Welcome to the third edition of our garden blog “Through the Willow Arch” so called because the willow arch forms the entrance to our lovely community gardens. Regularly through the year I will be using the blog to talk about the plants in our gardens, the food we grow for our café and the tasks we’re working on. I want to celebrate and share this beautiful urban oasis. Hope you enjoy.
Susan Barker, Community Gardens Manager
Through the willow arch this summer…. people have been growing: everything from celeriac and broad beans to cuca-melons and chillies are filling up the vegetable plots and polytunnels, in between an abundance of fruit, herbs and flowers. So out in the community gardens it’s all about the harvesting. After the boost of heat recently last autumn’s plantings of garlic and onions are ready to be pulled. Armfuls of “Red Russian” and “Nero de Toscana” kale, along with “Bright Lights” chard and “Chioggia” and “Bolivar” beetroot are heading for the café kitchen and the farm shop. The hot temperatures have also sent the lettuce and salad leaves bolting for the sky so those are being cleared out to go to the chickens and we are re-sowing lettuce, mizuna, mibuna and rocket. There is one patch of bolted lettuce that looks so stunning though that the chickens will have to wait.
|Shona, Carl, Jason, Richard and Susan with some of the harvest||Onions drying in the greenhouse|
|Beth, Annie and Elizabeth with freshly picked salad from the gardens||Clare, Mair, David and Craig, part of the team getting wonderful results in the gardens|
|Lettuce 'Biscia Rossa' with its stunning bolted flower stems|
It’s hard to think of a vegetable you can’t make a salad from whether it is a combination of fresh leaves, some warm new potatoes, slices of tomatoes, steamed green beans, grated carrot and courgette or any combination you come up with – they can all be given that extra boost with some tasty salad dressing. Here’s two we like:
Roasted Tomato Dressing
- 2 medium or 8 cherry roasted tomatoes
- 2 cloves roasted garlic (or half a clove of fresh garlic)
- 100ml sherry vinegar
- 400ml olive oil
- half a teaspoon of salt
- black pepper to taste
- a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
Blitz all the ingredients in a jug blender until completely smooth.
(dill is easy to grow from seed on a windowsill or patio container)
- 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 medium clove garlic, finely minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup sunflower oil, or other mild flavoured oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
Whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, honey, garlic, salt and pepper until completely blended.
Add oil in a slow steady stream, whisking continuously until thick and creamy.
Add dill and stir well.
Meanwhile over in a different corner of the gardens, people have been creating a new seating area and planting where mature trees have made it too shady and dry to grow vegetables. A bunch of folks from Earth Champions, The Prince’s Trust and Knowle Day Centre, with volunteers from the farm, have been planting to create a peaceful sitting area for contemplation and reflection. The all-white planting of shade-happy plants will be at the forefront of a view over the gardens
|Lee, Adele and Jack cutting the turf for the new seating area||Tiarella cordifolia - one of the shade-happy plants in the new peace garden|
|Danny and Jane starting to plant up the new peace garden||Kashif waters in the grass seed under the cherry tree||Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba'|
People working to renovate the old orchard have done wonders. The soil was very poor quality and rubble-filled: the farm-wide legacy of having been a brown-field site. Over the last couple of years it has been mulched high with organic matter from the compost heaps. Now we have three apple trees – Ashmead’s Kernel, Beauty of Bath and Worcester Permain and two plums – Victoria and River’s Early Prolific – interplanted with vegetables and flowers.
|The garden placements team before planting up the new kitchen garden||The new kitchen garden two months later|
Other tasks in the gardens have included…..
The wonderful gardens at the farms are what they are because of all the people who come and tend them. So thank you so much to all the volunteers who look after the gardens so well. Some of them are pictured here and there are many more who give their time and energy every week to create such a haven. The gardens would not be so beautiful without you all.
|Watering in the greenhouse and plant stall||Cherries ripening in the gardens. You know they're ripe when the birds eat them all so we pick them a little early!||The willow arch in full throttle|
If you would like to view larger versions of the photos featured in this blog, please click on a thumbnail below: