Covid-19 and our gardening - please read

Growing Up

Earlier this month, we had planned to launch this lovely short film about four amazing primary schools in Lambeth who are growing food. Our current crisis meant we were not able to meet together to celebrate (and encourage new food growers) but we thought you’d like to watch the film anyway, so here it is:

Growing Up, a film about four food growing schools in Lambeth (click the link ‘Growing Up’ to watch on YouTube)

child with microscope looking at insects outdoors

During lockdown, can I still go to my community garden or allotment?

Every community garden will need to do its own risk assessment as to how to manage its gardeners; we recognise that there are many vulnerable people who see their community garden as a life line, but we would advise that it is imperative that conversations are had to ascertain how safe it is for them to garden at this perilous time. It’s a balancing act, as mental health and well-being has never been more critical.

Recognising this, Lambeth Council is (at the moment) saying it’s OK to visit your community garden. Capital Growth has supplied helpful guidelines, as has the National Allotment Society .

Here are some guidelines gathered from various sources:

  • Do not visit your community garden or allotment if you or any member of your family are self-isolating.
  • Anyone considered medically vulnerable/subject to government shielding advice should not visit the growing space.
  • Avoid public transport to visit your garden; instead walk, run, cycle or drive to the allotment, either on your own or with one other member of your household.
  • Do not pick up anyone on the way and travel to the allotment with them. This is not allowed. If you bump into someone on the way then maintain safe social distancing protocols (stand two metres apart).
  • Do not allow your garden to be open to the public.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands after using the allotment gate. It would be helpful to others if you wiped down the gate, as well, if you can.
  • Don’t wash your hands in the communal water troughs.
  • Establish a rota for usage if plots are close together; garden leaders should publicise maximum number of visitors and display on an external board.
  • Don’t work on the allotment in groups of more than two. If you share the plot with someone from a different household then you must observe safe social distancing rules. Ideally, work out a timetable so you can visit the plot separately.
  • If you bump into people then maintain safe social distancing protocols at all times.
  • Don’t make anyone a cup of tea and close all communal amenities.
  • Don’t share tools.
  • Don’t visit the allotment shop.
  • Avoid taking your children to the plot if you possibly can. If you do take them, ensure they keep to your plot and avoid playing on communal areas.
  • If you take your dog with you, ensure it is kept on a lead, within the bounds of your own plot. If it wanders off and you need to retrieve it from communal areas this could place you and others at risk.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands thoroughly before and after eating food, and when you get home.

We will keep this updated as we hear more from the Government. In the meantime, you can read up-to-date news on Covid-19 here

Covid-19 and our gardening

In response to our current very difficult situation, we have postponed all our upcoming events – but we will be back with a bang when this is all over! We are obviously really disappointed that we have had to do this – sorry to the wonderful people who were hosting our events and sorry to you, our members.

We are however starting to set up some online training sessions – let us know what would be helpful by emailing us today incrediblelambeth@gmail.com

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we grow our own food, to build resilience. If you have a balcony, windowsill or garden, do you think you could grow some veg from seed and share the seedlings with your neighbours? We know that most of you are amazing food growers and we empathise with your frustrations if you are not able to get to your community growing space; we need to find new ways to grow food. We are working out how we can supply you with the resources to grow food, without taking health risks; we want to distribute seeds, seedlings, trays and soil – read here to find out more; we are launching a pilot scheme at the end of this week.

If you are wondering whether you can get to your community garden, please take some time to read the guidelines provided here.

We have posted downloadable versions of our walks onto the website – please do print out and use them for your daily 30 minute exercise; our new Vauxhall map shows how many steps and Km the two routes are.

Finally, Blooming Lambeth Awards 2020 remains uncertain. We have postponed making a decision on this for at least a month.

Building stronger communities – grow food for your neighbours

Many of you are asking how you might be able to support your communities in these uncertain times.

We want to support growers to help their communities, family and friends by supporting a ‘grow your own’ initiative across Lambeth. We want to ask our members that are able to grow at the moment, to grow food for ten neighbours. We know that right now it’s difficult (though not impossible – see guidelines here) to work in any community space, so it’s preferable to have some space at home for this project.

What you’ll need

  • To be a competent grower from seed. We want to make sure we make the best use of the seeds we have.
  • A bit of space to start sowing. We’re not asking you to grow huge quantities, but you’ll need a little bit of space.

What we can give you

  • Seeds (a selection of easy to grow veg)
  • Seed trays and pots
  • Compost

We will work out a safe way of getting these things to you and will make sure that everything we give you has been sanitised. We would also ask you to sanitise before handling.

Once you have got the seeds going after a month or so, you can give the seedlings to others so that they can continue, or, share the veg itself once it’s grown.

Please email us as soon as possible if you are interested at incrediblelambeth@gmail.com.

Thank you to all of you who might want to be involved, and to those of you supporting your communities, family and friends in other ways.

Insect Love

Have you heard about the catastrophic decline in insects? There’s been a 76% drop in insect life in the past 20 years. “If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos” E.O. Wilson.

But don’t feel helpless, watch Dave Goulson’s Ted Talk to learn more and gain some very practical advice.

Here are six steps you can take right now:

Step 1: never use harmful pesticides (sign our pledge and go pesticide free).

Step 2: put pressure on your local plant centre or DIY store to stop stocking harmful pesticides

Step 3: Let Lambeth Council know that you no longer want your street sprayed with harmful pesticide. Contact  streetchampions@lambeth.gov.uk.

Step 4: ‘Say No to the Mow’: let your grass grow longer, or if it’s not your lawn, put pressure on your Management to get the contractors to mow less regularly (hashtag nomowzone). PlantLife are running a campaign.

Step 5: plant pollinator-friendly plants. For bees of all kinds, the two single best plants are willows and brambles. There’s a bee plant list at https://www.cotswoldgardenflowers.net/some-hints-and-tips/. Pollinators generally love buddleia, solidago, hylotelephium (formerly known as sedum), ivy, daisies of all kinds, fennel and other umbellifers. For caterpillars: nettles, ivy, mustard, garlic, birds-foot trefoil, holly and rhamnus. Register with Grow Wild for guidance on wildflower planting.

Step 6: make or buy a bee hotel – it’s a simple as drilling some holes in a block of wood! (IEL plans to hold a bee hotel workshop soon!)

Would you like to share your experiences as a food grower?

Do you sometimes rely on the food you grow to feed yourself and/or your family?

If yes… 

Would you be willing to show Hollie around your food growing space and answer some questions?

You would be contributing to Hollie’s research at UCL into urban food security – hopefully helping others in the future.

It shouldn’t take longer than an hour. You can withhold your identity if desired. 

Your help would be appreciated 🙂

You can email us incrediblelambeth@gmail.com or Hollie directly on ucbqhca@ucl.ac.uk

Thank you!

Meet a new member: Jerome Webb, group member Organic Lambeth

Could you tell us a little about how you got interested in growing food?From a young age I have been growing vegetables in my back garden. As I got older I realized the demand for locally produced organic food. I have completed a Diploma Level 2 in horticulture which has helped to give me both practical and theoretical skills in growing in raised beds with a no dig method.


What are your ambitions for the Carmelita Centre? Our ultimate goal is to make the Carmelita Centre the hub for producing locally made compost. Many sites struggle with having readily available compost on the go, we hope to bridge that gap. Therefore we aim to construct a compost bin area and green the area to attract more wildlife and increase biodiversity. 

What are you hoping to gain out of being an Incredible Edible Lambeth member? We are hoping to receive support with materials, seeds and seedlings. We would also like to be added to the green IEL route which will be a great start in doing our part for the community.

What are you most excited about in 2020? We are looking forward to contributing to the greening of the Vauxhall area as it needs a lot of work. We also have a tree planting session in early March which is a lovely community event to help boost wildlife in the area. There are other neglected spaces which we will be utilizing to help local residents grow their own food. To conclude, we are looking forward to collaborating with other organisations to help reduce our carbon footprint through growing and eating locally produced organic foods.

How did you hear about Incredible Edible Lambeth? Whilst browsing on the internet 

What would be the most helpful thing that IEL could do for you? The installation of a rat proof compost bin, provide compost, seeds and seedlings.

Thanks Jerome – we really look forward to working with you in 2020!

Calling all seed savers!

Lettuce seeds
Lettuce seedheads, courtesy of Richard Galpin, London Freedom Seed Bank

Do you think seed-saving is important?

Do you save seeds?

Do you grow food from open-pollinated seeds? 

Hi, my name is Katie Dow and I’m a researcher at the University of Cambridge. I’m looking for people who grow their own food from saved seeds, who participate in seed swaps and/or buy open-pollinated seeds. I would like to talk to you about how and why you save seeds. 

You do not have to be an active seed saver or be part of any particular group to participate, you can just be interested in the idea or support those who do. If you are interested in participating in this project or would like to know more, please do get in touch. 

Email me at kld52@cam.ac.uk

You can also find me on Twitter @katieldow and at www.cornucopiaseed.uk.  

Doorstep gardening

Do you live on an estate and love to grow plants directly outside your front door? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

This year, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Council has been undertaking clearances of doorstep ‘gardens’. Though we recognise that all caution needs to be taken with regards to fire risk, we have been made aware of some rather heavy handed action by local officers. Sadly, two of our beautiful award winning gardens from the Blooming Lambeth Awards have been told they have to dismantle their gardens.

If you have had this experience, we would like to hear from you. We are asking for a more sympathetic, case by case, approach to front garden management and need your thoughts on this. Please email us at incrediblelambeth@gmail.com

Photo by Debbie Sears for Blooming Lambeth Awards 2019, winning front garden at Hardy House