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
For our winter growing this year we provided four different types of vegetables:
Here is a little information about each including the variety (where there is one), growing habits, and a bit about what they might taste like.
Spring Cabbage (Caraflex F1): Spring cabbages grow slowly over the winter and are harvested from late February through to the beginning of June. They form mild, tender, small heads which are usually conical in shape and loose leafed. They are often also called spring greens or collards.
Spring onions (White Lisbon): Spring onions, also known as scallions or green onions, are harvested when they are very young, before the bulb has had a chance to swell. They are much milder than other onions and the entire onion, both the bulb and the long green tops, is edible. They are very tasty raw or cooked.
Spinach (Giant Winter): Considered to be a superfood by many, spinach is a dark green, leafy vegetable loaded with vitamins and nutrients. It can be grown to produce a crop all year round. Just harvest a few leaves at a time once they are large enough to pick.
Mizuna: Mizuna is a Japanese green leafy vegetable with a distinctive peppery flavour. It grows in bunches from a centre stalk with long stems. The beautiful leaves have lots of sections to them and look slightly feathery or fringed. Mizuna is often used fresh in salads or cooked for stir-fries and the young flowering stems can be cooked like broccoli.
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.
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 https://coinstreet.org/bsg/
We were delighted to welcome several member growers to talk about why it is important to them to save seed. We also heard from experts Helene Schulze of Seed Sovereignty and Katie Dow, a Cambridge post doc (both of whom are also involved with the London Freedom Seed Bank).
You can watch the event on our youtube channel here
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.
There’s a great new initiative in Lambeth called Sprout Up Schools. It is a kind of ‘one stop shop’ for any school that is eager to explore the possibilities of outdoor learning, growing food and re-connecting with Nature.
Founder Seonaid Royall has worked with Jubilee Primary School and other schools in the Windmill Cluster. She co-designed (with the kids) an RHS show garden ‘Believe in Tomorrow’ for Hampton Court in 2019 and shares a passion for change.
Sprout Up School’s mission is to help schools make the most of their outdoor spaces and reconnect children with nature. Seonaid’s belief is that when children have a strong relationship with the outside world, they’re happier, more confident, and more responsive.
“It’s good for kids, it’s good for teachers, and it’s good for the planet. Together, we can develop a plan to maximise the potential of schools outdoor spaces and provide the skills, knowledge, and partnerships necessary to help make it happen.” Seonaid said.
“We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Sprout Up Schools on past outdoor projects and are thrilled with how successful the various projects and gardening clubs have taken shape.” (from a Head Teacher)
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote for their favourite garden in the public vote this year, we were so chuffed that we had so many people voting. Results night is 17th November at 7pm, info can be found here – PLEASE JOIN US!
We plan to support and escalate food growing across the borough, providing seedlings and advice on how to grow through the difficult winter months. We will provide regular videos to keep you on track and will distribute seedlings in two waves – at the end of November and in February.
We will also create new walking trails, to enable more people to get out and about and find their nearest green spaces and community gardens.
Would you like to be involved? Here’s how:
sign up to grow veg through the winter months – we will support you all the way, with hot tips and shortcuts, using videos to guide you.
become a walking guide for our maps of the green spaces in Lambeth. Get in touch today if you’d like to know more at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Hitherfield School
‘Growing our Communities’ is funded by the London Community Foundation