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

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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.

Community


A sweet lady from Bangladesh came to the garden with three small children today and asked for somewhere to sow seeds. She produced a plate of food she’s made for us. It was such a kind gesture and really delicious, particularly the squash curry which Peter and I devoured. We usually tell everyone that our policy is for all the growing containers to be shared communally and not for individual use in the way an allotment would be, but that seemed ridiculous somehow when faced with her generosity.
She’d brought coriander seed prepared for sowing by soaking, some black mustard seed and a few potatoes and Peter sorted her out with a growing container then labelled it with her name. The kids wanted to plant as well and we filled plant troughs with compost and their mum showed them how to sow and water. They’ll be back.
Rose, who lives nearby donated some cauliflower plants a few weeks back and although whole the idea here is to grow vegetables, we were all amazed and delighted to find an actual cauliflower nestling within the leaves. Every one who comes into the garden has been taken to see the miracle of the ‘actual cauliflower’ and today we picked it and Zelly took a picture of me holding it …and then took home for her dinner.
(Opinion is that it had arrived early was going to seed).
Tomorrow we have our first community group coming to use the garden and our MP paying us a visit in the afternoon.

AND THEY’RE OFF…

The garden is such a suntrap because it faces due south and as yet lacks the softening
effect of trees or other greenery. It feels like the South of France at times but then the heavens open and we’re back in England. We’ve put this together in such a short period of time and are now playing catch-up with rotas, set opening times and a steering group. All these things will come to pass.

In the meantime, I’ve photographed the containers today and could practically see things growing taller in front of my eyes. The rain and sunshine have worked their magic and the dreaded slugs haven’t found us yet.


We have planted circles of The Three Sisters in 6 containers. Its an old Native American system where corn grows tall with a bean planted beside it to climb up and also add nitrogen to the soil. A pumpkin is planted in the centre of the circle where its broad leaves cover the ground keeping the moisture in and the weeds away.

Everyday new people come to visit and we’re starting to make a note of their wonderful comments.  Many require an exclamation mark….and some may need a few asterisks.

Feedback is good.

GIVE ME A SIGN ….

When we thought about making a garden we pictured it GREEN with produce overflowing the containers  and covering the white plastic-ness of them. There were vegetables everywhere and fruit and flowers and birds & bees. And there will be – but not quite yet.

The garden is open from next Friday and right now there seems an awful lot to do before our vision becomes reality

For instance the garden needs a sign and this is my sort of job.

Here’s how I spent my afternoon.

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.