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.

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

Moveable Feasting


We realised the sun wasn’t likely to warm and ripen the tomatoes so they were all picked and now…
WE HAVE RELISH, PICKLES AND CHUTNEYS!

There’s been a lot of rain this year and its so funny to think back to the start when the hose pipe ban was in force and we wondered whether how we would manage to grow vegetables without water. Now we are quite waterlogged. Still, the marvellous poly tunnel has saved the day and our donated Keter shed is completely dry inside. Saturday volunteers Steph and Aileen have rigged up guttering along the shed roof to feed three water butts, so when the rain does stop, we’ll be ready. Our wormery is thriving too and Peter is running a compost trial with a DIY pallet wood version and a donated plastic bin. Both could do with some dry weather and sunshine. Another generous and game changing donation was our Storm Kettle from Eva in Luxembourg – more fun and less harmful to the planet than the gas stove. The design is sheer genius.
Our new horticulturist in residence Abby Nicol has started work in the garden and we know her knowledge of vegetable growing and natural enthusiasm are going to give us a real boost. We’ve been sowing seeds and making teas in the poly tunnel and our broad beans are especially awesome. They are shooting out of the seedtray and they’re so.. green and chunky and …broad.

Winter opening hours are now in force so the garden will be open 10am-1pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and 1pm-3pm on Sundays.
Please drop by, we love to welcome new visitors and old friends.

PEOPLE & CROPS

The garden was buzzing today.
The marjoram was covered in bees and there was a also constant stream of people coming in through the gate. There were new visitors and familiar faces, people with their dogs, a lady on a mobility scooter and her helper dog and a nice chef on a bike. Our artist neighbour Tim, with his dog, who had locked himself out and needed just the right stick to help him get in and the local blacksmith who cut down some oil drums in exchange for a nice bright blue one of his own. A friendly gardener presented us with a tub of Vaseline laced with copper sulphate to deter slugs and we were also instructed on how to make a stinging nettle fertilizer solution.
We made Lemon Verbena tea and sat in the shade talking and listening. There’s an archaeological dig going on near Seddlescombe, which we heard about because a friend dropped by to ask a question about suitable seeds to sow in the Autumn.
Times slows down without constant reminders from ticking clocks and radio news bulletins on the hour.

The hot sun is working its magic and reluctant tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Its hard to believe that we have only been open for nine weeks. In that short time we’ve grown chillies, beetroot, corn, cucumbers, cabbages, leeks, chard, herbs, sweetpeas, beans, squash and one miraculous cauliflower. And many new friends.
Everyday someone new bothers to walk through the gates to tell us what a great job we’re all doing and what a difference the garden has made to the street.

It’s simple and true that people like watching plants grow.

SLOW DOWN THE SUMMER

We made the local Observer again this week when our MP Amber Rudd paid us a visit to admire the “work in progress” mural.  We’re expecting the Obama’s motorcade down Western Road any day now!

Our wonderful BEN EINE mural is complete and will brighten up even the darkest of days.

Days spent in the garden without clocks or hourly news bulletins seem longer but really, we could do with starting August again. Rewind. It is hard to believe we only opened the gates 6 weeks ago but we’re reminded when new people discover us and are staggered by what’s been achieved. But oh to start August again – that would be lovely. It’s not that anything’s gone wrong, just that we need more summer days so our corn grows taller and pumpkins get fatter. Thank goodness we planted courgettes in all shapes and sizes because they grow while your back’s turned!  Jan discovered this beauty on Saturday.

We’ve been mulling over what seeds we should be planting right now and the names on the packets are getting me down. They all have winter in the title but I guess that’s what seasonal vegetable gardening is all about. Looking forwards.
Right here in the present though we are loving our sun-trap garden and noticing some big advantages to growing in containers – there’s no digging, no weeds and not many slugs take the long slide across the shingle paths. Rick from Smith’s Real Food is keeping us supplied with fresh coffee grounds to sprinkle around vulnerable plants. Apparently slugs and snails don’t like a caffeine buzz.
But bees sure do love the Verbena.

Last week we had the first children’s playtime in the garden. Lesley Lambeth invited families from the Fellowship of St Nicholas along and it was magical to see the little ones making mud and getting grubby. They’re not invisible – this was taken before they arrived!
They’re back with us on Thursday so fingers are crossed for sunshine and lots more happy little people.

Cat is the member of our group who works culinary magic with garden produce. She grabs a handful of this and a pinch of that and suddenly we have a Frittata or a gorgeous salad bursting with funky flavour combinations that most of us would never have thought of. And so beautifully presented.

…and finally there’s great news of a different but equally satisfying kind.
Our ‘campaign’ to have to public loo’s around the corner from the garden re-furbished has been a success. The Council have received the message loud and clear and work will begin soon.   RESULT !

Ahem. Thanks to everyone who got behind this.