The shocking state of our seed stock

That’s a tongue twister to get you going…

You may have noticed that we are giving away seeds..we decided that without our annual seed swap, we wanted to send out seeds to our members – some seeds are stock from last year (so may not germinate so well), others are this year’s stock, kindly provided by Franchi Seeds, and the rest, we have bought from the Real Seed Company.

We were able to offer our last years seeds to 70 people and within 3 days all of these seeds were spoken for. Luckily, due to Franchi’s generosity, we were able to re-open our offer and provide a more diverse set of seeds seeds to double the number of people!

If you signed up for seeds from us, we have ONE BIG REQUEST: let’s build food resilience by saving seeds this year. We are asking you to grow the small number of Real Seeds you receive from us with care and attention, look out for the strongest plant, and set it aside to save the seed and share it with all of us next year – can you do that? It would be a great thing to do, especially given we have a seed shortage in this country (thanks to Brexit). To get more information on your Real Seeds and how to seed save, visit their website.

Paolo Arrigo from Franchi tells us that he has not received a single delivery from Italy in 44 days. In his words “it’s a disaster”. You might like to read this article in which he is interviewed.

Find out more about how to save seed by watching our Lambeth Food Story: seed saving or contacting the London Freedom Seed Bank, Seed Sovereignty or watch the film Seed the Untold Story.

Lambeth Food Stories 5: MakeSoil – the case for community composting

We were so pleased to host this packed hour, hearing from people from around Lambeth and beyond about the possibilities for community composting. You can watch the hour-long session on our youtube channel here.

There was so much info raised but here are some of the things mentioned:

Patrick Holden mentioned

Dirt to Soil by Gabe Brown

Do Grow: start with 10 simple vegetables by (his daughter!) Alice Holden

Growing a Revolution, Bringing Our Soil Back to Life by David Montgomery

Zach Bush is a medical doctor who has made connections between our health and our soils

State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity – an FAO report

Tom Daniells from the Compost Club mentioned

Elaine Ingham and her compost course

The composter that the Compost Club is using can be found here: (Tom mentioned that they have a discount code)

Di mentioned the film Need to Grow

Another great film mentioned by a participant is Kiss the Ground

There was some interest in the compost bin design that the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership is using – IEL now has the pdf for this, so please get in touch with us for that information.

Lou (aka Rocky the Pug) from New York City has asked us to lobby to save the NY composting project – please show your support on Insta @saveourcompost or Twitter @saveNYCCompost. Lou also mentioned an Emerging Composter Competition which you can find here – you can vote for ‘Rocky the Pug’ here

and if you’re not yet composting: why not join a site? It’s free to sign up.

Planning your food growing

What will you choose to plant this year? Will it be whatever seed you can get hold of, something new, or something tried and tested? Have you saved seed or are you buying it? Or do you have any seed you’d like to share?

We’d love to know what you’re planning – is there one place you always go to for tips? Do you plan out your garden with a drawing? If so, what does that look like? Would you like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

On the seed front, we have been looking into buying seed and we are finding that the quality organic ‘real’ seed suppliers are already overwhelmed – Real Seeds re-opens for business on 25th January, as does Tamar Organics. The wonderful Bingenhaemar is closed to new business. Kings Seeds is also shut down temporarily (it stocks an organic range). Franchi Seeds, a family run seed business with a range of organic (but not open source*, we think) seems to be the only seed business that is trading right now! BUT – don’t worry, we have it covered with seeds that we can donate from last year (may not germinate quite so well) and another source we are working on..go HERE to register your interest in receiving a range of veg seed soon.

Lockdown reading and watching:

Have you seen Charles Dowding’s veg growing books? They are an invaluable resource.

We have been recommended Dirt to Soil: One family’s journey into regenerative agriculture by Gabe Brown

Have you listened to The Dirt podcast – an offshoot of Grow Your Own magazine.

Or have you watched the film Demain or Qu’est-ce qu’on attend? (What are we waiting for?) – both feature food growing in urban settings.

Photo: courtesy Hitherfield School

*Open Source seeds – go here to find out more about how seeds are bred today and why we should all be looking to either seed save or buy from open source suppliers. Find out about Seed Sovereignty

Grow Back Greener Estates

Last month, we announced that we’d been awarded funding. Here’s more news about the project:

We are working with six estates – Ethelred, Vauxhall Gardens, Holland Town, Myatts Fields South, St Martin’s and Central Hill.

Do you live on one of these estates and would like to get involved in greening your estate? If so, get in touch with Poppy today

If not, but you would like to join (or form) a gardening group on your estate, why not get in touch with us too and you can join a growing number of people who want their land managed differently,

We are very grateful to the Mayor of London’s fund


A 2020 round up

We thought we’d do a bit of a round up of the year, so you can see what we’ve been up to, so here goes – 

In the days before covid (remember them?), we hosted our annual seed swap at the Garden Museum, with over 50 people attending.

With the help of an initial crowdfund for a pilot and then London Funders Covid Emergency funding, we delivered a pack of 7 or 8 different veg seeds, compost and trays to 170 households throughout Lambeth. We believe (through testimonials) that the resulting seedlings reached a further 700 or so people across the borough. We’ve continued to supply veg seedlings through another wave of funding and are now working with a further 70 new growers. 

Through the platform of zoom, we have hosted five ‘Lambeth Food Stories’ (that have ranged from stories from amazing people distributing food during covid, to the biodiversity emergency – and what we can do about it, to hearing from this year’s food growers, to understanding why saving seed is so important, and finally, our Blooming Lambeth award winners gave us an insight into their gardening year, with an online event which 69 people attended).

With financial support from Lambeth Council, we have distributed 17 one tonne bags of compost to anyone who requested it. Also in partnership with the Council, we ran the ever popular Blooming Lambeth Awards last month, distributing prize money that amounted to £1950.  

All this has meant that our membership has grown by 200 to 490 individuals and from 72 to 103 group members. We really value our members and hope that you too are benefitting from being a part of this growing community. We have ambitious plans for 2021, which we hope you will be a part of, transforming our estates into places where food is grown, where nature will thrive and where communities come together to enjoy the green spaces on their doorstep.

Grow Back Greener on our estates!

We are SO excited to have been awarded funding by the Mayor of London’s Grow Back Greener fund! As one of only 34 projects in London, we plan to create spaces for nature and food growing on Lambeth housing estates. We will develop a template of engagement between housing officers, residents and grounds maintenance which will be a catalyst for transforming how housing land is managed across the borough.

This award enables six estates across the borough (four Council and two Housing Association) to develop their land with these three aims in mind: improve biodiversity, develop a food growing space and, as a result, help reduce climate change.

Our ambition is to bring housing officers, grounds maintenance contractors and residents together to develop a strategy that considers all three aims. We hope that by creating beautiful growing spaces, other residents will notice the difference, be inspired, start to ask questions and want to be involved in a new way of thinking about their community space.

If you’d like to get involved with this project, then read the job description here (this job has now been filled)

We are very grateful to the Mayor of London’s Fund


Winter and Spring veg seedlings offer

In the next fortnight we will be distributing free winter vegetable seedlings across the borough. Would you like to receive a few trays?

Growing veg isn’t just for the spring and summer. There are lots of different delicious veg that can be grown in the winter too! When lockdown started, we reached out to the community to help us grow food for our neighbours. We were thrilled that 150 of our members took part. Help us continue this amazing success. You don’t have to be an expert gardener. We have already started you off by growing the seedlings for you. We will provide you with 3 or 4 seedlings (Spring Cabbage, Spinach, Mizuna and Spring Onions), along with lots of support through ‘how to’ video clips, easy growing tips and cheap solutions for even more home grown veg.

Sign up to receive your free seedlings.

Registration is now full!

Thank you to everyone who signed up to grow winter veg! We are incredibly pleased to say that our registrations have already reached the number of seedlings available. We have closed registration for this round and will be soon be starting our next set of seedlings which will be ready for early spring. We will send out a notification to our members when the next sign up is open.

Not yet a member? Join us now. Membership is free!

‘Growing our Communities’ is funded by the London Community Foundation

Gentle Gardening at Bernie Spain Gardens

Two women gardening; one holding a trowel

Here’s a chance to learn a little more about this very beautiful garden on the South Bank, on the boundary with Southwark.

Local green spaces bring much needed colour and vibrancy to urban environments. Volunteering in community gardens like Bernie Spain has therapeutic benefits, helping alleviate isolation and depression though the combination of gentle exercise, getting outside, growing plants and social interaction. Read more about why Bernie Spain Gardens are a hidden oasis along the South Bank.

Could you tell us a little about the Bernie Spain Garden and in particular the Gentle Gardening group?

In 2014 a community garden was created within the south park, supported by Bankside Open Spaces Trust. Gentle Gardening sessions are held weekly on Tuesday mornings (but obviously it’s tricky right now with the covid restrictions).

Why do you think it’s important to have this food growing space in this very urban environment?

Because many of the volunteers that join the sessions have no garden of their own and have limited opportunities to grow their own food. This regular session provides a chance to connect with what we are eating, to learn about the seasons – and we think the food tastes so much better if we’ve grown it ourselves.

We feel that food growing is a great way of connecting with nature – we have come to realise that if we don’t look after the soil and the wildlife (we love to watch the sparrows, bees and butterflies), the crops don’t grow so well – we know that everything is connected.

What are your biggest challenges?

The garden is in a public park which means it is open at all times. This means we can suffer from anti-social behaviour, rubbish and occasional theft (we are still mourning a rhubarb plant that was stolen last year). It also means that it is more difficult for us to put in some features that we would like, such as a pond and wormery! 

And what are your greatest successes?

Each season has its own successes, and things that could have gone better!  Recent achievements have been putting in a bug hotel and planting four new fruit trees in partnership with the Orchard Project. The main success is the way the group works together, learning so much about gardening and about the site and what will grow best. The sessions include gardening outside if the weather is good or projects inside in bad weather, over a shared lunch. Volunteers develop skills in gardening and outdoor education, often taking plants home to grow. These sessions make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable and isolated people in the local area and have been described as a lifeline during COVID-19.

What is most helpful about being involved with Incredible Edible Lambeth?

During lockdown, we have all needed to support each other and learn new ways of working. Through IEL, we like having connections with other local gardens, being able to visit and see what they do is really inspiring. 

And what’s next for Bernie Spain Garden?

We are seeking funding from the Council and the Lord Mayor’s Fund for a “Pollinator Garden” which will focus on biodiversity, sustainability and community. It will transform the northern part of the garden. You can support the Gardens by going here

Welcome to a new member of our team!

We are so pleased to welcome Michelle to the Incredible Edible Lambeth team. She is running the London Community Foundation project ‘Growing our communities’ from now through until the end of March.

Growing up on the West Coast of Canada, she is deeply connected to Nature and she continues to share that passion by volunteering at her local Lambeth school garden, where she helps children become excited about natural, healthy food and to connect them with Nature through gardening. 

Michelle brings a range of business development and project management skills with her, having worked for many years as an independent software developer helping small, medium, and large businesses hone their web based offerings. She has created an environmentally focused business helping parents reduce the number of plastic toys thrown away each year. 

She is excited to bring her diverse skillset to IEL to help us create food resilience and a greater sense of community involvement through supporting this particular project.