November is almost half gone already and the gardens are beginning to yield their bounty.
Sweet eating peas are ready for picking as are the fragrant sweet peas. The Cavolo Nero is looking spectacular and is also ready to eat. It makes a great dip. Mix natural yoghurt, tahini, just cooked peas, a sprig of mint and the cavolo nero with the centre part of the leaf removed and run through the blender.
We are planting tomatoes, potatoes (at our site in St Martins) carrots and pumpkins. We will be planting for succession crops right through until February. It is also time to start thinking about what to sow in the Autumn for Winter yield, with an eye to crop rotation. Usually the brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli) go in then.
Show weekend is the traditional time when all danger of frost has passed and we will wait until then before putting in French Beans. It’s also now too warm for Bok Choy as it tends to bolt in the warmer temperatures.
The starlings nesting in the kitchen extractor fan have successfully hatched their eggs and are now extremely busy bringing food to the chicks. It wont be long before they are fledged and then we can use the fan again.
Elderflowers are out and Christine is busy making elderflower cordial. If you haven’t tried it grab a bottle at one of our market days or call in to Strickland St. It’s delicious with ice on a hot day.
We will be at the St Mary’s Fair in Church Square Addington on the 25th November. It’s a lovely old church and the fair is always fun, so come along and have a look around.
Tomato seedlings: These are now out in the glasshouse to get a bit of sun. At night they are wrapped up in frost cloth for protection. Hopefully, with lots of TLC they will be strong and healthy by the time Spring arrives.
Mulch Donation: City Care dropped off a truckload of chipped / shredded branches and bark. This will be spread on the Burns St corner. One of our volunteers has already started on this, ably assisted by his 4 year old son. Thanks again City Care.
The Blue Cedar trees at the rear of the garden have now been given a haircut by the arborists at City Care and are looking much more balanced. They did the job on one of those horrible cold and wet days we had last month but managed to avoid hypothermia. Great job.
Fruit Trees. Our fruit tree expert has sprayed them all with Conqueror Oil to combat mites and other bugs. Apparently it stops them settling on the plants. It’s a low toxicity product with no withholding period, so we are comfortable with using it in the Gardens.
The first Broad Beans and Peas are up and sowing for succession will be continued this month.
Preparation for our Little Spring Market Day on Sept 2nd is underway. We will have our usual array of plants, pickles and preserves for sale. We are experimenting with no leafletting for this event in order to assess the effectiveness of letter box drops. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and also the Neighbourly website.
Intern: A student from the Health Sciences Dept at UC will be joining us for August. She is working on a Health Education paper and will be developing a Garden Fitness programme and also some promotional material to complement it.
People often ask when they stop by – so who works here? On-site volunteer workers include an average of 80 people p.a ( approx 15 p er week) and 3-4 paid staff . Paid staff are in my view critical to the capacity development, maintenance and stability of a community garden and provide the support and resources required by volunteers and the community. We have three main volunteer days – Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Tuesday is often spent off site on our two other sites and Friday is set aside for meetings and administration. Our weekend is Sunday and Monday so in the summer, help with watering on those days is much appreciated. . The work, like that of any small farm is incredibly varied and suits those of a practical bent.
The rewards for volunteers working here on a regular basis are free resources ( plants, produce, preserves, compost etc..) and a free lunch twice a week. There are naturally other intangible and intrinsic rewards such as companionship, social support and learning. Enjoying lunch from the crops grown is important in order to enjoy the fruits of our labour and gives us time to sit down and talk about the work and relax together. At this time of the year we are having soup and toast made from autumn produce stored in the freezer and root crops growing in the garden now. In summer we have salad and rolls. We function as a workplace with a lunch break – so its back to work until afternoon tea-break, after which most volunteers head off. The average time spent here is 4 hours – usually 10.30 – 2.30. In the summer months we can still be working at sundown if the mood and weather takes us.
So what do we do on rainy days? We make pickles and preserves for fundraising, process seeds, clean and tidy the resource centre and sheds and have a covered potting shed so a bit of weather means we can get other work done and carry on with propagating plants.
If you take a look at our statistics page you will notice that a relatively small number of 80 volunteers facilitate the opportunity for the majority ( 4500+ ) of other participants visiting for plants and produce, advice and recreation, dropping off recycling, and for education ( school visits, student placements etc..) or professional purposes. These people are as much participants as the volunteers and staff, are important to us and help us contribute to our goal of supporting a sustainable community. We provide resources and grow crops for the wider community who participate by accessing them . While the number of these participants we can reasonably count is up to 5000 people, I would estimate that we provide services for an additional 5000 people in terms of indirect and passive benefit. That’s 10,000 – the standard size for a ‘community’ or’ neighbourhood’ for research purposes.
We very much enjoy interacting with people utilising the site as a resource. I personally enjoy engaging with strangers. Even discussing our harvesting policy with plunderers is satisfying in the sense that these exchanges need to be done face to face to back up the various notices about harvesting and to model ( or at least experiment with) what a trust-based economy might look like in the flesh.
In the previous post I spoke of the less than desirable attitude of those few who act disdainfully towards the workers here while helping themselves to produce. Detachment from or avoidance of face to face interaction with real people is a growing problem in our society. Community gardens create opportunities for participation in neighbourhood productivity and purposeful interaction while educating about fair sharing and trust in an increasingly competitive society.