The news has been filled with articles on the emergency neonicotinoids derogation, but little attention has been given to the Government’s launch of the draft revised UK National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (NAP). The NAP will set out how pesticides will be used across the UK, and this consultation is our best opportunity in a generation to have our voices heard!
While many organisations will be taking a stand against agricultural pesticide use, few are highlighting a critical gap in the current draft: reducing the use of pesticides in urban and other non-agricultural settings. The current draft NAP does not contain any commitments to phase out this unnecessary exposure to pesticides for millions of UK citizens.
We have a chance to call on the Government to ban all amenity use pesticides (urban pesticides, but also railways, road verges, football pitches etc.) to better protect the health of both people and wildlife! It’s vital that the UK Government hears from as many of us as possible before 26th February when the consultation ends. Wherever you live in the UK do make sure your voice is heard.
Myatt’s Fields Park is an amazing community park. It has everything you could possibly want, from sports facilities and playgrounds to peaceful places to wander such as their 19th century bandstand, roundhouse, gardens and paths. But what we love most about it, of course, is their veg garden!
Myatt’s Fields Park has been awarded Green Flag status for its quality green space. The park has also won awards for growing food for local people – and developing habitats for pollinators, like bees. All of this helped along by their expert gardener, Fabrice Baltho.
Growing isn’t just for the spring and summer! To this end, Fabrice and our very own IEL director Marj Landels have put together an excellent series of quick videos with growing tips on what you can grow over the winter. You can find the first of the series as a taster below and the rest you can view on their website here: How can I grow my own food?
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.
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
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 MakeSoil.org site? It’s free to sign up.
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
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 email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
We are very grateful to the Mayor of London’s fund
Don’t let that sprouting garlic clove go to waste! Yes, that garlic clove can be grown into a lovely full bulb of garlic and winter is the perfect time to plant it.
Watch the video below to see how to plant your garlic and read below to learn more about how to take care of it, harvest it and store it.
As I mentioned in the video above, there are two types of garlic: hardneck garlic and softneck garlic.
Hardneck garlic develops a long flowering stem, called a scape and the cloves circle this stem in a neat single row. They grow well in cold climates and are known to have larger cloves with a tasty mild flavour. Even though they are delicious, we don’t tend to see this type as often in our local shops because they only keep for about 5 to 6 months.
Softneck garlic, on the other hand, is what we mostly see in our grocery stores due to their longer shelf life – about a year. They have more than one row of cloves surrounding the centre of the bulb. These are the kind of garlic bulbs that you might see beautifully plaited together as their ‘necks’ are more flexible. The cloves are usually quite a bit smaller than the hardneck variety and they tend to have a stronger flavour.
Winter is an ideal time to plant softneck garlic cloves as they need a spell of one to two weeks at 0-4C to trigger proper bulb growth. So let’s get them in the ground!
One thing before we start, the RHS specifically warns against planting garlic from your grocery store. This is because there is a possibility they might carry disease. With this in mind, I suggest planting any store bought cloves in a planter rather than in the ground. This will help prevent disease from contaminating your growing space for any neighbouring or future plants. If you have purchased certified disease free ‘seed garlic’, these can be put right into the ground.
Site and Ground
Garlic likes a sunny, warm location in rich, well-drained soil. If you have a bit of fresh compost, work it into the soil before you plant. Also make sure the location you have selected won’t get too wet over the winter.
Planting garlic cloves is very simple. First, separate the cloves from each other, but do not peel them. Generally, you will grow larger bulbs from the largest cloves. If space is at a premium in your garden as it is in mine, I recommend planting just the largest cloves. Now, make a hole for each of your cloves so the the tip of the clove will be about 2.5cm (1in) deep. Space these holes about 5cm (2in) apart. Space them further, 15cm (6in) apart and in rows 30cm (12in) apart if you are planting into the ground instead of a container. Put one clove in each hole with the pointed (or sprouted) end up and cover with about 2.5cm (1in) of soil. That’s it! Like with other plants or seedlings, covering these with horticultural fleece will help prevent birds and foxes from pulling up up your newly planted cloves.
Garlic needs plenty of water during it’s growing season between March and June. That said, make sure not to overwater as high moisture levels and low light can cause leaf rust. Ideally you want the soil wet, but not soggy throughout their growing period. Make sure to keep the garlic planter well weeded because garlic has long, thin, straight leaves that make them vulnerable to being smothered by weeds. Once the green leaves of the garlic stop growing and start to yellow a bit, stop watering. This will keep the bulbs from rotting at the neck.
Harvesting full garlic bulbs requires some patience as it can take up to 7 months for your bulbs to reach maturity. You will know it is time to harvest your garlic when the leaves have turned completely yellow. This will be sometime in July or August, depending on when you planted your bulbs. Harvest your garlic when the weather is dry and gently loosen them out of the soil with a garden fork as they bruise very easily. Shake off the loose soil and leave them out to dry on the surface of the soil for a few hours. Next you will need to dry out (“cure”) your garlic in a protected airy space for about three weeks. Whey they are nice and dry, you can trim the tops and roots off and store them.
You can also harvest garlic shoots while they are still green and enjoy them much like you would chives. Cut off shoots that are about 4 inches tall and make sure to never take more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Doing this will likely make the bulb smaller. You can always plant those smaller garlic cloves and use them in this way rather than harvesting them as a bulb in the summer.
Store the garlic as whole bulbs as once you remove a clove from a bulb the broken head will only keep for about 3 to 10 days. Light and moisture can cause mould to grow on the garlic. Make sure to put the bulbs in a basket or open paper bag to allow for air to circulate around them. Put them somewhere dark, but at room temperature, like a cupboard or pantry. If you have 10 or more bulbs, plaiting them and hanging them makes an attractive storage solution.
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.
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.
For all of you growing with us this winter, we have put together this video and the following instructions on how to plant your seedlings.
Before you plant your seedlings, give them a very good watering.
2. Prepare the soil:
If you are planting your seedlings in the ground, dig planting holes in the garden bed with a trowel. Make each hole the same depth as the seedling’s container and space the holes according to the type of seedling:
Spring Cabbage: 30 – 40 cm apart Spinach: 20 cm Spring onions: 15 to 20cm Mizuna: 15cm
You can plant them a little closer, but most will grow bigger with more space.
All of these veg will do well in containers (though will grow a bit smaller). As with planting in the garden, dig planting holes with a trowel to the same depth as the seedling’s container. For the cabbages, I recommend growing one cabbage per 40cm diameter by 40cm height pot as they need quite a bit of room. If the cabbage is grown closer it may not make a cabbage head, but you can still harvest and eat the leaves. You can also make a rather attractive edible container by mixing some of the seedlings together (I have done this with my veg as you can see in the instruction video).
These plants will do well in all-purpose potting soil and there is no need to mulch or fertilise them now as they will not require food until spring.
For the Mizuna, carefully ease the seedlings out of the tray they were growing in and gently tease them apart. For all the other seedlings, carefully hold onto the seed leaves of your seedling and use a pencil or chopstick to ease the plant out of the compost, retaining as much root as possible. Always lift your seedlings one at a time and never hold by the stem or roots, as you can easily damage the plant. Carefully slide the seedling into the hole you dug and then gently but firmly push the soil in around it until the seedling is well supported. Do not be tempted to bury the stem to provide more support for these plants as you would with something like a tomato, as that can cause the stem to rot.
Gently water the freshly planted seedlings. Our family likes to use a little watering can we make ourselves out of used milk bottles. We poke several holes with something fine, like at pin, into the lid which makes for a soft spray of water that is gentle on your little plants.
These seedlings will grow slowly over the winter and will be mature, ready for harvest in the spring.
The seedlings would be best positioned in an area protected from wind and the harshest of the winter weather.
Pigeons and foxes love fresh dirt and seedlings! If your seedlings are in an area where birds or foxes might be able to access them, please try and protect the seedlings by covering them with mesh or garden fleece.
An example from one of our members:
You won’t need to worry too much about light needs for the seedlings at the moment, but make sure that in the early spring they will be in a location that will get as much of the spring sunshine as possible.
Good luck to all our growers with their seedlings! We look forward to updating you and our growing community with their progress.
‘Growing our Communities’ is funded by the London Community Foundation