Archive for November, 2010

November 28, 2010

Planting for urban bees

by growingpeople

This week I’ve been planning out a bee and butterfly garden to plant out in the spring with one of the school groups I teach in West London.  The school has a large space (already home to several happy chickens) which will be used to plant lots of vegetables, but the students are keen to put all the odds in their favour by attracting as many friendly pollinators to the site as possible.

November 22, 2010

Edible of the week: Akebia Quinata

by growingpeople

Akebia quinata, native to Japan, China and Korea, tend to be grown as ornamentals but do produce incredible fruit that look like a sort of cross between a fig and an aubergine.  The problem with growing them in the UK is that they flower in early spring when late frosts can damage the pollen and there are few pollinating insects about anyway, and so they rarely fruit in this country. I have two of these in my garden, and both did flower last year, so I’m going to have a go at hand pollination next year. I’ve been told the fruit’s pulp has a mild custard-like flavour.

November 19, 2010

Edible Estates

by growingpeople

This summer, Capital Growth (the food-growing initiative for London fronted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and London Food Link) launched Edible Estates, a competition open to residents of London’s housing estates, encouraging them to develop food-growing spaces on the land around their homes. 40 communities took part from Greenwich to Haringey and Lambeth to Tower Hamlets, and last month, the winners were announced at a special conference.

November 16, 2010

Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve – “Winter in June”

by growingpeople

Some music today, from DJ/producers Erol Alkan and Richard Norris‘ psychedelic rock act, Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve.

“Winter in June” (2008) is a re-edit of the The Mystic Astrologic Crystal Band’s “Flowers Never Cry” (1967), and features none other than legendary gardener Percy Thrower offering the kind of wisdom that earned him his reputation as Britain’s first celebrity gardener.

November 14, 2010

Edible of the week: Nasturtiums

by growingpeople

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are a fantastic hardy annual (not to be confused with the genus Nasturtium, which includes watercress and is entirely unrelated).  Not only are the young leaves and flowers delicious and beautiful in salads (think rocket but more so), but you can also make “Poor Man’s Capers” from the seeds (real capers are the salted and pickled buds of the perennial caper plant, Capparis spinosa).

Pick the seeds before they’re ripe (they need to be bright green, not dark brown) and soak them in salted water (50g salt/450ml water) for two days.  (Do leave a few seeds to ripen fully so that you have more to plant next year or to give to your friends).

November 12, 2010

The first of many posts about tomatoes

by growingpeople

People who know me will tell you that there is nothing I care more about in my garden than tomatoes. The first time I flicked through Real Seeds and Organic Gardening catalogues and discovered that tomatoes didn’t need to be red (they can be purple! yellow! black!), I was hooked. They’ve become a healthy obsession as far as gardening is concerned, and each year I’ve looked forward to February when I can start off my new varieties inside the bedroom window.

Last year started well enough. I chose ‘Galina’, a yellow cherry tomato from Siberia, ‘Costoluto Genovese’,  an Italian variety with distinctive ribbing, ‘Purple Ukraine’, a beautifully deep purple plum tomato, ‘Orange Banana’, which basically does what it says on the tin, and the ‘Red Cluster Pear’ centiflor tomato, whose trusses bear tomatoes like a bunch of grapes. I was particularly excited about that one.

November 12, 2010

Starters

by growingpeople

I recently heard about a project going on in Todmorden in West Yorkshire, where the residents have been using every possible bit of the town’s vacant public spaces to grow food.

Incredible Edible Todmorden is an inspiring example of what can happen when a community comes together and proves that not having a garden doesn’t have to stop you from setting up a patch (or several!). Residents have been growing food on the sides of roads, at the train station, under the railway bridge, in a supermarket car park (but don’t tell the Lidl bosses), outside the police station, at a housing estate and even in the town’s graveyard! They’ve put together this interactive map which shows the full scale of their planting. And what scale! 500 (count them) fruit trees from apples and plums to morello cherries in a town of just 10,000 people.

November 2, 2010

Railroads and Radishes

by growingpeople

The train I used to take on my commute from Stratford to Liverpool Street is raised significantly from ground level, and from it you have a wonderful view of London’s potential. Overgrown and abandoned back gardens filter past, beneath hundreds of concrete balconies piled together like teetering jenga blocks, and metal fences guard empty space, grey and desolate but for a pile of wooden palettes. Watching this scene from the train window, I used to mentally add up all the little squares of concrete and disused gardens like an jigsaw puzzle, and imagine the resulting urban patchwork of “land” as acres and acres of useable growing space.

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