Tuesday, 31 January 2012

My first Seedy Sunday!

This weekend I will be heading over to Brighton for my very first Seedy Sunday experience.

I have heard stories about people swapping suspect little packages in brown paper bags with scribbles written on the bag - sounds very intriguing!

I am also a complete fanatic about growing heritage, heirloom and saved seed and keeping old varieties alive - in fact keeping a massive gene pool of a variety of edibles alive.  Its exciting - there's lots out there we can grow.  Wouldn't it be fantastic to save a variety from complete extinction?  Well it floats my boat anyway!

So much so that I am a very keen member of Garden Organic's Heritage Seed Library

Last summer, I was saving seed for the first time and have a selection of chilli seeds, tomato seeds and gem squash to share.  I've bagged all my seeds ready for the big swap on Sunday.

Got any tips for a newbie to the Seedy Sunday experience?

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Our Compost Heap Solution!

A few weeks ago, I blogged for suggestions on Transition Town Wandsworth Community Garden's compost heap as we had to sort it out from being a big unsightly mound in a dark corner of the site

And here it is....

We made this with 3 posts, chicken wire, some bricks that we'd previously dug up at the site and a lot of strength and sweat! 

We can access the compost from either side with a spade.

In the coming weeks, we will learn to make a willow screen which we will position in front to beautify it.

Friday, 27 January 2012

2011 saving money with a small garden


In 2011 I saved £172.45 through growing my own food.  With what I have learned over the last year I am sure I can increase that saving this year!

I only recorded savings between May to December as that was when I was initially inspired to find out how much I actually save with growing my own food.


In 2010 I hadn't really learnt to grow many things to eat over the winter months as yet with chard being my main winter crop so until May this was really all that was growing outside together with the perennial herbs.

The saving for this month was £2.21 which consisted of salads, herbs, peas, turnips and some cabbage.


Things were starting to pick up a bit in June and I was able to more than double those savings to £5.34.  The spring sowings were planted out and starting to crop.

Crops I was eating in June were salads made with kai lan, chard, nasturtium leaves, pea shoots, mustard leaves, squash flowers, etc.  I was making herbal teas with mint and lemon verbena.  My crop of early potatoes were ready to eat and the potato bag produced nearly a kilo of salad potatoes - now that was a crop I savoured!  I was also eating french beans and peas.


Savings continued to grow in July when I saved £7.90.  I had similar crops to June except for the potatoes - I was then waiting for my second batch of earlies which were being grown for my boyfriend's  rest & recouperation break from a tour in Cyprus in August.  There were also some new crops that came in to season: courgettes started to crop, patty pans and strawberries in hanging baskets.


The savings took a wapping jump to £72.51!  It includes gifts of 800g chard and 3kg of tomatoes saved from blighted crops which were given in return for volunteer gardening maintenance in a community garden.  As this was free food I included this in my savings.  In addition, it highlights one of the major benefits of joining or helping out in community gardens - free food!

What was eaten in June and July continued to crop and with the addition of  chillies and sweet peppers, aubergines and tomatoes.  Interestingly these are all in the same crop family - Solanaceae.


The savings were pretty similar to August coming in at £62.53.  Again, a little generosity inflated my crops as a friend gave me 500g windfall apples which I turned into my first ever jelly - it was delicious and set marvelously.  All the crops in season in August were still producing in September just slightly less prolifically.  We had a really hot week at the end of September/early October - unfortunately I had already removed my tomatoes due to the blight experienced in August which would have done really well in that heat.


Things really started to tail off this month at £15.81.   Although, keeping that saving value high were the winter squashes.  The summer in 2011 was disappointing with not much sun but in mid to late autumn, temperatures were remaining stable at about 15 degrees centigrade which was ideal weather for the winter squash to fully finish on their vines before being cropped.  With the mild weather, tomatoes and chillies were continuing to finish cropping and winter salad was starting to be substantial enough to eat.


The year was really starting wind down now with £6.17Chillies and sweet peppers were still cropping and kale, cabbage, kai lan, nasturtium, chard and winter salad were this month's crops.

It has been a brilliant exercise recording all my crops and their weights.  Its given me something solid to reflect on.  Through the data I can see which months things were cropping in a challenging summer with little sun.  It also made me realise what foods were expensive and which ones were less expensive.  It told me that with a container garden it makes more sense to grow the high value crops that I can get a good yield from.

For 2012, I have decided to capitalise each season on getting the most value from my plot.  I will grow the expensive Solanceae through the summer and concentrate more on brassica types through the winter.  I will grow what grows easily in pots and not invest too much space in those crops that don't fare well in pots.  I found turnips were a disaster and peas were difficult.  However, I think I will still grow a pot of peas as they are like sweets in the garden!

From the summer, I will be planning my winter crops better - I was starting to do this in late summer 2011, but I will give this more focus in 2012 and sow some kohl rabi good and early.  I will experiment with a different variety of kale to see if I can find a favourite as this grows so well in winter and I find it easier to grow in containers than cabbage.

Lets see if I learn from 2011's data and really improve my savings and crop yields this year.  Watch this space!

Here's the Spreadsheet if you would like to see the results in more detail.

Have you done an exercise to record your crops?  I'd love to hear of your experiences.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New Year, New Jobs in the Community Garden

This morning was the first 2012 Sunday session of Transition Town Wandsworth's Community Garden.  We had lots of jobs to do and 5 energetic volunteers so we got cracking with our spades and gardening tools.

We had a lovely mild day to work in.

We had several jobs to do:

1.  We have a mound of compost and either need to contain it or use it up rather quickly.  As our community garden is located within a public park we need to make our compost heap look more beautiful.  However, we have the dilemma of not being able to build a structure against the wall to contain it in a wooden structure and are not sure how to deal with it.  Gardening generates waste plant material and it would be great to be able to turn it into usable material for the garden.

So in the meantime, we buried the partly composted material from the compost heap into trenches where the soil is not so rich and fertile.   

Any ideas on a remedy for this?

2.  We had a separate mound of fully composted material kindly donated by the Council so we distributed it as top soil for the raised beds. 

3.  We removed leaves from the base of plants to try to prevent botrytis on the lower leaves of plants.  Botrytis is a fungal condition which occurs in damp environments and is commonly found on strawberry plants. The fallen leaves bunched up at the base of perennials and keeping in moisture is prime breeding ground for this condition.

With 5 volunteers we were able to make a good stab at the jobs but weren't able to complete them all so will have to finish them off in next Sunday's session.

We need more to come and join us, its great fun and the more the merrier!  Bramford Community Garden is a big site in Wandsworth's Bramford Park.  If you want to join us - please get in touch! Email: ttwandsworth@hotmail.co.uk
For more information:
Bramford Community Garden Project Dirt 
Transition Town Wandsworth 

Obviously hard work must be rewarded so we shared out the harvested veg :)  Not bad going for January!

Off to warm up in a nearby cafe with a well deserved hot chocolate.