we really get our crops going.
This year we started so late and everyone in the country had the worst growing season ever, so for now we must be proud to have managed to grow some vegetables that people want to eat.

As we empty the beds and prepare to plant for winter the most delightful part of the garden is the mini-meadow, where new flowers and bees appear each day. You have to get down to their level to appreciate their delicacy and they seem all the more precious growing at the season’s end on the most impoverished soil in the garden.